SYDNEY PELAGIC TRIP REPORT - SATURDAY MAY 14, 2016
As this pelagic trip was one of the quietest that we have ever experienced, this report will be correspondingly rather short! It was an absolutely superb day on the water with warm autumn sun, light winds and minimal seas of about half a metre. Unfortunately, maybe because of the westerlies that had been prevalent for the past few days, there were very few birds to be seen. Our species count was nine, which is two better than our all-time low count of seven but compared to our best species count of 29 and our average of 16, it was indeed a very quiet day for birds. Furthermore, ignoring the non-Procellariiformes (gannets, gulls and terns), we recorded only 20 individual birds on the entire trip. Having said all of that, the day was highlighted by some excellent cetacean sightings including our largest counts of Risso's Dolphins and a good close-up sighting of a pod of Pantropical Spotted Dolphins - showing that there is always something good to be seen on the ocean.
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross. Photo: Jodi Osgood
We departed Rose Bay Wharf at 7.20am with a complement of 20 passengers, all locals except for one visitor from Belgium. We started the berley trail as we left the harbour to attract a good following of Silver Gulls which, in turn, would normally attract other birds to the berley as we left the coast. However, after an hour or so, we still had a following of birds which comprised only Silver Gulls and an occasional fly past of an Australasian Gannet or Greater Crested Tern. About four or five miles off the Heads, a pair of Cattle Egret were seen flying south, an unusual sighting off the coast of Sydney. On the way out to the shelf at Brown's Mountain, we had the odd Black-browed and Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross pass by the boat but they showed no interest in feeding on our berley trail. A beautiful adult Campbell Albatross approached close to the boat giving great photo opportunities but, again, it did not stay around for long. A loafing fur seal (sp) gave brief but good views as we got into deeper water towards the shelf.
Approaching the shelf break, a small pod of four Short-beaked Common Dolphins rode on our bow wave briefly and two Fairy Prions (first returning sightings for 2016 off NSW) passed across the bow of the boat. As we reached Brown's Mountain, we encountered the first of about four groups of Risso's Dolphins which gave good views before we stopped to have our first berley drift. After 40 minutes or so having seen no birds at all, we abandoned the drift and started to motor slowly eastwards into deeper water where it was still very quiet but punctuated by the odd sighting of Providence Petrel, another Fairy Prion and a very distant 'cookilaria' petrel (possibly a Gould's) seen only by a couple of observers. We continued to see groups of Risso's Dolphins and estimated total numbers to be 70 - 80, and two Southern Ocean Sunfish added to our tally of 'sea monsters'. After setting course back to Sydney and while still in deep water off the shelf, we encountered a small pod of Pantropical Spotted Dolphin which approached closely giving good views and a distant Shy Albatross was spotted behind the boat becoming our final new bird species for the day.
Risso's Dolphin. Photo: Jodi Osgood
The regulars on board the boat tried (as usual) to come up with theories as to why it was such a quiet day but, our trip on May 11, 2013 encountered similar conditions and identical water temperatures of 21.5degC and yet yielded 20 avian species for the day - and so the jury is still out! The beautiful weather conditions made it a pleasure to be on the water and I think that everyone enjoyed the day.
(Note that the number in parentheses represent the approximate maximum number of that species in view at any one time)
Campbell Albatross 1 (1)
Shy Albatross 1 (1)
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross 5 (2)
Fairy Prion 3 (2)
Providence Petrel 4 (1)
Australasian Gannet 30 (5)
Silver Gull 140 (90)
Greater Crested Tern 8 (2)
Short-beaked Common Dolphin 4
Risso's Dolphin 80
Pantropical Spotted Dolphin 15
Fur Seal (sp) 1
Southern Ocean Sunfish 2
The next Sydney pelagic trip is scheduled for Saturday 11 June 2016 and all details of our trips and contact details are hown on the website at http://www.sydneypelagics.info and you can also find us on Facebook and post photos at https://www.facebook.com/sydneypelagics