Highlights of the Wollongong pelagic, Saturday 23rd July
Last Saturday, SOSSA ran a pelagic trip from Wollongong for WIRES (Wildlife Information, Rescue and Education Service) members. As there were a couple of spaces leftover, I was able to join the group for the day out. I am sure Lindsay will put up a full trip report in due course but he was happy for me to mention some of the trip highlights in the meantime.
Although there were intermittent showers all day, it was pretty mild for the time of year and the seas were moderate. However the very dark overcast and often wet conditions made life difficult for photography.
The day started in promising fashion with a reasonable numbers of Fairy Prions close inshore. As there have been a number of Slender-billed Prion records along the east coast in the last month, I was constantly scanning through the prions but all the inshore birds were Fairies. We soon had the first good bird of the day as I spotted a Common Diving-Petrel racing by in a blur of rapid wing beats. Although fairly regularly encountered off southernmost NSW in winter, this is a rare bird for Wollongong. Shortly after, I briefly glimpsed another Common Diving-Petrel in front of the boat but it was immediately lost amongst the waves.
The numbers of albatross built-up as we crossed the shelf, with a few stops to band birds, and there were further scattered sightings of Fairy Prions. At the shelf edge, the slick soon attracted small groups of Fairy Prions and eventually I found a single Slender-billed Prion which obligingly was the closest prion to the boat, although still not coming within 20m of the boat. This was to be the only non-Fairy Prion we saw all day, despite running into moderate flocks near to shore on the return journey too. Petrel numbers were low at the shelf with only a single Great-winged Petrel and two Providence Petrels; a Cape Petrel was also noted closer to shore.
As the albatross numbers were now up to about 50 birds, it was no surprise that we attracted 2 Bullers Albatross and 2 Wandering Albatross. As we were about to leave the shelf, a Northern Royal Albatross briefly joined the throng but it quickly moved off to the south.
All up a very enjoyable day on the ocean.