• Saturday 11th October 2008, Sydney, Pelagic Trip Report, Sydney, NSW, Australia



    It was a beautiful spring day in Sydney and hopes were high for a good day of pelagic birding in the light of some of the goodies seen on private charters recently. The day was mostly sunny with normal temperatures for the time of year, reaching perhaps 22 deg C when we were offshore. The sea water temperature was 18.1 deg C inshore and became marginally warmer at 18.8 deg C at the shelf break.

    The MV Halicat departed from Rose Bay at 07.05hrs and returned at 15.45hrs.
    The sea conditions were quite reasonable with a north easterly swell running at about 1.0 metres and a sea of 0.5 metre on top of that. Despite the fairly benign conditions, a couple of people on board succumbed to mild bouts of sea sickness. The wind was north-west at about 5 -10 knots in the morning and backed around to the east at 15 knots in the afternoon.

    Trip Summary

    A calling Tawny Frogmouth right outside my Cremorne unit was a great start to the day at 5.45am but I didn't feel that I could fairly put it on the pelagic list. We had a good complement of 22 passengers from Australia, North America, the UK, Germany and the Czech Republic and, as we passed through Sydney Heads, it was apparent that the flat conditions had reduced the numbers of inshore birds compared to a week ago. However, there were plenty of Wedge-tailed Shearwaters in evidence, along with a few Short-tailed Shearwaters still on their southwards migration. The numbers of Fluttering and Hutton's Shearwaters were low but good views of both species were had during the course of the day. We rounded off the inshore excitement by recording several Australasian Gannets, Wandering and Black-browed Albatross and a single Sooty Shearwater.

    Our journey into what we call the Abysmal Plain was surprisingly interesting today particularly from a cetacean standpoint. Firstly, we had great views of a mother and calf Humpback Whale followed by two large pods of Short-beaked Common Dolphins. After adding Shy Albatross, a late Brown Skua and Flesh-footed Shearwater to the growing trip list, we came across the cetacean highlight of the day, a pod of about 60 False Killer Whales. Shortly afterwards, we were joined by a group of 30 Oceanic Bottlenose Dolphins bringing the cetacean list to four in a relatively short space of time.

    After reaching the shelf break at Brown's Mountain we started drifting and laying out a burley slick but the conditions were so benign that the birds were obviously well fed and not responding strongly to the food supply. A few Great-winged and Providence Petrels joined us as did an unusually large number of Wilson's Storm-Petrels, with a peak of eight of the latter species at one time. A stunning Campbell Island Black-browed Albatross came by and Wandering Albatross joined us in increasing numbers with the usual discussions about the forms - we more or less agreed that they were all gibsoni with the exception of one bird that may have been a female exulans. The avian highlight of the day was a Procellaria which came in to the slick and which was initially identified as a Black Petrel based on its apparent small size and possible dark bill tip. However, closer inspection showed that the bill was in fact totally pale and there was also a very small white chin which was very difficult to see, making this our first WHITE-CHINNED PETREL on the Sydney boat for at least a couple of years.

    The journey back to Sydney was notable for the large numbers of Humpback
    Whales in evidence and we again had great views of these magnificent creatures. A couple more stops to observe mixed flocks of shearwaters, gannets and albatross chasing feeding shoals of predatory fish and it was back to Rose Bay after another great day on the ocean.

    Bird List

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

    Providence Petrel 30 (6)
    Great-winged Petrel 8 (1)
    Wedge-tailed Shearwater 300 (50)
    Short-tailed Shearwater 45 (6)
    Flesh-footed Shearwater 12 (1)
    Sooty Shearwater 1 (1)
    Fluttering Shearwater 10 (3)
    Hutton's Shearwater 6 (2)
    Fluttering type shearwaters 55 (8)
    Wandering Albatross 16 (7)
    Black-browed Albatross 12 (3)
    Shy Albatross 10 (2)
    Wilson's Storm-Petrel 14 (8)
    Australasian Gannet 32 (10)
    Brown Skua 1 (1)
    Silver Gull 60 (15)
    Crested Tern 6 (2)


    Humpback Whale 16
    Short-beaked Common Dolphin 80
    Oceanic Bottlenose Dolphin 30
    False Killer Whale 60

    Next Sydney pelagic trip will be on Saturday 8 November, 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