• Sunday 9th March 2008, Sydney, Pelagic Trip Report, Sydney, NSW, Australia

    SYDNEY PELAGIC TRIP REPORT Sunday March 9, 2008


    A perfect late summer's day with almost no wind at all, cloudless skies and temperatures in the mid-20 deg C range. Water temperature inshore was about 21.5 deg C and this increased a little to 22.0 deg C out on the shelf break where the water was a superb cobalt blue. Departed from Rose Bay at 07.00hrs and returned at 15.30hrs but didn't get in to the wharf until 16.55hrs (see later.)

    The seas were almost calm with zero waves on top of a 0.5 metre south-easterly swell which made the whole day extremely comfortable. Winds were light and variable all day and didn't pick up until after we had arrived back inside the harbour. With such totally benign conditions, nobody on board suffered from sea-sickness, which is the first time in a long while that this has been the case.

    Trip Summary

    On the rare occasions that we have had flat calm and sunny conditions, it has usually been the case that finding birds has been difficult but finding cetaceans and other sea monsters has been easier than usual. This proved to be the case again today.

    This was a one-off Sunday (as opposed to the normal Saturday) trip out of Sydney and we had on board a good number of local birders that we haven't seen on the boat for a while which was good to see. With Saturdays being a difficult day to get away for some people, we will plan to operate the rest of the 2008 pelagics on an alternating basis of Saturdays and Sundays which will give everyone a chance of getting out on a regular basis. Hopefully, this will not be confusing so be sure to check carefully on which day each month's trip will be leaving - I will put a posting on birding-aus when the rest of this year's dates are known.

    As we headed out through the Sydney Heads into the Tasman Sea, there was an ominous lack of bird activity with just a few Wedge-tailed Shearwaters showing and just the odd Flesh-footed Shearwater and Short-tailed Shearwater passing by, and the only Australasian Gannet of the day made a brief appearance. A distant small bird on the water was initially called out as a penguin but, when we got closer to it, turned out to be a single Fluttering Shearwater which curiously allowed a very close approach before finally taking flight. It was to be the only Fluttering/Hutton's Shearwater seen all day. As we entered the Abyssmal Plain, there were representatives of all three jaeger species present in small numbers which allowed everyone to brush up on their jaeger identification skills. Surprisingly (or perhaps not in the light of recent land-based reports from Maroubra) there were more Long-tailed Jaegers seen on the trip than either Pomarine or Arctic.

    The remainder of the trip out to the shelf break was more notable for cetaceans than for birds with groups of Common Dolphins, Oceanic Bottlenose Dolphins, a single False Killer Whale and Risso's Dolphins providing good viewing for all on board. When we arrived at the underwater sea mount called Brown's Mountain, there were large numbers of recreational fishing boats but very few birds. Our normal berleying activity brought little response as the birds were obviously well fed and their feeding conditions were ideal, so we resorted to motoring along at medium pace looking for birds. Besides the Wedge-tailed and Flesh-footed Shearwaters, we saw small numbers of Great-winged Petrels and a large pale bird sitting on the water showed itself to be a Black-browed Albatross, a most unusual sighting for this time of the year. Excitement mounted when a distant high bird was identified as a tropicbird, but excitement turned to dismay when the bird quickly disappeared from view and was deemed too distant to be called as to species.

    Cetaceans continued to be constantly in evidence with more Risso's Dolphins, Oceanic Bottlenose Dolphins and a pod of about ten False Killer Whales. One of the False Killers was an albino which swam along parallel to the boat giving great views and photo opportunities to all. Just as some of us were thinking that this was not going to be a memorable day for birds, a white bird took off from ahead of the boat and was immediately identified as an adult WHITE-TAILED TROPICBIRD which circled and climbed to be joined by a second adult bird, before they both passed from view. From the records that I have, this was only the eighth record for the species from Sydney/Wollongong in the past 20 years or so and was a life bird for many of the birders on board.

    The journey back to Sydney was uneventful except that, upon entering the harbor we had to anchor up for almost an hour and a half off Vaucluse while something called the Sydney Superboat Grand Prix took place. A straw poll of those on board indicated that none of us was interested in seeing noisy power boats, nobody cared who won and most people were pretty cranky at being prevented from being able to get into the Rose Bay Wharf. However, the tropicbirds made everybody's day and we all went home well satisfied.

    Bird List

    (Note that numbers in parenthesises represent the maximum numbers seen at any one time)

    Great-winged Petrel 15 (2)
    Wedge-tailed Shearwater 45 (8)
    Short-tailed Shearwater 3 (1)
    Flesh-footed Shearwater 52 (6)
    Fluttering Shearwater 1 (1)
    Black-browed Albatross 1 (1)
    Tropicbird sp. 1 (1)
    Australasian Gannet 1 (1)
    Pomarine Jaeger 6 (1)
    Arctic Jaeger 5 (2)
    Long-tailed Jaeger 7 (2)
    Silver Gull 70 (20)
    Crested Tern 1 (1)

    Cetaceans and others

    Oceanic Bottlenose Dolphins 30
    Oceanic Common Dolphins 10
    Risso's Dolphins 18
    False Killer Whales 11 (including an albino)
    Southern Ocean Sunfish 2
    Flying fish sp 1

    Next Sydney pelagic trip will be on Saturday 12th April, 2008 departing Mosman Ferry Wharf at 0645 and Rose Bay Public Wharf at 0700.

    Call Hal on 0411 311 236 to make a reservation

    Roger McGovern