• Sunday, 17th September 2017, Port Stephens, NSW, Australia

    Port Stephens Pelagic Trip Report- Sunday 17th September 2017

    Boat: M.V. Argonaut, skippered by Ray Horsfield

    Moderate seas generated by a stiff south-easterly breeze gusting to 20 knots on a solid 2-3m swell before dropping off as we approached the shelf, where there was little evidence of current. The swell and wind eased during the course of the day, with the winds turning offshore (south-west) by the early afternoon. Set up a drift at 32.9277458 / 152.5938964 before performing two separate drifts of about 1.5 miles each.

    Campbell Albatross. Photo: Mick Roderick

    Departed wharf at 7:11am returning quite late at 5:03pm. The day belonged to the gannets and Wedge-tailed Shearwaters, with good numbers of the latter evident upon their spring return and some very large concentrations of gannets at (presumably) bait schools. We were expecting numbers of Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross but ended up just seeing the one bird. We had an immature Campbell Albatross spend time at the rear of the boat with a similar-aged Black-browed, enabling good comparisons of structure, behaviour etc (the Black-browed clearly dominated any disputes!). We had a faithful Solander’s Petrel that spent a long time around the boat on the first drift and any day you see a Wandering-type Albatross is a good day; in this case a bird considered to be an exulans. Two separate sightings of Bar-tailed Godwits made up the most interesting non-seabird observations.

    White-faced Storm Petrel. Photo: Mick Roderick

    16 species were recorded outside the heads, representing a moderate diversity of birds. Counts are totals for birds seen outside the heads (with the maximum number visible from the boat at one time in brackets) – many are estimates. Taxonomy follows the BirdLife Australia Working List V2.0.

    White-faced Storm-petrel: 3 (3). Birds present during the drift in the slick, the last one only picked up near the end of the time in deep water.

    Wedge-tailed Shearwater: 1500 (350). Largest flocks were inshore, but numerous marauding birds seen all day, including in pelagic waters.

    Short-tailed Shearwater: 6 (2). One bird at the shelf, remainder inshore.

    Fluttering Shearwater: 10 (2). Scattered individuals seen during the day.

    Hutton’s Shearwater: 15 (3). Scattered individuals seen during the day; photographs revealing slightly more prevalent than Fluttering.

    Fluttering-type Shearwater: 10. Most unidentified birds were inshore.

    Black-browed Albatross: 1. An immature bird at the shelf that fed at the rear of the boat.

    Campbell Albatross: 1. Again, an immature bird at the shelf that fed at the rear of the boat, though was much earlier than (and was ‘bullied’ by) the Black-browed.

    Black-browed type Albatross: 2. Both indeterminate young birds seen individually.

    Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross: 1. Single immature bird in pelagic waters.

    Shy-type Albatross: 3 (1). An indeterminate adult bird and two unidentifiable young birds.

    Wandering Albatross: 1. A bird that joined the boat early in the first drift was considered (after scrutiny) to be a female exulans.