• Sunday, 26th November 2017, Port Stephens, NSW, Australia

    Port Stephens Pelagic Trip Report- Sunday 26th November 2017

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

    Nor-east winds had been the norm for almost the past 3 weeks (occasionally with a bit of south in it, like we had on the 12th) and these were rather gentle today. Conditions were almost glassy for the outward journey, with the onshore wind picking up to about 15 knots at one stage, but overall hovering around the 10 knot mark. Sea state was quite benign with a smallish 1-1.5m swell. We motored slightly past our normal starting point and commenced our drift at -32.9240187 / 152.5899121. We drifted over the course of the 3 hours at the shelf to -32.961210 / 152.583630 (average speed of southward drift was just under a mile per hour). Water temperature was taken at the shelf and showed 23.0 degrees.

    White-faced Storm-petrel. Photo: Mick Roderick

    Departed wharf at 7:08am returning at 4:41pm. Activity was overall quite low today and this was the anti-climax we had to have, following on from recent trips where Mottled Petrels had been migrating. A trawler was noticed a few miles out from the heads and we made a slight detour to motor just to the north of it. As soon as the shearwaters behind the trawler got wind of our berley trail they decided we were a much better option! There was a good number of Flesh-footed Shearwaters along with the expected Wedge-tailed Shearwaters (noting we only saw the one Fleshy two weeks earlier). These shearwaters remained with the boat for the entire journey out and likely for the entire day. There were very few migrating Short-tailed Shearwaters and just the one Albatross sighting (a Gibson’s that never came into the boat). The first Pterodroma at the shelf was a Gould’s and this was rapidly followed by one or two Grey-faced Petrels and then a couple of White-faced Storm-petrels. This flurry was cause for some excitement, though that excitement peaked at this point and barely any new birds came to the boat apart from a couple of Wilson’s Storm-petrels, a small number of Solander’s Petrels, some hungry Short-taileds and a turnover of Flesh-footed Shearwaters.

    Solander's Petrel. Photo: Mick Roderick

    17 species were recorded outside the heads, representing a reasonable diversity of birds, though many of the one-offs did not provide good views. 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.

    Little Penguin: 3 (3) About a mile north of Point Stephens.

    White-faced Storm-petrel: 10 (8). All pelagic and given that 8 were counted at once, the estimate of 10 total could be conservative.

    Wilson’s Storm-petrel: 2 (2). Both pelagic, feeding in the slick.

    Wedge-tailed Shearwater: 450 (300). Again there weren't big numbers of wedgies today with the group of 300 being seen associated with the trawler and another flock of ~100 inshore later.

    Short-tailed Shearwater: 25 (8). Not in great numbers and certainly no large migrating flocks. It was unusual to see a few birds feeding voraciously at the boat during our drift.

    Flesh-footed Shearwater: 120 (35). Many (20+?) picked up from the trawler early on and there was evidence of a turnover of birds. The dominant bird of the day.

    Fluttering Shearwater: 1. Single fly-by not far from the heads on the return leg.

    Hutton's Shearwater: 1. One bird about half-way back to port.

    Wandering-type Albatross: 1. Sub-adult bird about 5 miles short of the shelf on the outward journey – bird feigned to come into the boat but flew off, so couldn’t be put to species level.

    Solander’s Petrel: 3 (2). All pelagic, with a couple of birds displaying very worn plumage (quite one bird was quite brown above with a distinct white “band” across the chest).

    Grey-faced Petrel: 3 (1). All pelagic, with two birds undergoing heavy moult in the flight feathers.

    Gould's Petrel: 2 (1). One bird at the shelf early in the drift offered very poor views. A second bird was seen at -32.8614397 152.4352802 on the way back in and offered much better views.

    Australasian Gannet: 5 (3). All inshore.

    Arctic Jaeger: 1. Single bird harassing the Silver Gulls that were following the boat.

    Pomarine Jaeger: 4 (2). Two birds were with the boat for the drift (one a very smart and slightly-built dark bird), the other two inshore.

    Crested Tern: 4 (2). Two birds arrived at the boat during the second half of the drift.

    Silver Gull: 10 (7). Some followed boat out.


    Pantropical Spotted Dolphin: 2 pods comprising maybe a total of 20 individuals.

    (Inshore Bottlenose Dolphin: – a pod seen just inside the heads)