SYDNEY PELAGIC TRIP REPORT February 10, 2007
A very pleasant Sydney summer day with mostly sunny conditions throughout and air temperatures offshore reaching a maximum of 27 deg C. Water temperature inshore was around 21.4 deg C and reached as high as 23.1 deg C at the shelf break. Departed at 0730hrs and returned at 1545hrs.
Zero sea on a 0.5m swell (if that!), with a very late south-easterly breeze causing the only ripples seen all day. Needless to say, we had an extremely comfortable ride with no sufferers from sea-sickness. Winds were light and variable all day, never reaching more than 5knots.
As we left Sydney Heads, it was apparent that we were going to have a very benign day in terms of sea conditions which is never a good portent for seeing birds since they prefer to float on the surface, rather than fly, when there is no wind. Motoring through the inshore section of our journey, we had reasonable numbers of the birds that we would expect at this time of the year including Wedge-tailed Shearwaters, Short-tailed Shearwaters, Pomarine Jaegers, Crested Terns, Australasian Gannets and Fluttering Shearwaters. As we continued across the 'Abyssmal Plain' out towards the shelf break, bird numbers dropped right off and the sea conditions became more and more calm. When we reached Brown's Mountain at the shelf, the sea was oily smooth without a ripple to be seen. It was quite eerie and put me in mind of the line from the Rime of the Ancient Mariner - "As idle as a painted ship upon a painted ocean". Mind you, he copped that because he had shot an albatross with his crossbow but I don't know where we had transgressed.
We commenced berleying operations with not a lot of optimism but, as always, some birds began to appear with Flesh-footed Shearwaters and Great-winged Petrels making up most of the numbers. Suddenly, a call of Ďalbatross' went up and a young Stage 3 Wandering Albatross (gibsoni) came flying close by and continued on, never to be seen again. Another brief fly-by, this time a Long-tailed Jaeger was a lifer for several birders on board and then, some time later, a visit by two Sooty Terns (an adult and a juvenile) caused some excitement.
With things fairly quiet, we gave up berleying and motored slowly northwards for several kilometres hoping to come across something different. However, in all the parties of Flesh-footed Shearwaters and Great-winged Petrels sitting on the water, we could not find a single Procellaria or, indeed, anything to raise the pulse.
On the way back to the heads, we encountered a large pod of Oceanic Common Dolphins which amused themselves (and us) by riding on our bow wave in good numbers and, in some cases, with some very small calves in tow.
(Note that numbers in parenthesises represent the maximum numbers seen at any one time)
Great-winged Petrel 60 (10)
Wedge-tailed Shearwater 140 (20)
Short-tailed Shearwater 25 (8)
Flesh-footed Shearwater 100 (20)
Fluttering Shearwater 6 (2)
Wandering Albatross 1 (1)
Australasian Gannet 2 (1)
Long-tailed Jaeger 1 (1)
Arctic Jaeger 1 (1)
Pomarine Jaeger 12 (4)
Silver Gull 30 (10)
Sooty Tern 2 (2)
Crested Tern 6 (2)
Oceanic Common Dolphins 200
Next Sydney pelagic trip will be on Saturday 10 March, 2007 departing Mosman Ferry Wharf at 0645 and from Rose Bay Public Wharf at 0700.
Call Hal on 0411 311 236 to make a reservation