• Friday, 8th December 2017, Swansea, NSW, Australia

    Swansea Pelagic Trip Report- Friday 8th December 2017

    Boat: 45ft Randell, skippered by Brad Minors

    With a runout tide and swell coming from the north-east the bar-crossing was very bumpy (waves breaking on the shoals). Very little wind at all for the outward oceanic leg, though a southerly change did hit just after leaving the shelf at about 2pm, though it barely got over 15 knots (we skirted the northern edge of a big rain front). Sea and swell 1 to 1.5m. Water temperature not taken.

    Drift Start: -33.22001 / 152.2058
    Drift End: -33.193990 / 152.195470

    Bullers Shearwater. Photo: Mick Roderick

    Departed wharf at 7:09am returning at 4:31pm. We managed a very good tally of species for the day (22), though with no real ‘rarities’ it was one of those days when we managed an individual of several species to bump the count. Wedge-tailed and Flesh-footed Shearwaters were attendant at the boat for most of the day, though the Fleshies mysteriously left the boat before we reached the shelf and were not seen at all in deep water. They reappeared not long after leaving the shelf to come back in. Several Shy-type Albatrosses seemed a little unseasonal for these waters and there were good numbers of Wilson’s Storm-petrels at the shelf. Very few Pterodromas in comparison to recent weeks and there was little sign of a Short-tailed Shearwater migration, apart from the odd bird flying directly south (in contrast with the Kiama trip the following day).

    Shy-type albatross. Photo: Mick Roderick

    22 species recorded outside the heads (including the Cookilaria) was an excellent count and the highest for a Swansea boat in recent years. An unidentified tern that may not have been a Common would have taken the tally to 23. 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 V2.1.

    Wilson’s Storm-petrel: 30 (25). A rather conservative count. All pelagic except for one bird about half way out and 2 birds seen in the wake on the return leg.

    White-faced Storm-petrel: 3 (3). All pelagic, feeding in the slick.

    Wedge-tailed Shearwater: 500 (300). Largest group associated with a fishing trawler. Many birds followed us to the shelf and back.

    Short-tailed Shearwater: 15 (2). Very small presence today.

    Sooty Shearwater: 1. Single bird barrelled past about half way out on the outbound leg.

    Flesh-footed Shearwater: 20 (15). Some picked up from an inshore trawler and all flew off a few miles short of the shelf only to rejoin the boat at a similar mark on the way back.

    Fluttering Shearwater: 1. Single bird photographed on the return leg.

    Hutton's Shearwater: 2 (1). A bird seen on both the outward and inward legs.

    Fluttering-type Shearwater: 1. Only the one unidentified ‘type’ today.

    Buller’s Shearwater: 1. A bird appeared suddenly in the wake of the boat about 5 miles from the heads on the return leg. We stopped the boat immediately but frustratingly it disappeared.

    Wandering-type Albatross: 1. A bird feigned to come into the boat not long before reaching the shelf but unfortunately did not come close.

    Black-browed Albatross: 2 (1). Single birds seen and photographed en-route to and from the shelf .

    Campbell Albatross: 1. Sub-adult bird seen just after leaving the shelf for the inbound journey from deep water.

    Black-browed type Albatross: 3. All indeterminate young birds.

    White-capped Albatross: 1: A juvenile bird photographed not long after commencing return leg.

    Shy-type Albatross: 8 (4). All indeterminate adult birds (good numbers for December).

    Grey-faced Petrel: 3 (2). All pelagic, not really faithful to the boat for long.

    Unidentified ‘Cookilaria’ Petrel: 2 (1). One bird at the shelf late in the drift stayed distant and scrutiny of heavily-cropped photos show that it was a pale-headed bird that was probably a Cook’s.

    Australasian Gannet: 8 (3). All inshore.

    Arctic Jaeger: 4 (1). One bird harassing Silver Gulls, others followed the boat for a time.

    Pomarine Jaeger: 12 (2). Two birds followed the boat to the shelf, but majority were seen inshore on the return leg.

    Sooty Tern: 1. A juvenile bird was seen flying away from the boat at the same time that the Cookilaria was being tracked, but offered much better views (though still not great).

    Common Tern: 1. Joined the boat briefly about 10 miles out on the outward leg.

    Unidentified ‘Commic’ Tern: Whilst the Cookilaria and Sooty Tern were being watched one observer noticed a tern at great distance and photographed it (but did not call it). The images were extremely distant but the bird looks very interesting, with what appears to be a dark trailing edge to the entire underwing. With the arrival of Aleutian Terns at Old Bar (~75 miles north) there is a possibility that this bird could have been one of this species, but things like second year Common Tern can’t be ruled out on the distant images.

    Crested Tern: 30 (20). Most birds joined the boat late in the day.

    Silver Gull: 502 (500). This is just to indicate that only 2 birds followed the boat prior to our return past Moon Island, when ~500 birds flew out to join the throng of shearwaters, terns and jaegers.


    Indo-Pacific Common Dolphin: A few small pods throughout the day.

    Offshore Bottlenose Dolphin: One pod out wide.


    Marlin sp: 2 or 3 fish free-jumping at the shelf.

    Hutton's and Wedge-tailed Shearwaters. Photo: Mick Roderick