Swansea Pelagic Trip Report – Thursday 4 December 2014
Boat: 45ft Randell, skippered by Brad Minors
Quite calm with a slight offshore breeze in the morning, swinging round to a gentle nor-easter in the afternoon. Seas and swell <1m.
The highlight bird was definitely a Cook’s Petrel that gave great views to all on board, just the 3rd record of one on a pelagic out of a Hunter port. Good numbers of Sooty Shearwaters was also significant and made the trip reasonably similar to the November 2012 Port Stephens trip.
Cook's Petrel - Photo Steve Roderick
Departed Swansea Wharf at 0703 returning at 1625.
Today was an “all or nothing” day. There were long periods after we passed the inshore feeding shearwaters when we could not see a bird anywhere. This in fact was the case for almost a quarter of an hour at the shelf. The only birds that we saw in that 15 minutes were migrating Sooty Shearwaters that were travelling in small flocks, barely looking sideways as they zoomed past. Today more than any other we relied heavily on the berley to bring birds into view. Once birds started to arrive at the boat at our drift, it was action-stations. A very dull day suddenly became quite exciting as Wedge-tailed Shearwaters started building in numbers, with them the odd Flesh-footed Shearwater, a Black-browed-type Albatross, a few Wilson’s Storm-petrels and 2 Long-tailed Jaegers.
However, the excitement hit fever pitch as “Cookilaria!” was shouted from the rear of the boat. It was immediately obvious that the bird was not a Gould’s and given the evenly pale head, short-tailed jizz and underwing it was soon apparent to us that it was a Cook’s Petrel (admittedly confirmed later after ruling out Pycroft’s with photos taken). The bird gave great views for a Cookilaria, flying to our port-side and circling around the slick for a minute or two. The species was actually a milestone ‘tick’ for at least one person on board and a bottle of bubbly was cracked in celebration!
Cook's Petrel - Photo: Steve Roderick
White-faced Stormies joined in once the excitement of the Cook’s had died down and a few Great-winged Petrels came and went, as well as a 3rd Long-tailed Jaeger joining the 2 already present.
The journey home was again quiet until we hit the inshore feeding flocks a little over half way back, where gangs of mostly Wedge-tailed Shearwaters formed a throng in the wake. Crested Terns arrived en-masse and several jaegers (including a lone Arctic) as well as a Caspian Tern made for a great spectacle at the rear of the boat during the final half hour of the trip. 2 fur seals were seen hauled up on the rudder of one of the coal ships too. A very enjoyable day at sea.
Species: Total outside the heads (maximum number visible from the boat at one time) – many are estimates and especially the shearwaters. Taxonomy follows the BirdLife Australia Working List V1.1
Wilson’s Storm-petrel: 9 (4)
White-faced Storm-petrel: 4 (4)
Black-browed type Albatross: 1 (immature)
Wedge-tailed Shearwater: 250 (70)
Short-tailed Shearwater: 15 (2)
Sooty Shearwater: 24 (12)
Hutton’s Shearwater: 1
Fluttering Shearwater: 1
Fluttering-type Shearwater: 5+
Great-winged Petrel: 4 (2)
COOK’S PETREL: 1
Australasian Gannet: 3 (1)
Pomarine Jaeger: 15 (7)
Arctic Jaeger: 1
Long-tailed Jaeger: 3 (3)
Crested Tern: 110 (70)
Caspian Tern: 1
Silver Gull: 120 (120)
Offshore Bottlenose Dolphin: ~5
Fur Seal sp: 2