SYDNEY PELAGIC TRIP REPORT September 12, 2009
For some images courtesy of Tony Palliser of the birds and cetaceans seen on this trip, you can go to
We had a beautiful early summer day to look forward to on the water, although the consistent northerly winds of the past few days were not encouraging for expectations of unusual species from the south. For once, the day turned out somewhat as expected with sixteen species recorded for the day and none of them unusual for the time of the year. However, the day was anything but uninteresting and the young lad on board for his first pelagic trip who had ten lifers for the day certainly had a great time – as did everyone else! The Humpback Whales had started their southerly migration and were moving through quite slowly and well offshore - we probably saw close to 30 of them during the course of the day. With the Humpbacks, Risso's Dolphins, Short-beaked Common Dolphins and probable Pygmy Killer Whales, it was a memorable cetacean day.
The weather for the day was clear sunny skies with unseasonably warm air temperatures reaching the high 20's on land but probably only low 20's offshore. Water temperature at Sydney Heads was 15.4 deg C and it became progressively warmer as we travelled eastward, reaching 17.8 deg C at the shelf break. We departed from Rose Bay at 7.05am and returned at 3.55pm. The winds were from the north all day at about 5-10 knots in the morning and freshening to 10-15knots in the afternoon. Conditions on board were quite comfortable with a half metre sea on a one metre swell and there were no cases of sea sickness.
A good contingent of 30 local, interstate and overseas birders departed Sydney Heads in ideal conditions and we initially had a plan to track up the coast before heading offshore. However, it quickly became clear that this was not going to be productive as the only species recorded in the inshore area were Wedge-tailed Shearwaters, Australasian Gannets, Crested Terns, good numbers of Fluttering Shearwaters and a few Hutton's Shearwaters. With no Humpbacks showing in the inshore zone either, we set course for Brown's Mountain at an early stage meeting a pod of 30 Short-beaked Common Dolphins at a short distance into the Abysmal Plain. After a couple of immature dark-headed Shy Albatross (almost certainly of the White-capped NZ race) gave good views, we had brief looks at an early arrival jaeger which at first seemed to have the grey plumage and jizz of a Long-tailed but which, on examination of photographs, seemed more likely to be an Arctic. As we continued further to the ESE, we began to see some Humpback Whales and another pod of Short-beaked Common Dolphins joined us for a while. A Cape Petrel was briefly seen by a couple of observers on board and then, as we approached Brown' Mountain, we began to see our first Providence Petrels and Wandering Albatross. We cut the motors and set up a berley trail which slowly attracted more and more birds to the boat. We had a couple more immature Shy Albatross, small numbers of Black-browed and Yellow-nosed Albatross, large numbers of Wandering Albatross (all gibsoni except for one bird that showed the characteristics of antipodensis) and, the highlight for most of us, a Northern and a Southern Giant-Petrel feeding together (and occasionally fighting) right next to the boat. Another Cape Petrel was seen and obligingly settled on the slick for a while and a couple of Great-winged Petrels were briefly seen by only a couple of observers.
During all of the action of the feeding birds around the boat, Humpbacks continued to show well around us with some tail slapping and semi-breaching. We then set off into deeper water to look for more birds and to try and find the Sperm Whales which are known to inhabit that area of the ocean. We found our only adult Shy Albatross of the day sitting on the water and had magnificent looks at a pod of about 30 Risso's Dolphins which some observers thought also included a number of Pygmy Killer Whales. The journey back to Sydney did not produce any new species but everyone seemed to have had a splendid day on the water.
(Note that numbers in parenthesises represent the maximum numbers seen at any one time)
Southern Giant-Petrel 1 (1)
Northern Giant-Petrel 4 (2)
Cape Petrel 2 (1)
Great-winged Petrel 2 (1)
Providence Petrel 30 (6)
Wedge-tailed Shearwater 460 (60)
Fluttering Shearwater 120 (20)
Hutton's Shearwater 16 (4)
Wandering Albatross 28 (10)all gibsoni and one probable
Black-browed Albatross 2 (1)
Yellow-nosed Albatross 5 (2)
Shy Albatross 8 (2)
Australasian Gannet 22 (5)
Jaeger sp 1 (1) probably Arctic
Silver Gull 100 (35)
Crested Tern 10 (2)
Short-beaked Common Dolphin 50
Humpback Whale 30
Risso's Dolphin 25
Pygmy Killer Whale (?) 6
Next Sydney pelagic trip will be on Saturday 10 October, 2009 departing Mosman Ferry Wharf at 0645 and Rose Bay Public Wharf at 0700.
Call Hal on 0411 311 236 to make a reservation.