Port Stephens Pelagic - Sunday 18th November 2012
Vessel: M.V. Argonaut, skippered by Ray Horsefield
Early morning produced calm winds on around 1m swell, from around 15km's short of the shelf NE winds picked up close to 15knots, swell around 1-1.4m, this wind lasted for around 2hrs and eventually dropped to less than 10 knots. Being quite calm for the last 1.5hrs at the shelf and the trip back.
Another great trip was had off Port Stephens with more than one highlight! The big gun for the day was the sighting of a Cooks Petrel, which was our first 'official' (one got away in 2010!) record since the trips started in Feb. 2010 and from memory the third for the Hunter. The Cooks Petrel hung around the slick for around 5-6 mins before departing south, what made the moment even more special was that we were still on a high as just prior 6 Black Petrels had come in directly to the boat all in one flock!Other highlights were having 6 Long-tailed Jaegers for the day and a Sooty Tern on the trip out.
Departed Nelson Bay wharf at 0710, returning around 1630.
There was an 'air' of excitement for some around this trip as November has proved to be kind to us in the past. The hope of a Cookilaria was talk of and also there were a few on board chasing a Black Petrel. Black Petrels had proved their worth last November and Oct. 2010.
Just outside the heads an Arctic Jeager was chasing Silver Gulls, our first Wedge-tailed Shearwater showed a few km out from the heads and soon enough good numbers were seen, some off in the distance over fish. Chumming started around 10km's out and after some time we had our first customers in the form of Wedgeys. Two Black-browed Albatross chimed in with Silver Gulls as well, the odd Fluttering type was seen. Small numbers of Short-tailed Shearwaters flew past at pace heading south, the occasional bird/flock veered towards the slick but showed no interest in feeding and continued on.
Around 20km's out Michael Kearns called a Sooty Tern following up the rear, the Sooty came to about 100m from the boat and headed north. Soon after we had our first Pomarine and Long-tailed Jaeger come up the slick, and for some there was much rejoicing. A Shy Albatross showed some interest but soon departed, also our first Flesh-footed Shearwater for the season.Strangely, about 5km's from the shelf the Wedgeys, Albas, Jaegers and Gulls all stopped following the boat and turned away. The NE wind had picked up during the last part of the trip out and good white caps showed. The swell was slight but the wave period close, which made for a choppy shelf stop.
Upon reaching the shelf (32 54.875 S, 152 34.933 E) a Wilson Storm-petrel was seen, also a Great-winged Petrel flew in. Large numbers of Shearwaters were seen in the distance in flocks of up to 250 birds, slowly heading in a SE direction. Some birds came closer to the boat and some were identified as Sooty Shearwaters. The flocks away from the boat certainly resembled the same 'jizz' as Sootys Shears but could not be positively identified.
A second Great-winged Petrel appeared along with a White-faced Storm-petrel. The boat went into mayhem when (it seemed) out of nowhere 6 Black Petrels flew in and immediately started feeding, what a sight to have all these Blacks at once!
The Black Petrels hung around for the duration at the shelf, with some dancing along the slick. Soon after their arrival I noted 'something' whitish out the back of the slick, although losing it briefly, David Mitford then called 'Cookilaria!', followed by 'I think it’s a Cooks!' Everyone shifted to one side of the boat to get a view, it didn't disappoint, hanging around the slick for around 5-6mins, close enough to get a good view. A few piccys were taken and the back of the camera looked good for a Cooks, later id was confirmed.
A few more Wilsons showed and another White-faced Stormy. A few more Great-winged Petrels also flew in. Two Wandering Albatross arrived and landed in the slick. No birds were feeding at the back of the boat, which was very unusual. Long-tailed Jaegers and a few more Pomarines also showed, giving us our highest count ever of Long-taileds of 6 birds for the day. The wind dropped off and so did the birds, the last 1hr or so at the shelf was very quiet, although we were still pumped!
The trip back was quiet until the last half where we had the usual 100-200 Wedgeys. The one Fleshy had turned up again and small numbers of Short-Tailed, Fluttering and Hutton’s showed interest. An unusual observation was that off a Wedge-tailed Shearwater with an all snow white head and nape, with black markings scattered amongst the white. The bird was first seen briefly and then disappeared; it eventually showed again and followed the boat for some time........if only it was bigger with the right bill it could've passed for a Spectacled Petrel!
All in all a great day at sea, with all on board getting a new bird (or two).
Species: Total (maximum number visible from the boat at one time)
White-faced Storm-petrel: 2 (2)
Wilson's Storm-petrel: 4 (4)
Fluttering Shearwater: 4 (4)
Hutton's Shearwater: 8 (8)
Fluttering-type Shearwater: 7 (4)
Wedge-tailed Shearwater: 750 (400)
Short-tailed Shearwater: 900 (200)
Sooty Shearwater: 50 (30) [possibly many more but difficult to confirm from distance]
Black-browed Albatross: 7 (3)
Shy Albatross: 1
Wandering Albatross: 2 (2)
Great-winged Petrel: 6 (3)
BLACK PETREL: 6 (6)
COOK’S PETREL: 1
Pomarine Jaeger: 5 (3)
Arctic Jaeger: 6 (3)
Long-tailed Jaeger: 6 (3)
Australasian Gannet: 2 (1)
Silver Gull: 15 (10)
Sooty Tern: 1
Crested Tern: 2 (1)
Short-beaked Common Dolphin: One pod of around 20
Oceanic Bottlenose Dolphin: A few pods total around 50
Humpback Whale: 2
Shark sp.: 1