• Saturday 12th July 2008, Sydney, Pelagic Trip Report, Sydney, NSW, Australia



    A pleasant Sydney winter day, although it was bitingly cold in the early morning. We had mostly sunny conditions throughout and air temperatures ranged from 6 deg C in the morning up to about 15 deg C later in the day.
    The seawater temperature in the harbour was very cool below 16 deg C and reached a high of 17.4 deg C offshore. Departed at 0810hrs after returning to Mosman Wharf for a late passenger and returned at 1545hrs.

    1.0m sea on a 1.0m swell easing as the day progressed. Winds were light south westerly in the morning backing around to the northeast and strengthening late in the afternoon

    Trip Summary

    Soon after the Halicat left Rose Bay Wharf at 7.10am with an excellent complement of 25 passengers on board, a pod of about six Inshore Bottlenose Dolphins was spotted in the harbour. The delay caused by looking at these cetaceans was fortunate for the person who arrived very late at Mosman Wharf, as we were able to head over and make a pick-up. We eventually went out through Sydney Heads at about 8.10am in quite comfortable sea conditions and with good numbers of birds in evidence. Several Black-browed and one Shy Albatross were seen early on but, more interesting were the large numbers of Fairy Prions close to shore and showing very well alongside the boat so that everyone had an opportunity to study their plumage characteristics. Also seen inshore were a couple of Yellow-nosed Albatross, two lovely White-fronted Terns, a few Fluttering Shearwaters and good numbers of Australasian Gannets. Two Humpback Whales were sighted swimming steadily northwards and we tracked these for a while before turning and heading out to Brown's Mountain on the continental shelf break.

    As is always the case when passing through the 'Abysmal Plain' between the inshore zone and the shelf break, bird life was very scarce with just the odd Fairy Prion and then a group of five Yellow-nosed Albatross sitting on the water. A pod of Oceanic Bottlenose Dolphins which rode on our bow wave also provided some interest on the way out. As we approached Brown's Mountain, we were not greeted by the usual sight of Providence and/or Great-winged Petrels wheeling around the fishing boats and, indeed, the only pterodromas that we saw during the trip were a total of three Providence Petrels. Very few birds were in evidence as we started a burley trail but, slowly, we were visited by firstly Crested Terns and Fairy Prions and then by Shy Albatross (with one showing the characteristics of White-capped Albatross ), several Yellow-nosed Albatross, a small number of Black-browed Albatross, four Wandering Albatross (all gibsoni), three Cape Petrels and some Hutton's Shearwaters. The real highlight of the day however was the appearance of a beautiful Buller's Albatross, to be followed shortly afterwards by a second, and both birds sat obligingly on the water near the Halicat giving superb views and photo opportunities. This was the first time that we had seen a Buller's Albatross on the Sydney boat for perhaps five years but, with the birds seen off Wollongong last month and the one seen from Magic Point a couple of weeks ago, 2008 is obviously a 'Buller's Albatross year'.

    On the way back to Sydney Heads, yet more good numbers of Fairy Prions were in evidence and despite examining almost every bird with care, no other prion species were seen. In the last 'good' prion winter which by memory was 2002, Antarctic and Slender-billed Prions were regularly seen amongst the Fairy Prions but not, so far, this year. Yet another mystery of pelagic
    birding! We saw more migrating Humpbacks and a probable Australian Fur Seal (based on head shape) as we approached the Sydney Heads and a fly-by Brown Skua added our last new species for the day.

    Bird List

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

    Cape Petrel 3 (2)
    Providence Petrel 3 (1)
    Fairy Prion 140 (20)
    Fluttering Shearwater 10 (2)
    Hutton's Shearwater 6 (1)
    Wandering Albatross 4 (2) (all gibsoni)
    Black-browed Albatross 12 (2)
    Yellow-nosed Albatross 19 (5)
    Shy Albatross 8 (2) (one probable steadi)
    Australasian Gannet 28 (6)
    Brown Skua 1 (1)
    Silver Gull 40 (10)
    Crested Tern 11 (4)
    White-fronted Tern 2 (1)


    Humpback Whale 6
    Inshore Bottlenose Dolphin 6
    Offshore Bottlenose Dolphin 15
    Australian Fur Seal 1

    Next Sydney pelagic trip will be on Saturday 9 August, 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