Port Stephens Pelagic Trip Report – Sunday 9 August 2015
Boat: M.V. Argonaut, skippered by Ray Horsfield
Winds west to north-west, a bit fresher than had been forecast, at about 10-15 knots, dropping off around midday. There was a solid groundswell around the 2.5m mark and the sea was a little sloppy for most of the trip out.
White-faced storm-petrel. Photo: Allan Richardson.
The highlight today was the number of White-faced Storm-petrels; the highest ever count for a Hunter-based pelagic trip. It was also nice to have attendant Northern Giant-petrels at the back of the boat. The 3 Wedge-tailed Shearwaters are the first I’ve seen reported in NSW this season.
Departed Nelson Bay Public Wharf at 0710 returning at 1559.
The first activity for the day came in the form of marauding prions, interspersed with the odd Hutton’s-type Shearwater. A Wedge-tailed Shearwater was also picked out but lost again inside the reasonably-sized swell. A distant giant-petrel early on never came close to the boat. A few Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross also joined in, but nowhere near the numbers seen on the previous two trips. A few Shy-type and then one or two Black-browed types also joined the boat.
Fairy Prion. Photo: Steve Roderick.
About 10 miles out a couple of White-faced Storm-petrels were sighted to the south, again disappearing before many people could get a look. We then continued to see the odd-bird all the way to the shelf, which is a little unusual. We’d probably seen about 10 of them by the time we reached the shelf break. In deciding how far to keep motoring out, a flurry of White-faced Storm-petrels and Fairy Prions suddenly appeared around the boat and it was quickly decided to cut the engines here (at 32 55 39s / 152 33 17e). There were at least 30 of the stormies, which made for a dazzling sight and completely unsolicited by any attractant that we were offering.
The “White-faced Stormy / Fairy Prion show” continued for the entire time we were drifting, though no different prions could be picked out (nor were any other stormies seen). It is always extremely difficult to try and estimate numbers of storm-petrels (particularly a total count) because it is almost impossible to judge how many birds might be moving through or might be staying faithful to the boat. There were constantly at least 30 White-faced Storm-petrels around the boat and a total of 80 birds for the day were estimated though I feel this is erring heavily on the conservative side of things.
GPS track of the trip
The occasional Solander’s Petrel came close to the boat, though these birds were fairly few and far between. One, then two Northern Giant-petrels added to the excitement. An immature Campbell Albatross was added to the day’s tally before it was time to head back to port. Two Brown Skuas and a further two Wedge-tailed Shearwaters were seen along with the albatrosses on the way back in.
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
White-faced Storm-petrel: 80 (30)
Shy-type Albatross: 7 (2)
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross: 50 (30)
Campbell Albatross: 1
Black-browed Albatross: 1
Black-browed type Albatross: 6 (2)
Northern Giant-petrel: 2 (2)
Giant-petrel sp.: 1
Fairy Prion: 250 (50)
Wedge-tailed Shearwater: 3 (1)
Hutton’s Shearwater: 1
Hutton’s -type Shearwater: 15
Solander’s Petrel: 3 (1)
Australasian Gannet: 25 (6)
Brown Skua: 2 (2)
Crested Tern: 6 (3)
Silver Gull: 8 (8)
Common Dolphin: ~10
Humpback Whale: 6
Flying Fish <10