• Sunday, 25th June 2017, Port Stephens, NSW, Australia

    Port Stephens Pelagic Trip Report- Sunday 25th June 2017

    CONDITIONS
    A gentle offshore breeze lifted to a steady 15 knot sou-wester by about 9am. Once at the shelf this became a consistent 20 knot westerly, with a period of about 45 minutes where it was easily 25 knots. With a reasonably solid 2m southerly swell there was a lot of pitching on the wind-waves, and surprisingly just the one person succumbed to seasickness. We made a slightly early departure to begin a very slow punch back into the wind, but by about half way back in the wind had dropped off significantly, becoming virtually a millpond as we came back in the heads. Clear skies all day; water temperature not noted.


    Buller's Albatross. Photo: Mick Roderick

    ACTIVITY
    Departed wharf at 7:16am returning quite late at 5:51pm. A very slow day with low activity generally. In fact the only real activity for the first few hours were Silver Gulls and a few Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross that followed the boat. Once in deep water there was very little interest in the boat, though the Grey-faced and Solanderís Petrels did come in and gave close views. So many species were seen as singletons and only fleetingly. The distinct lack of albatrosses was disappointing (just the one Black-browed type and no Shy-types at all).The peak period of activity was probably 8 miles from the heads when a Bullerís Albatross appeared in the wake. We stopped the boat and several Yellow-nosed Albatross (as well as the Bullerís) flew in to the rear of the boat, as well as an immaculate White-fronted Tern. A close encounter with a Humpback Whale at the end of the day was another return-leg highlight.


    Humpback Whalte tail. Photo: Mick Roderick

    BIRDS
    13 species (including Ďtypesí) were recorded outside the heads, representing low to moderate diversity, particularly as several species were barely seen due to them being uncooperative individuals. Highlights would be the Bullerís Albatross and the two White-fronted Terns; scarce birds on these trips.

    Counts are totals for birds seen outside the heads (with the maximum number visible from the boat at one time in brackets) Ė many are estimates. Taxonomy follows the BirdLife Australia Working List V2.0.

    Fluttering Shearwater: 1. This single bird, which flew past the starboard side of the boat about 5 miles out on the outward leg, was the only shearwater seen on the day (probably not seen by all on board).

    Wilsonís Storm-petrel: 1. Flew in from the north and down in the slick, not to be seen again (not seen by all on board).

    Black-browed type Albatross: 1 Remarkably just the one Black-browed type, which flew past the boat about half way out, not turning back to the boat and not seen again (not seen by all on board).

    Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross: 30 (7). Reasonable numbers of this species. Every single time a molly came into the boat or was scrutinised on the horizon it turned out to be an IYNA. Some attentive birds too, two which followed us all the way back in.

    Bullerís Albatross: 1. Single bird that appeared in the wake at about the 8 mile mark from the heads. Came into the boat for a few passes before disappearing.

    Northern Giant-Petrel: 1. Juvenile, arrived about an hour into the drift at the shelf, remaining with the boat for the rest of the drift and followed us for about 45 minutes on the homeward leg.

    Solanderís Petrel: 8 (3). All pelagic. The first of the Pterodromas that arrived was this species, about an hour into the drift. As always difficult to judge turnover of birds (hence could have been more than 8 all up).

    Grey-faced Petrel: 4 (3). All pelagic. These essentially Ďreplacedí the Solanderís for a period of nearly an hour, after which some Solanderís did reappear.

    Australasian Gannet: 40 (6). Omnipresent, vast majority adults and in pelagic and inshore waters.

    Caspian Tern: 1. Unusually a bird flew in at about the 7 mile mark from the heads; a fair way for this species in our experience. Followed the boat for some time.

    White-fronted Tern: 2 (2). One bird arrived at the stop for the Bullerís Albatross Ė a beautiful bird in immaculate condition with long tail streamers.

    Crested Tern: 35 (25). Mostly inshore, though a few birds did follow the boat to the shelf.

    Silver Gull: 40 (20). A group of about 10 birds followed the boat to the shelf, remainder inshore.


    MAMMALS:

    Pantropical Spotted Dolphin: 15, in a couple of pods at the shelf.

    Offshore Bottlenose Dolphin: 10, joined the boat a few miles from the shelf and others seen in inshore waters were likely these.

    Humpback Whale: 25+? Quite a few blows and breaching animals seen, particularly within 5 miles of the heads on the return trip. One whaleís tail-stock observed at close range very late in the day.

    FISH

    A single leatherjacket/filefish took shelter under the rear of the boat (photographed with GoPro if anyone wants to try and identify it).