Port Stephens Pelagic Trip Report – Sunday 8 February 2015
Boat: M.V. Argonaut, skippered by Ray Horsfield
Calm for most of the day with glassy conditions early, followed by a gentle northerly that picked up half way to the shelf, lifting to just over 10 knots on the return leg. Seas <1m on a 1m swell. Sea surface temperature up to 26 degrees out wide, with pockets of 24 degree water inshore.
Grey-faced Petrel. Photo: Mick Roderick
There were no avian highlights in what was the lowest diversity of species yet recorded on a Port Stephens pelagic. We only managed to break double-figures due to a lone Silver Gull seen 400m outside of the heads on the way back in! The highlight was seeing hundreds of flying fish over the course of the day, as well as a marlin free-jumping.
Departed Nelson Bay Public Wharf at 0711 returning at 1655.
The first Wedge-tailed Shearwaters were seen well within the heads, feeding amongst some Crested Terns. About 8 miles out several Fleshy-footed Shearwaters joined the back of the boat and joining them was a good feeding flock of Wedgies as well. This was the first time in a couple of years that we’d had a solid flock of feeding shearwaters following the Argonaut. A few Fluttering-types were seen, with small numbers of both Fluttering and Hutton’s Shearwaters identified. Once again, Hutton’s Shearwaters dominated the actual identified Fluttering-type Shearwater count. It seems that from the past few pelagics at least, that when there are large flocks of Fluttering-type Shearwaters, Fluttering predominate, but when individual/scattered birds are seen, Hutton’s appear to. A couple of Pomarine Jaegers also followed us out into deep water.
Pomarine Jaeger. Photo: Mick Roderick
One thing that we did notice was that there was a high degree of activity of flying fish. Almost at any given time there was one visible gliding across the surface. Pods of Offshore Bottlenose and Pantropical Spotted Dolphins were also encountered. Unfortunately, the birding couldn’t match the fish or mammal activity and after arriving at the shelf it was a long 2 hours with just a half dozen Great-winged Petrels added to the day’s list. Despite laying down an impressive slick, not a single storm-petrel was to be seen.
Spotted Dolphin and Flying Fish. Photo: Mick Roderick
Most of the Wedge-tailed Shearwaters followed the boat back to shore and one of the Great-winged Petrels sustained interest til probably only 5 or 6 miles short of the heads. Flocks of Short-tailed Shearwaters were also observed not far from Boondelbah Island and an Arctic Jaeger was added to the day’s list very close to the heads. The highlight of the return leg was a free-jumping marlin (species not known) seen making numerous leaps out of the ocean.
Species: Total outside the heads (maximum number visible from the boat at one time) – many are estimates. Taxonomy follows the BirdLife Australia Working List V1.1
Wedge-tailed Shearwater: 600 (400)
Flesh-footed Shearwater: 60 (25)
Short-tailed Shearwater: 90 (70)
Hutton’s Shearwater: 8 (2)
Fluttering Shearwater: 2 (1)
Fluttering-type Shearwater: 15+
Great-winged (Grey-faced) Petrel: 7 (6)
Pomarine Jaeger: 14 (6)
Arctic Jaeger: 1
Crested Tern: 11 (8)
Silver Gull: 1
Offshore Bottlenose Dolphin: 100+
Pantropical Spotted Dolphin: ~30?
Flying Fish Cheilopogon sp.?: 500+
Marlin sp: 1