Here's what was seen outside the harbour on the SOSSA pelagic from Kiama on the MV Kato on Sunday 24 April 2016. The list uses the BARC Australian Checklist (v2015 July based on IOC v5.2) for taxonomy, nomenclature & order of species and gives fairly conservative numbers. For the commoner species the numbers are estimates.
Leaving Kiama Harbour at 07.30 hrs Eastern Standard Time we headed ESE into rather choppy seas produced by the strong winds on Saturday which had caused the rescheduling of the trip to Sunday. Despite the conditions we were able to get out to the deeper seas beyond the shelf edge where we made the first of our chumming stops in 300m+ pelagic waters at 34° 47’ 08” S; 151° 12’ 53” E, 34.8 km ESE of the harbour. Over the course of an hour we drifted 1.5 km NNW under the influence of the SE wind, before we moved back up the slick we’d made and then made our second stop. This was at 34° 46’ 28” S; 151° 12’ 37” E, 34 km from the harbour again in 300m+ pelagic waters, where we chummed and drifted 1 km NNW before travelling down the slick to check out what it had brought in. By this stage the wind was dropping and the seas easing.
In an effort to move to where the we thought there had been more birds as we travelled out, we turned back in to shelf edge waters, where we made two stops in 230-220 m waters, chumming and drifting up to 1 km before turning each time and passing back up the slick produced by the chum. The first stop was at 34° 45’ 43” S; 151° 09 21” E; the second at 34° 45’ 27” S; 151° 09’ 14” E, 28.8 and 28.5 km ESE of the harbour respectively.
We then proceeded back in to the harbour, stopping briefly at 34° 40’ 35” S; 150° 54’ 06” E, 3.85 km from the harbour in 50 m shelf waters, where we used up our remaining chum but attracted very few birds, so we continued in, arriving at 15.45 hrs.
Sea conditions were affected by strong winds on the previous day with a 1.5-2 m swell on the Sunday morning gradually diminishing to < 1 m as the wind dropped in the course of the day. Sea temperatures were around 21° in shore and in pelagic waters. Initially overcast conditions gradually improved as the cloud cover slowly broke up.
While our chum worked its magic with storm petrels, very few of the other birds we saw were much interested, so there were no opportunities for banding any of the birds present. The trip coinciding with a full moon may have something to do with this, since the light of the moon draws squid to the surface in the night and many birds can feed all they want at that time, making our offerings of limited interest. The highlight was the good number of storm petrels, particularly the White-faced, with both species showing well for the photographers. Despite careful searching, we were not able to conjure up any other species of storm petrels.
Species seen, maximum at any one time in brackets:
63 Wilson’s Storm Petrel 100 (8) large numbers along the shelf edge and in pelagic waters, presumably birds migrating north.
65 White-faced Storm Petrel 30 (3) mixed in with the Wilson’s, foraging with their typical skips off the water surface.
859 Campbell Albatross 5 (2) adults, but one immature with its iris showing the hazel colour characteristic of this species.
Black-browed/Campbell Albatross 2 (1) dark-eyed immatures
091 Shy Albatross 8 (3) mainly adults but one immature, apparently all cauta
931 Buller’s Albatross 2 (1)
83 Fairy Prion 10 (2) sometimes seen resting on the water surface
075 Great-winged Petrel 1 (1) New Zealand breeding gouldi, in pelagic waters
971 Providence Petrel 3 (1) in pelagic waters
Cook’s Petrel? 1 1 passed at a distance in pelagic waters, too far off for confirmation of identity, but clearly a cookillaria
069 Wedge-tailed Shearwater 5 (1) most individuals of this species have left for the winter
071 Short-tailed Shearwater 20 (5)
072 Flesh-footed Shearwater 25 (5)
Fluttering/Hutton's Shearwater 1 (1) passed too far off for satisfactory views
099 Pied Cormorant 1 (1) just outside the harbour entrance
104 Australasian Gannet 15 (5) adults & immatures
125 Silver Gull 5 (3)
115 Greater Crested Tern 8 (2)
We saw two small pods of unidentified dolphins and a Mako Shark was attracted to our chum. At one point while stopped we were visited by a couple of Dolphin Fish.