• Saturday 9th April 2016, Sydney, Pelagic Trip Report, Sydney, NSW, Australia


    After having to cancel last month's trip due to some health problems in the family of the boat operator, it was good to get out on the water again on a fine Sydney autumn day. The weather had been quite benign for the past few days and was forecast to remain so for our trip - pleasant boating weather but I was a little worried about how many birds would be around. It did turn out to be a quiet day for bird species diversity and we saw no cetaceans of any sort - however, these shortcomings were more than compensated for by a beautiful breeding-plumaged ARCTIC TERN and a rare April record of Black Petrel.

    The weather was forecast for light and variable winds with slight seas but, in the event, winds got up to 15knots from the south west and we had a chop of 1.5m on top of a small swell. Water temperatures were around 23degC on the shelf which is unseasonably warm - they were around 21.5degC at this time last year. We departed the Heads at about 7.50am, motored out to Brown's Mountain some 22.5NM ESE arriving at 10.45am where we drifted and laid out a berley slick for about an hour. After doing a circular tour into deeper water to the east for an hour, we headed back to Sydney arriving at Rose Bay just after 3.30pm

    Arctic Tern

    We set off from Rose Bay a little late at 7.30am (the boat had to be re-fuelled) with 21 passengers on the MV Avalon IV, most of whom were regular locals - thanks very much for your support! As we passed through the Heads we were able to attract a good number of Silver Gulls to follow the boat for the fish offal. After a few minutes, they were joined by the first Wedge-tailed Shearwater and, very slowly, the number of shearwaters began to increase. However, the lack of other birds was quite worrying although we did have excellent views of a fly-by Sooty Shearwater which is a species that we do not see well very often off Sydney. A few Australasian Gannets came by to see what was attracting the gulls and small numbers of Short-tailed Shearwaters followed the boat for a while. A poorly seen Hutton's Shearwater flew across the wake but we were to see a couple more Hutton's at closer range later in the trip. As we got out to the 8 mile mark, the first Flesh-footed Shearwater joined the feeding birds behind the boat and numbers of this species grew steadily as we headed offshore. The first major excitement of the day was the arrival of our first and only albatross species of the day, a stunning adult Campbell Albatross which remained with us for much of the trip.

    Black Petrel

    We arrived at Brown's Mountain and started our berley drift with only the Campbell Albatross, Wedge-tailed and Flesh-footed Shearwaters in evidence for the first few minutes. The first of only two Providence Petrels flew past but didn't stay around and then the first of several Wilson's Storm Petrels appeared on the slick. The real excitement for the day started when Tom Wilson thought he had seen a distant Procellaria and a little time afterwards, a very bulky bird was seen a few hundred metres away and it then flew in to the berley trail showing itself as a Black Petrel. It sat on the water close to the boat feeding and giving great opportunities for photos but then a shout went up for a small tern coming past the boat. With long tail streamers and a shortish slender red bill, it was clearly an ARCTIC TERN in breeding plumage and examination of the many photographs taken confirmed this. The bird did not stay for more than a minute or two but excellent views were had by all on board. We started the motors and headed eastwards into deeper water and immediately saw our only Great-winged Petrel of the day. Despite motoring for an hour in deep water, no new species were seen and we then headed back to Sydney without further incident. It has to be said that 13 avian species (and no cetaceans) for the day is below par for April but, for most if not all on board, the Arctic Tern and Black Petrel compensated for the lack in species diversity.

    (Note that the numbers in parentheses represent the approximate maximum number of that species in view at any one time)

    Wilson's Storm Petrel 6 (6)
    Campbell Albatross 1 (1)
    Great-winged Petrel 1 (1) ssp gouldi
    Providence Petrel 2 (1)
    Black Petrel 1 (1)
    Wedge-tailed Shearwater 35 (25)
    Sooty Shearwater 1 (1)
    Short-tailed Shearwater 12 (4)
    Flesh-footed Shearwater 30 (20)
    Hutton's Shearwater 3 (1)
    Silver Gull 100 (80)
    Greater Crested Tern 7 (2)
    ARCTIC TERN 1 (1)

    Thanks very much to Jodi Osgood for providing the photographs attached to this report.

    The next Sydney trip is scheduled for Saturday 14 May 2016 and all details of our trips and contact details are shown in the website at www.sydneypelagic.info and you can also find us on Facebook and post photos at https://www.facebook.com/sydneypelagics

    Roger McGovern