Port Stephens Pelagic Trip Report – Monday 30 March 2015
Boat: M.V. Argonaut, skippered by Ray Horsfield
Initially winds were from the south-west up to 10 knots, swinging right around to the north-east by about 0930, pushing to 15 knots by the afternoon. Sea and swell around 1m. Water temperature was measured at the shelf and found to be 25 degrees.
Shy Albatross. Photo: Dan Williams
The highlight was probably the Streaked Shearwater that came in to the wake of the boat and fed with the ‘brown birds’ for a good ten minutes or so and then followed the boat briefly. A Buller’s Shearwater would have been a highlight had more than one person seen it. A Shy-type Albatross looks a likely Shy (cauta) bird which is expected to be much the rarer of the 2 Shy-type species in these waters.
Departed Nelson Bay Public Wharf at 0706 returning at 1649.
This was a rescheduled, midweek pelagic to replace the one cancelled 8 days earlier that could easily have been the best Port Stephens pelagic thus far, based on what was seen north and south of here that weekend. This turned out to be a day where we ‘stumbled’ to reach the milestone of 20 species outside of the heads. It rarely seemed busy, but there was a steady trickle of birds over the course of the day to keep the tally ticking over. 7 species of shearwater were observed, with Fluttering being the only ‘common’ species not seen. Once again, all “Fluttering-types” seen well enough to identify were Hutton’s, hence the new terminology for unidentified birds being adopted for our pelagics; “Hutton’s type Shearwater”, of which there were half a dozen.
It was a relief to finally see storm-petrels again (the first for Port Stephens since Nov 2014) which was in the form of low numbers of Wilson’s (11) and a single White-faced, which again was only seen by 2 observers – this seemed to be a trend for today. An Antipodean (Gibson’s) Albatross that appeared midway out was found to be carrying a darvic leg band inscribed “56G”, which has been forwarded to the authorities for identification. Petrels were in small numbers, with 6 Grey-faced and 3 Solander’s recorded.
Banded Gibson's Albatross. Photo: Mick Roderick
Postscript from trip report 30 March 2015: The Antipodean (Gibson’s) Albatross with leg band inscribed “56G”, which was forwarded to the authorities for identification, was identified thus (by Graeme Elliot, who banded the bird):
“The bird Red-56g, metal band R-47562 was banded in our study area on Adams Island in the Auckland Islands on 17/2/1993. It was an adult incubating an egg when we banded it. She’s a girl. Since then she’s bred 11 times and raised 6 chicks. She was doing very well up until 2005 and she raised 6 chicks from 8 nesting attempts with the same partner, but since 2005 she has had two new partners and not succeeded in her 3 nesting attempts. We last saw her on Adams Island on 25/1/14 on a nest. The nest failed so we would have expected her back in 2015, but she wasn’t there – at least we know she was still alive.”
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
Wilson’s Storm-petrel: 11 (6)
White-faced Storm-petrel: 1
Shy Albatross: 1 (identified as T. cauta based on bill features)
Antipodean Albatross: 1 (D. a. gibsoni)
Wedge-tailed Shearwater: 750 (500)
Flesh-footed Shearwater: 30 (18)
Short-tailed Shearwater: 10 (2)
Sooty Shearwater: 1
Hutton’s Shearwater: 3 (1)
Hutton’s -type Shearwater: 6
Buller’s Shearwater: 1
Streaked Shearwater: 1
Great-winged (Grey-faced) Petrel: 6 (3)
Solander’s Petrel: 3 (1)
Australasian Gannet: 20 (3)
Pomarine Jaeger: 10 (4)
Arctic Jaeger: 3 (1)
Crested Tern: 5 (4)
Caspian Tern: 1
Silver Gull: 6 (6)
White-bellied Sea-eagle: 1
Common Dolphin: ~10
Flying Fish <10