SYDNEY PELAGIC TRIP REPORT Sunday October 11, 2009
Last Saturday's Sydney pelagic trip had to be postponed due to high winds and high seas, and it went out on Sunday instead. I couldn't make this revised date due to prior commitments but I thought it was worth posting Hal's account of the day as they had an exciting time with Orcas chasing Humpback Whales (and they saw some excellent birds).
After many stormy days, the seas having reached a peak of 15 metres off Sydney on Friday, the pelagic trip was postponed to Sunday in the hope of better weather and smoother seas. This change paid off with little or no wind for most of the day and seas with a rolling swell from the south east. Just a few small showers of rain to keep things cool
The sea water temperature inshore remained at the low 17 deg mark rising slowly as we headed towards the shelf break, here a tongue of warmer water up to 19.5 deg C was encountered over a small area of a few miles.
Highlights of the close offshore section were bottlenose dolphins at the Heads, then humpback whale sightings unfortunately with large downtimes and not worthwhile following. The Wedge-tail shearwaters were present in reasonable numbers from about one mile offshore mixed up with smaller numbers of huttons & flutterers. The birds seemed well fed evidenced by those sitting on the water having difficulty in taking off.
Proceeding to sea the flocks of short tails were ever increasing. Two fur seals were found resting side by side about 5 miles out, then a sunfish.
From about the 12 mile to 20 mile mark activity was at a minimum with sightings of an odd albatross along the way. At Mt Woolnough( Browns Mountain) the local sea mount there were a few boats fishing with a sole giant petrel on the water behind one of them. A few providence petrels could be seen wheeling about. A burley trail was set up with a few birds coming in but then a wind shift had us drifting in the opposite direction. This didn't help in getting the birds to settle.
A move back to the top of the mountain and a second burley trail did the trick and soon a number of wandering albatross settled. In the end there were 14 around the boat with one particularly aggressive larger younger bird.
Bird sightings of the day were a Buller's Albatross & a White Headed Petrel. A short trip to the North East of the mount did not turn up anything in the way of birds until suddenly we had the white headed following for a short period. We also found mixed pods of Oceanic & Risso Dolphins.
The return journey all was quiet and at the 12 mile offshore mark we started to search for whales again. Some were seen breaching to the north and it was during our search for these whales that we suddenly encountered Orcas which as it turned out were harassing two humpbacks- one large and one not so large but far from juvenile We were an enthralled audience for about an hour after which it seemed the whales had made their escape.
It appears as a sequel that the Orcas actually did bite off the dorsal fin of a humpback (could have been another outside of the ones we were watching as there were others in the area) - shown on Ch 7 news clip Sunday evening.
I trust this was a memorable day for all.
Remember that this is only the 2nd time in 15 years of doing these trips that we have sighted orcas.
with regards Hal Epstein
view Paul Byrnes trip photo album on link
Wedge-tail shearwaters 200+ (10)
Fluttering Shearwaters 20 (2)
Huttons Shearwaters 20 (2)
Flesh-footed Shearwater 1 (1)
Short Tail Shearwaters migration flocks 100 + ( MANY)
Arctic Jaeger 2 ( very distant)
Southern Giant Petrel 1(1)
Crested Tern 8(2)
Australasian Gannet 20(5)
Providence Petrel 20(3)
White Headed Petrel 1 (1)
White Faced Storm Petrel 1 (1)
Wilsons Storm Petrel 3 (2)
Great Wing Petrel 1(1)
Cape Petrel 8(2)
Wandering Albatross 14(4)
Shy Albatross 6(1)
Black-browed Albatross 10(2)
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross 1(1)
Bullers Albatross 1(1)
Humpback Whale 8
Oceanic Bottlenose Dolphin 30 +
Risso Dolphin 30+
Orcas Killer Whales 3
Australian fur seal 2