• 12th November 2005, Sydney, Pelagic Trip Report, Sydney, NSW, Australia


    Conditions Mostly sunny and warm, with an odd rain shower
    Water temperature 19.5 to 23.0 deg C
    Departed at 0700 and returned at 1545
    1.0m sea on a 1.0m swell, moderating later in the morning
    Light north-west winds in the morning backing to the north-east later.

    Trip Summary
    A group of twenty or so birders from the UK, Sweden, USA and Australia set out from Sydney Harbour on a lovely early summer morning at 07.00. After clearing the Heads, we sailed northwards parallel to the coast at about one mile offshore, looking for migrating female Humpback Whales with calves, as the protective mothers tend to hug the shoreline on their journey south. There were a few Wedge-tailed Shearwaters, Fluttering Shearwaters and Australasian Gannets around and, surprisingly at this date, steady small groups of Short-tailed Shearwaters passing by on their southwards migration.

    With no whales around, we turned eastwards and motored out to the Continental Shelf in the vicinity of Brown’s Mountain some 22.5NM east of Sydney Heads. Initially, we saw several Pomarine Jaegers, one Arctic Jaeger and a couple of Hutton’s Shearwaters and, then, things became quiet bird-wise as we crossed the Abysmal Plain. Brief views of a passing Wandering Albatross increased the excitement level for the overseas visitors but it didn’t stay around for closer inspection. A couple of groups of Short-beaked Common Dolphins provided some interest as they came for a ride on our bow-wave and, just before the shelf break, we had excellent close views of a Sunfish.

    As we reached the shelf, water temperatures climbed to 23 deg C, which was not a good indicator for bird numbers in early November. Sure enough, although there were a lot of fishing boats at Brown’s Mountain, there were fewer birds than I have ever seen at this location. We berleyed for an hour or more, and attracted a few Great-winged Petrels and a single Providence Petrel before giving up and moving further to the north east. The combination of light winds and high water temperatures was not conducive to good pelagic birding. On the way to our second location, we were joined by a pod of Pan-tropical Spotted Dolphin, a rare cetacean off Sydney, as they prefer water temperatures above 25 deg C and rarely are seen south of Brisbane.

    About 3NM from our first stop, we cut the motors and started laying out another berley slick. This time we had a little more success as we saw three more Wandering Albatross, one of which settled on the water and came very close to the boat, and a Flesh-footed Shearwater and a Wilson’s Storm-Petrel added to the species count. On the way back to shore, we encountered a female Humpback Whale, with a calf in close attendance, only a mile or so off Collaroy, which provided a satisfactory finish to a fairly quiet day.

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

    Great-winged Petrel 20 (8)
    Providence Petrel 1 (1)
    Wedge-tailed Shearwater 50 (20)
    Flesh-footed Shearwater 1 (1)
    Short-tailed Shearwater 400 (50)
    Fluttering Shearwater 25 (8)
    Hutton?s Shearwater 2 (2)
    Wandering Albatross 4 (2) all Gibsoni
    Wilson?s Storm-Petrel 1 (1)
    Australasian Gannet 12 (3)
    Pomarine Jaeger 6 (1)
    Arctic Jaeger 1 (1)
    Silver Gull 60 (20)
    Crested Tern 8 (3)

    Sea Monsters
    Humpback Whale 2
    Short-beaked Common Dolphin 60
    Pantropical Spotted Dolphin 20
    Sunfish 1
    Breaching Marlin 1

    Next Sydney pelagic trip will be on Saturday 10 December 2005 departing
    Cremorne Point at 0645 and from Rose Bay at 0700.

    Call Hal on 0411 311 236 to make a reservation.

    Roger McGovern