SYDNEY PELAGIC TRIP REPORT September 8, 2007
More like a winter day than early spring with scudding clouds, some rain squalls and a maximum air temperature of about 17 deg C. Water temperature inshore and at the shelf was 17.5 deg C which is about as cool as it will be this year.
Departed from Rose Bay at 0715hrs and returned at 1515hrs.
The seas were quite sloppy with a 1.0 metre wave on top of a 2.0 to 2.5
The wind was a brisk (15 knot) southeasterly all day increasing to 25 knots
in the occasional rain squalls
Despite the uncomfortable conditions, there were only two people who
suffered from sea-sickness and neither of these very seriously.
For me, this was a perfect pelagic day in terms of conditions for seeing and enjoying the birds - the solid southeasterly wind and messy sea gave a promise of plenty of birds for the day. In these conditions, the pterodromas are a joy to watch as they arc high into the air and swoop back like arrows to the water surface.
We departed Rose Bay with about 20 passengers on board from Sydney, interstate and from various overseas locations including Switzerland, Norway, The Netherlands, Germany, UK, USA and Canada. As soon as we passed
through Sydney Heads, we could see at least eight Humpback Whales blowing as they journeyed south surprisingly close to the shore - on their southward migration they normally travel about 8 to 10 miles offshore to make best use of the prevailing north to south current. As we headed over to get a closer view of the whales, there were plenty of birds in evidence with good numbers of recently-returned Wedge-tailed Shearwaters and several parties of fluttering-type shearwaters. The first few groups that passed by were indeed Fluttering Shearwaters but, as we went a little wider, we were treated to excellent views of Hutton's Shearwaters in immaculate fresh plumage.
A lone Yellow-nosed Albatross came obliging in to the boat and landed on the water and was the only inshore albatross seen. The journey to the continental shelf break across the 'abysmal plain' was typically fairly empty of birds but we did come across a group of three Wandering Albatross, a Black-browed Albatross and a distant Giant-Petrel that was too far away to call as to species.
As we approached the area of Brown's Mountain at the shelf break, the number of birds in evidence increased dramatically with, at first several Providence Petrels wheeling around the Halicat, followed shortly afterwards by several Great-winged Petrels. When we cut the motors and began to berley, the birds began to arrive in good numbers with up to 20 Wandering Albatross being the first to appear. The wanderers were of various ages from very young to completely mature and were mostly gibsoni - however there were at least two larger exulans and a smaller bird that had the characteristics of antipodensis. Yellow-nosed and Black-browed Albatross were also in good numbers with one stunning adult of the Campbell Island subspecies impavida feeding close to the boat and giving excellent photo opportunities. Cape Petrels began to arrive in good numbers and, at one stage, there were 19 of these birds around the boat. A lone fly-by Shy Albatross was the only one of the day and this was followed shortly afterwards by the first sighting of a stunning WHITE-HEADED PETREL which was undoubtedly the bird of the day. There were to be four more sighting in the next two hours but it was difficult to know whether it was the same bird returning each time. A lone Fairy Prion was the only one of the day, as was the briefly-seen Wilson's Storm-Petrel which came by shortly before we began heading back to Sydney.
As we approached Sydney Heads, we were very fortunate to spot a Little Penguin which uncharacteristically remained on the surface for several minutes and allowed a close approach by the boat as well, giving a memorable lifer to many of the overseas birders on board.
(Note that numbers in parenthesises represent the maximum numbers seen at
any one time)
Little Penguin 1 (1)
Giant-Petrel sp. 1 (1)
Cape Petrel 25 (19)
Great-winged Petrel 30 (5)
Providence Petrel 40 (4)
WHITE-HEADED PETREL 1 (1) possibly more than one bird
Fairy Prion 1 (1)
Wedge-tailed Shearwater 240 (200)
Fluttering Shearwater 50 (15)
Hutton's Shearwater 40 (10)
Fluttering-type shearwater 240 (30)
Wandering Albatross 26 (20) two exulans and a possible antipodensis
Black-browed Albatross 12 (3) one impavida
Yellow-nosed Albatross 15 (4)
Shy Albatross 1 (1)
Wilson's Storm-Petrel 1 (1)
Australasian Gannet 10 (3)
Brown Skua 2 (1) race lonnbergi
Silver Gull 60 (25)
Crested Tern 12 (4)
Humpbacked Whales 8
Next Sydney pelagic trip will be on Saturday 13th October, 2007 departing
Mosman Ferry Wharf at 0645 and Rose Bay Public Wharf at 0700.
Call Hal on 0411 311 236 to make a reservation