Swansea Pelagic Trip Report – Thurs 9th July 2015
Boat: 45ft Randell, skippered by Brad Minors
There had been a lead-up of fairly consistent south to south-west winds for the days preceding the trip, dropping off to calm conditions today. Sea and swell both less than a metre, with somewhat glassy conditions prevailing for most of the day and no one on board was seasick. Water temperature at the shelf approximately 20 degrees.
Buller's albatrosses. Photo: Alan Richardson
No highlights on what was actually an extremely disappointing day for diversity. We virtually attracted no birds to the boat out wide. There were good numbers of Yellow-nosed Albatrosses (mostly associated with an inshore fishing trawler) and 3 Buller’s was also a good number for a Swansea pelagic; all at the boat at the same time.
Departed Swansea Wharf at 0714 returning at 1654.
As we passed Moon Island the first seabirds were some poorly seen Fluttering-type Shearwaters, before quite close views of some Humpback Whales travelling north. A few Prions became evident from early on as well, with all birds seen well enough confirmed to be Fairy.
A fishing trawler was seen slightly south of our course and with a large number of albatrosses in attendance we decided to check out the talent. The closer we got, the more birds became apparent and there were lots of albatrosses, predominantly Indian Yellow-nosed and the occasional Black-browed. There were well over 100 Yellow-noseds airborne, plus a few rafts of 10-15 birds sat on the water. A conservative estimate of 150 Yellow-noseds was made, before we motored back onto course, leaving a good berley trail and gaining quite a few of the trawler’s birds in the process.
Juvenile Black-browed type Albatross. Photo: Mick Roderick
From here to the first drift in deeper water it was a matter of watching the attendant albatrosses and checking Prions for anything that may not have been Fairy. A Brown Skua with a broken leg joined the vessel for much of the journey outwards, as did a couple of Shy-type Albatrosses. A pod of Pantropical Spotted Dolphins were seen only briefly.
We stopped for our first drift in deep water at what looked to be a current line (at -33.22158 / 152.1638). Before we’d cut the engine we noticed 3 Fairy Prions sitting on the water and it wasn’t long before the first Buller’s Albatross appeared, much to the delight of all on board. But apart from some Fairy Prions that came and went and perhaps a Shy-type or two, this lone Buller’s Albatross was the only bird that we could categorically say we had actually brought to the boat at this point. We decided to continue further east and headed (accompanied by a faithful pod of Indo-Pacific Common Dolphins) out to -33.24432 / 152.21994 where we set up another drift.
Complete disappointment set in as we continued to drift with a very healthy variety of berley and oil to try and attract something different to the boat. In the ~2 hours out wide we did not see a single storm-petrel or a petrel of any description. A second Brown Skua did come in and some unidentified cetaceans (either Risso’s Dolphins or Pygmy Killer Whales) were seen by a couple of people before it was time to head back to port.
We departed from -33.2493 / 152.2395 and only added some confirmed Fluttering Shearwaters and a few more of the same types birds seen on the way out to the day’s list (though an additional 2 Buller’s Albatross was notable). All in all it was a disappointing winter’s pelagic with only 6 Procellariiformes seen, though the numbers of Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross was heartening to see and a spectacle to watch.
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
Black-browed Albatross: 7 (5)
Shy-type Albatross: 6 (2)
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross: 170+ (150)
Buller’s Albatross: 3 (3)
Fairy Prion: 40 (6)
Fluttering Shearwater: 3 (3)
Fluttering-type Shearwater: 8
Australasian Gannet: 40 (15)
Brown Skua: 2 (1)
Crested Tern: 15 (8)
Silver Gull: 200 (180)
White-bellied Sea-Eagle: 2 (1)
Pantropical Spotted Dolphin: 20
Indo-Pacific Common Dolphin: 30+
Humpback Whale: 5
Risso’s Dolphin / Pygmy Killer Whale(?): <5
Australian / NZ Fur Seal: 1