Conditions: Mostly sunny day, temperature 19 degrees. Wind, westerly all day, 10-15 knots in the morning increasing to 15-20 knots in the afternoon. Seas, 1 – 1˝ metres from the north. Water temperature approximately 19 degrees.
The 25th July pelagic trip was a first for SOSSA as two boats, the MV Kato and the MV Kiama left Kiama harbour at 7.35am. This was the first time that two boats had been used together for a pelagic trip, giving a unique opportunity for those on the Kato to observe SOSSA banders on the Kiama at work.
We headed directly east after leaving the harbour, with the Kato trailing the Kiama. The seas were relatively flat, with the westerly wind not as strong as forecast. Within a few kilometres of the coast, the first birds started to show interest in the boats, mainly Black-browed Albatross and Australasian Gannets. The first hour was quiet, with occasional views of the same species, broken up with brief views of Fairy Prions as we continued heading east. After an hour, a Brown Skua appeared low behind the Kato and proceeded to investigate both boats.
Overall bird numbers were quite low for the first few hours, then the skipper spotted a large number of birds sitting on the water. As we headed over they were quickly identified as all being Gannets, around 50, resting on the water. It seemed they were well fed, as they struggled to get off the water despite the available wind, settling down again only a few hundred metres away.
Continuing on, a pair of Humpback Whales travelling north were sighted. As we slowed to get a better look, Common Dolphins appeared around the boats and the first Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross of the day came into view. We observed the whales for 15 minutes or so, but they ignored us and kept going, the bird numbers weren’t high, so we did as well.
SOSSA banding team catching a Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross
Within a short time, a trawler appeared on the horizon and we headed in that direction. As we got closer, it became obvious that there were a large number of birds circling it and there was an air of excitement on board. Bird’s started to investigate us, so both boats stopped short of the trawler, approximately 50km east of Kiama. Amongst the Indian Yellow-nosed and Black-browed’s a few Buller’s and Shy Albatrosses were picked out, then the first of several Wandering Albatross (including an all brown juvenile which didn’t hang around) approached the boats and settled on the water. The SOSSA banding team on the Kiama went to work with a good number of 6 albatross species around the boats.
On the Kato, Tobia’s sharp eyes picked out a Slender-billed Prion on the slick being created from the Kiama, although this wasn’t sighted by those on the Kiama. The banders on the Kiama continued to catch and process albatrosses, with Fairy Prions working the slick. A few Solander’s Petrels were wheeling around as the wind started to pick up. Those on the Kato then observed an Antarctic Prion in the slick, once again, it wasn’t seen by those on the Kiama. While this was going on, a few Brown Skua’s appeared and then a juvenile Northern Giant Petrel came in and landed. A pair of New Zealand Fur Seals suddenly turned up amongst all the birds, investigating what all the activity was about.
The trawler had moved off and the bird numbers started to diminish, so the decision was made to move back inshore to the 100 fathom mark. We arrived back there at 12.30pm and commenced to start a berley trail. Although it was slow to begin with, bird numbers built up, primarily Yellow-nosed, Shy, Black-browed Albatrosses, with a few Wandering Albatross as well. With no new species sighted, we stayed there banding albatrosses until 2pm, then headed for the harbour, arriving back at 3.30pm.
Black-browed Albatross 20 (10) – mainly adults. No Campbell Island Albatross noted.
Australasian Gannet 70 (50) – mainly adults
Brown Skua 3 (2)
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross 30 (15)
Shy Albatross 10 (5)
Buller’s Albatross 3 (3)
Wandering Albatross 3 (3)
Antipodean (Gibson’s) Albatross 5 (3)
Northern Giant Petrel 1 (1) - juvenile
Fairy Prion 50 (8)
Antarctic Prion 1 (1)
Slender-billed Prion 1 (1)
Solander’s Petrel 6 (2)
Crested Tern 10 (4)
Humpbacked Whale 2 (2)
Common Dolphin 25 (10)
Oceanic Bottlenose Dolphin 5 (5)
New Zealand Fur Seal 2 (2)