• Saturday 11th March 2006, Sydney, Pelagic Trip Report, Sydney, NSW, Australia


    Mostly sunny and warm, with an odd rain shower Water temperature 24.5 to 26.0 deg C. Departed at 0700 and returned at 1545.
    1.0m sea on a 1.0m swell, moderating later in the morning.
    Fresh south-east winds in the morning backing to the north-east and easing later.

    Trip Summary
    What started out as a fairly run-of-the-mill trip took on a whole new significance when we discovered an intermediate morph South Polar Skua sitting on the water on the run back to the heads approximately 8NM offshore. It was a life bird for most people on board (including this observer for whom it was 699 on the Australian list) and, to my knowledge, the first confirmed sighting from the Sydney boat. The bird was very confiding and allowed the Halicat to approach to within a few metres before lifting off. Barely had this excitement died down when a strange shearwater was sighted flying away from the boat. Some had reasonable views and others only long distance rear views and there was much debate as to identification, as the bird did not fit either Streaked or Buller?s in terms of plumage. Fortunately, David Stowe had taken a good shot of the bird when it first appeared and it was clearly a light morph Wedge-tailed Shearwater, again a first for many on the boat.

    Prior to all this excitement, we had departed the heads on a fine ‘summers’ day (even though the calendar says that it is autumn) and saw little of note on the first part of the journey to the shelf break. A distant Sooty Shearwater, a few Wedge-tailed Shearwaters, Australasian Gannets and Pomarine Jaegers were the only life forms on an empty sea. However, at a large current line some 12NM offshore, we encountered a pod of six or so False Killer Whales, several Long-tailed Jaegers and a close fly-by from a Shy Albatross.

    We spent about three hours at the shelf break in the vicinity of Brown?s Mountain and berleyed-up at three locations. The species numbers were quite low with most birds around the boat being good numbers of Flesh-footed Shearwaters and surprisingly small numbers of Great-winged Petrels. Single fly-bys of Hutton's Shearwaters on three occasions raised the pulse briefly (as any dark and white bird does) and a first year Wandering Albatross in immaculate chocolate and white plumage fed close to the boat for a long period. In between berley stops, we came across a group of about 10 Risso's Dolphins which approached quite close to the boat and gave everybody excellent views. With the mega birds seen on the way back, it was a terrific day for both cetacean and bird observers.

    Bird List
    (Note that numbers in parenthesises represent the maximum numbers seen at any one time)
    Great-winged Petrel 6 (1)
    Wedge-tailed Shearwater 40 (5)
    Light morph Wedge-tailed Shearwater 1
    Flesh-footed Shearwater 130 (60)
    Short-tailed Shearwater 5 (1)
    Sooty Shearwater 1
    Hutton?s Shearwater 3 (1)
    Wandering Albatross 1
    Shy Albatross 1 (cauta)
    Australasian Gannet 6 (2)
    South Polar Skua 1
    Pomarine Jaeger 8 (3)
    Long-tailed Jaeger 5 (3)
    Silver Gull 60 (20)
    Crested Tern 4 (2)

    False Killer Whale 6
    Risso?s Dolphin 10

    Next Sydney pelagic trip will be on Saturday 8 April 2006 departing Cremorne Point at 0645 and from Rose Bay at 0700.

    Call Hal on 0411 311 236 to make a reservation.

    Roger McGovern