Port Stephens Pelagic Trip Report – Sun 11th August 2013
Boat: M.V. Argonaut, skippered by Ray Horsefield
Consistent with the 2013 trips that we’ve managed to get out, today was once again calm seas with <1m combined sea and swell. On the run out there was a nice, brisk southerly at around 10 knots, but this faded into a gentle sou-wester by around 0945. Water temperature at the shelf, approximately 18 degrees.
No outstanding avian highlights but a pod of Offshore Bottlenose Dolphins thrilled us with some spectacular and synchronised leaping out of the water at the shelf.
Departed Nelson Bay Public Wharf at 0705 returning at 1705.
As we rounded Tomaree Headland a brisk southerly air flow hit our faces and the first birds seen were Silver Gulls and an unidentified albatross behind a trawler. Before long we started seeing small flocks of Fluttering Shearwaters and once the berley hit the water it didn't take too long to attract some attendant albatross (the vast majority of which were Yellow-nosed). The season’s first Wedge-tailed Shearwater joined us briefly and a Brown Skua that accompanied us for virtually the entire day flew in.
The closer we got to the shelf, the calmer the conditions became, though there was still a slight wind chop at our drift starting point at 32 55 25s 152 35 31e. It was a generally quiet drift with mostly Yellow-nosed Albatross and one or two Black-browed attending the boat. A Fairy Prion was picked up, soon to become 2 birds down the slick, then a White-faced Storm-petrel appeared to the north. A very hungry young Shy Albatross joined in as the first of 3 Solander’s Petrels arrived from the north (and continued flying south).
A great dolphin spectacle was observed as an acrobatic trio of Offshore Bottlenose Dolphins within a larger pod that had moved through leapt out of the water in near-perfect synchronicity. Having drifted north, we finished the drift at 32 51 54s 152 36 48e and started the trip journey back to port. This started with the only Wandering Albatross sighting for the day as a bird flew up the wake of the boat but unfortunately flew off, giving only brief views. Not a great deal else was seen apart from the albatross that came and went, the occasional Fairy Prion, some more returning Wedge-tailed Shearwaters and a single Hutton’s Shearwater which was added to the day’s list not too far from the heads.
A detour was made as we approached the offshore islands as a pod of Humpback Whales were spotted just off Boondelbah Island. We saw 2 Reef Egrets on the rocks and a Peregrine Falcon circling up high. A somewhat unusual sight was a feral pigeon (a ‘Red Chequer’ or something similar) sitting on a rock ledge a few metres above the water on Boondelbah Island, looking much like one of its ancestral Rock Doves – or perhaps just hiding from the Peregrine Falcon?!
Total (maximum number visible from the boat at one time)
White-faced Storm-Petrel: 2 (1)
Black-browed Albatross: 3 (2)
Shy Albatross: 2 (1)
Yellow-nosed Albatross: 30 (11)
Wandering Albatross: 1
Fairy Prion: 7 (2)
Fluttering Shearwater: 60 (8)
Hutton’s Shearwater: 1
Wedge-tailed Shearwater: 7 (3)
Solander’s Petrel: 3 (1)
Australasian Gannet: 70 (30)
Crested Tern: 20 (9)
Silver Gull: 40 (25)
White-bellied Sea-Eagle: 1
Peregrine Falcon: 1
Eastern Reef Egret: 2 (2)
Great Cormorant: 4 (3)
Pied Cormorant: 1
Sooty Oystercatcher: 1
Feral Pigeon: 1
Offshore Bottlenose Dolphin: 25+
Humpback Whale: 10