• Saturday 9th August 2008, Sydney, Pelagic Trip Report, Sydney, NSW, Australia



    A pleasant Sydney winter day although it was bitingly cold in the early morning - yet again! It has been an unseasonably cold winter in Sydney. 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 inshore was a very cool 15.5 deg C and reached a high of 16.0 deg C at the shelf break, which is about as cold as we see it off Sydney. Winds were fresh westerly to south westerly all day.

    Departed at 0715hrs and returned at 1515hrs. 1.5m sea on a 1.5m swell made for slightly lumpy conditions but ideal for pelagic birding. Only one person suffered from sea sickness.

    Trip Summary

    We had a good attendance of about 30 passengers mostly overseas birders and first time pelagic participants and, as we headed east through Sydney Heads, we were greeted with good numbers of birds with a good species diversity as well. We quickly had fly-bys from Black-browed, Yellow-nosed and Shy Albatross with the Black-broweds outnumbering the Yellow-nosed inshore as is usually the case. Also in evidence were good numbers of Fairy Prions along with Fluttering Shearwaters which showed well close to the Halicat. Despite a close examination of all the passing shearwaters, no Hutton's were seen on the outward journey.

    As we entered the 'Abysmal Plain' which commences about 5NM east of the heads, we had our first Brown Skua of the day followed shortly afterwards by an obliging White-fronted Tern. On the journey to the shelf break, bird numbers were fairly sparse with just the odd few Fairy Prions, Australasian Gannets and another Brown Skua. Today, as last month, we searched hard for a prion other than Fairy Prion, but without success - a larger, darker prion was seen at distance and may have been an Antarctic Prion but it did not approach the boat.

    We reached the shelf break at Brown's Mountain in good time thanks to the westerly breeze behind us but, when we got there, there was an ominous lack of bird activity despite what looked like ideal conditions. We cut the motors and started a slick and began to be visited by a few customers although none of them lingered for long - they just didn't seem to be hungry. The first arrivals were a pair of Crested Terns, followed shortly afterwards by a few Fairy Prions and then, by four species of albatross. The small numbers of Wandering Albatross all appeared to be gibsoni and amongst the several Shy Albatross was one showing the characteristics of White-capped Albatross (steadi). A very few Providence Petrels put in brief appearances and then a single Cape Petrel arrived and fed on the slick giving everyone excellent views. After a lengthy drift, we motored back to our starting point and drifted down the slick once more but with no increase in the number of species already seen. However, we did see a couple of feeding fur seals which attracted the albatrosses and prions but nothing else of note.

    We then decided to go looking for the birds by motoring slowly southwards along the edge of the shelf break and, although we saw more Brown Skuas and White-fronted Terns, we did not add to the species count until we arrived inshore and were able to separate a couple of Hutton's Shearwaters from the numerous Fluttering Shearwaters. As we travelled northwards along the coast from Maroubra, two Humpback Whales were spotted (apparently travelling southwards in the 'wrong' direction) and gave excellent views to all on board.

    In summary, we had a very pleasant winter's day of seabird watching and a satisfactory number of species were recorded.

    Bird List

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

    Cape Petrel 1 (1)
    Providence Petrel 3 (1)
    Fairy Prion 170 (20)
    Fluttering Shearwater 200 (30)
    Hutton's Shearwater 3 (1)
    Wandering Albatross 5 (2) (all gibsoni)
    Black-browed Albatross 12 (2)
    Yellow-nosed Albatross 10 (2)
    Shy Albatross 10 (2) (one probable steadi)
    Australasian Gannet 20 (6)
    Brown Skua 6 (1)
    Silver Gull 200 (50)
    Crested Tern 6 (2)
    White-fronted Tern 7 (5)


    Humpback Whale 2
    Fur Seal (sp) 2

    Next Sydney pelagic trip will be on Saturday 13 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