• Saturday 8th April 2017, Sydney Pelagic Trip Report, Sydney, NSW, Australia

    Weather patterns had been fairly benign in the days leading up to this trip and, with light breezes and a gentle sea of less than a metre all day, we were anticipating an interesting and pleasant autumn trip. It certainly was a very pleasant day to be on the ocean but, unfortunately, the interest level in terms of birds and cetaceans was extremely low. Water temperatures out at the shelf were in the 26 deg C range which is very high for April and an examination of the sea surface temperature map showed that we were on the edge of a rapid drop off in temperature to the south of Sydney – as much as four degrees cooler within less than 100km. Astoundingly, we saw no albatross at all on the trip, the first time that this has ever been recorded on a Sydney pelagic in April, and we could only assume that they had headed a little south in search of cooler water. Although we always had birds around the boat with the shearwaters appreciating our berley throughout the trip, we saw no rarities of any sort and our species count of eleven for the day was disappointing.

    Pomarine Jaeger. Photo: Greg McLachlan

    We departed quite promptly from Rose Bay at 7.10am with 20 passengers on board comprising mostly locals but also some visitors from the UK and the USA. The Silver Gulls started following our berley trail very shortly after leaving the wharf and, as we passed through the Heads, we were joined by a Great Cormorant which stayed with the boat until we were five miles out into our journey. A Greater Crested Tern was seen along with a couple of young Australasian Gannets and, then, we were joined by the first Wedge-tailed Shearwaters of the day. As their numbers built up, they were joined by a few Flesh-footed Shearwaters and a Short-tailed Shearwater was also picked up amongst the scrum of Wedge-taileds. Other than a middle distance view of a Fluttering Shearwater, nothing changed until we reached Brown’s Mountain on the continental shelf drop off. Here we were visited by a few Providence Petrels looking resplendent in their fresh grey, almost silver, plumage followed shortly after by a magnificent pale morph Pomarine Jaeger which had moulted into breeding plumage complete with full spoon-shaped tail feathers, providing great opportunities for photographs. After drifting and berleying for about 45 minutes, the first of several Wilson’s Storm Petrels was seen on the slick and everyone had good views of the ‘stormies’ over the next hour or two.

    With nothing new being seen, we headed off on a slow motor into deeper water to the north east and became increasingly frustrated with the lack of any new species. As we wheeled back around to the west to set course back to Sydney, we came across a massive current line where the water was intensely cobalt coloured and contained some very small translucent jellyfish which had what looked like a fluorescent green light shining from them. Near this location of very warm water, our only flying fish of the day was spotted by a couple of observers. As we began to approach within 5 NM of the Heads, more Australasian Gannets were seen and another small shearwater which was called as a Fluttering Shearwater – however, examination of the photo graphs of this bird showed it to be a Hutton’s Shearwater, thereby bringing our species count for the day to eleven. It was not a memorable day in terms of birds and cetaceans but, as always, it was a pleasure to be out on the ocean on a lovely autumn day catching up with old friends and meeting new people.

    (note that the number in parentheses represents the approximate number of that species in view at any one time)

    Wilson’s Storm Petrel - 5 (3)
    Providence Petrel - 6 (2)
    Wedge-tailed Shearwater - 80 (60)
    Short-tailed Shearwater - 3 (1)
    Flesh-footed Shearwater - 14 (8)
    Fluttering Shearwater - 2 (1)
    Hutton’s Shearwater - 1 (1)
    Australasian Gannet - 12 (6)
    Silver Gull - 100 (60)
    Greater Crested Tern - 3 (1)
    Pomarine Skua - 1 (1)

    Flying fish - 1

    Three unidentified small whales seen by Steve at the front of the boat which could not be relocated.

    Please note that the pelagic scheduled for Saturday 13 May, 2017 has had to be cancelled due to the absence of all of our organisers on overseas trips. The next trip will be on Saturday 10 June, 2017 and all details of our trips and contact details can be found on our website at www.sydneypelagics.info and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/sydneypelagics

    Roger McGovern