SYDNEY PELAGIC REPORT - SATURDAY AUGUST 14, 2010
At 3 pm on the day before this pelagic trip, I logged in to Manly Hydraulics Laboratory's website to see that the current maximum wave heights offshore Sydney were 8.5 metres. I assumed that there was no chance of getting out the next day but, after discussing it with Hal (ever the optimist with conditions forecast to ease rapidly overnight!), it was decided that we would 'give it go' and head out. It was just as well that we did as the sea conditions, whilst not totally benign, were perfectly acceptable as we left the harbour and we had a marvellous day on the water in excellent winter conditions. A total of eighteen species for the day was probably about par for August and, although there were no rarities, the good numbers of birds and the excellent viewing conditions ensured that everyone had a good day. We also recorded five species of sea monster during the day, which certainly made Steve happy (along with everybody else!).
Surface water temperatures were similar to last month ranging from 16.5 deg c closer in up to about 17.4 deg c at the shelf break. With Rose Bay Wharf closed, we departed Double Bay Wharf a bit later than usual at about 7.35am and returned at 4.20pm. Sea conditions were a little lumpy with a 1.0 metre chop on top of a 1.5metre swell. Winds were from the north west at 5 to 10 knots in the morning freshening to 15 to 20 knots later in the day. With the somewhat bumpy ride, there were several cases of sea sickness but none appeared too serious.
We left Sydney Heads with a good complement of overseas and local birders on board, including a group of young lads from Sydney's northern beaches who were very enthusiastic and full of questions - it was great to see and I hope they join us on a regular basis in the future. After the massive blow of the last few days, I was looking out for any changes to the numbers or species of birds seen but there didn't appear to be any unusual patterns emerging. Our first birds after leaving the Heads were a few Australasian Gannets, Black-browed Albatross and Fluttering Shearwaters. The excellent light conditions on the starboard side of the boat made it easy to pick out the odd Hutton's Shearwater amongst the flutterers. A Shy Albatross put in an appearance and then we had the first of several Fairy Prions of the day which was close enough to the boat to clearly make out its identification features. The albatrosses tracked the boat out to the shelf and the odd Yellow-nosed and Wandering put in an appearance with the first wanderer being a lovely stage 1 gibsoni. Our first dolphins of the day comprised a huge (> 1000?) pod of Short-beaked Common Dolphins which paid us a short visit before continuing their fishing activities.
When we reached Brown's Mountain we commenced our first drift and set up a good slick in the breezy conditions. In addition to the four albatross species already recorded, we had a couple of White-faced Storm-Petrels (the first we've had off Sydney since April 2009), two Cape Petrels, both giant petrel species, an occasional distant Providence Petrel (where are they all this year?) and a Brown Skua. With nothing new for a while, we motored north for a distance and then headed back west to the shelf break where we had another drift with the only new bird being the first of three Buller's Albatross seen on the day. We had an interesting incident when all 30 or so albatross around the boat lifted off the water in alarm and, while we were wondering what had caused this to happen, a fur seal popped up close to the boat!
On the way back to Sydney, we encountered another fur seal, a pod of Oceanic Bottlenose Dolphins and two obliging Humpback Whales which entertained us with some energetic tail slapping exercises. Just before reaching the heads, the sharp eyes of the young lads picked out a Little Penguin in the water bringing the species tally for the day to a respectable eighteen. All in all, it was a very typical winter pelagic trip off Sydney and all on board went home well satisfied with the day.
(Note that the number in parentheses represents the maximum number within
sight at one time)
Little Penguin 1 (1)
Southern Giant-Petrel 2 (1)
Northern Giant-Petrel 3 (1)
Cape Petrel 2 (1)
Providence Petrel 6 (1)
Fairy Prion 8 (1)
Fluttering Shearwater 18 (4)
Hutton's Shearwater 6 (3)
Wandering Albatross 10 (2) one adult exulans
Black-browed Albatross 45 (18) several impavida
Yellow-nosed Albatross 12 (4)
Shy Albatross 9 (2) one immature white-capped
Buller's Albatross 4 (1)
White-faced Storm-Petrel 3 (1)
Australasian Gannet 10 (2)
Brown Skua 5 (1)
Silver Gull 200 (120)
Crested Tern 22 (10)
Oceanic Bottlenose Dolphin 20
Inshore Bottlenose Dolphin 4
Short-beaked Common Dolphin 1000+
Australian Fur Seal 2
Humpback Whale 2
The next Sydney pelagic trip will be on Saturday 11 September 2010 departing Mosman Ferry Wharf at 06.45am and either Rose Bay Public Wharf or Double Bay Ferry Wharf (check with Hal ahead of time) at 07.00am.
Call Hal at 0411 311 236 to make a booking.