• Sunday 24th July 2016, Sydney, Pelagic Trip Report, Sydney, NSW, Australia


    This pelagic trip was a reschedule of the 9 July trip, which was lost to a very large swell and poor conditions. We experienced fresh winds (15-20 knots) and a big swell (3m) but the latter was nicely spaced (about 14 seconds between tops according to the skipper Mark) so the boat rode up and down without too much discomfort for any on board (although losing birds behind the wave tops was a regular source of frustration). Unlike the May trip, several days of strong westerlies did not seem to reduce the number of birds this time around and we saw 15 species outside the heads, although several in ones or twos only. Black-browed Albatross were the dominant species by a long margin.

    We departed Rose Bay Wharf at approx. 7:15 am with 21 passengers on board with a few regulars but a large number of visitors and first time trippers as well. (One missing regular was Roger McGovern so I am filling in as pelagic correspondent for this trip). Although the berley trail was started as we left the harbour, we had managed to attract about a dozen Silver Gulls as we crossed from Mosman to Rose Bay. As we left the harbour, a White-bellied Sea Eagle cruised past us at Watsons Bay (although when it crossed the harbour and flew over Clarke Island, the Raven attacks made its flight somewhat less serene). When berleying started, we attracted a good following of Silver Gulls which, in turn started to attract a following of other birds. Several Australasian Gannets came for a look, as well as some Crested Terns and shortly after leaving the harbour we saw the first of many Black-browed Albatross. We also drew the attention of three Brown Skuas, a species which would be an almost permanent companion as we headed east and again on our way back in. A couple of small groups and some single Fluttering-type Shearwaters were seen, but none were close enough to the boat to allow a positive ID to be obtained.

    As we headed out towards Browns Mountain, the crowd of Black-broweds grew, as did Skuas, the latter numbering six at one point. They were joined by several Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross and a single Shy Albatross and sporadic Fairy Prions were also seen. Throughout the day the Black-broweds were checked to see if any were Campbells Albatross, but none of the adult birds showed the distinctive golden eye of the latter species. We encountered a small pod of Short-beaked Common Dolphins that came to the boat, but only for a short period and a single Shy Albatross crossed the wake. As we got further out, we continued to see sporadic single prions, a Shy Albatross put in a better appearance and the first Providence Petrel of the day was seen. We reached our destination at about 10:30 and (perhaps not surprisingly given the conditions) ours was the only vessel there. We started a berley drift for about an hour, motored back up the slick and did a second drift for a slightly shorter period. Just after starting the drift, a single Wilsons Storm-petrel was seen, but it did not stay and was not seen again. We had similar brief views of a Bullers Albatross and an adult Wandering-type Albatross. (The shortage of experts on the boat meant it was not narrowed down to type.) More Providence Petrels came to the boat, as did up to three Great-winged Petrels. The crowd of Black-broweds had grown to nearly 50 by that time, with a range of plumages including some very nearly adult birds that showed some black smudging at the base of the bill but were otherwise in adult-looking plumage. As we commenced our shorter second drift a second Bullers Albatross flew in this one was more inclined to stay with the boat so much better views were obtained. Of interest was the six of the Silver Gulls that had joined the berley trail had followed us all the way to Browns Mountain it is unusual to see them in very deep water.

    As we motored back in, we were followed by several albatross (from 4 species) and at one point a single Cape Petrel followed the boat for 2 minutes, but it did not come close (and we had run out of berley by then). We came close to a pod of Oceanic Bottlenose Dolphin but they were busy hunting and not interested in the boat. We also saw the blows from some Humpback Whales but they were not seen well. Even close to shore the swell made following birds and whales far from straightforward, so looking for penguins outside the heads was a fruitless task. However, to conclude the trip list, a pair of Little Penguin were seen just inside the harbour before we got to Watsons Bay.

    BIRD LIST (Note that the number in parentheses represent the approximate maximum number of that species in view at any one time)
    Black-browed Albatross 150(50)
    Shy Albatross 10(3)
    Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross 40 (10)
    Wandering Albatross (ssp not known) 1 (1)
    Bullers Albatross 2 (1)
    Fairy Prion 40 (10)
    Providence Petrel 20 (10)
    Great-winged Petrel 5 (3)
    Cape Petrel 1 (1)
    Wilsons Storm-petrel 1 (1)
    Fluttering-type Shearwater 20 (6)
    Australasian Gannet 50 (10)
    Brown Skua 20 (6)
    Silver Gull 100 (30)
    Greater Crested Tern 8 (4)

    Short-beaked Common Dolphin 10
    Oceanic Bottlenose Dolphin 10
    Humpback Whale 2

    For details of future Sydney pelagic trips, please visit the website at http://www.sydneypelagics.info which has details of all trips and contact details for making bookings.

    Tom Wilson