23rd June, 2002 SOSSA PELAGIC TRIP, WOLLONGONG, NSW, AUSTRALIA.
Report prepared by: P.J. Milburn.
Departed: 07:30 returned at approx. 16:30.
Sea conditions: 1.5 to 2.0m S.
Swell: S to 2m offshore.
Weather: Partly overcast with substantial sunny periods.
Temperature range: 16.5 to 18.0°C.
Barometric pressure: 1024 HPa.
Wind: WSW 10 at first, veering to S 15 kts briefly before dropping to less
than 5kts variable in the afternoon.
Sea surface temperature: 16.9 to 17.9°C.
Primary chumming location: S 34° 34' - E 151° 23'.
Given the anticyclonic conditions and the uninspiring bird list from the
previous day the hardened observers on board were prepared for a pleasant
cruise but little more. What an unpredictable affair these pelagic birding
The forecast for 15-knot southerly winds later in the day lead us to decide
upon running south from the harbour past the Five Islands group. We
stopped just outside the breakwater to enjoy views of a Little Penguin.
There was plenty to see at Flinder's Island but the islands and their birds
were once again quickly forgotten when a first year PACIFIC GULL joined the
throng of birds behind the boat. The bird stayed very close to the boat,
often near a first year Kelp Gull providing the perfect comparison for
those unfamiliar with the species.
Continuing out to sea, we soon encountered a variety of albatross and
shearwaters in small numbers, along with several White-fronted Terns. The
trip out to the continental slope was relatively uneventful with the
exception of an unusual winter sighting of a Short-tailed Shearwater at
about the 80-fathom line.
We made a rendezvous with 3 trawlers about 20 NM out, which were attended
by at least 5 White-capped Albatross and a couple of nominate race
Great-winged Petrels in addition to the species that we had already been
seeing. Several Australian Fur-Seals were also enjoying the fish discards.
Once the trawlers had departed to the south things were very quiet so we
elected to move into deeper water. We stopped at 550 fathoms to begin
chumming and as we did so the wind moved to the south and strengthened.
Soon Fairy Prions, several Brown Skuas and a small group of albatross
joined us. One of the skuas caught and devoured a prion. The southerly
proved to be very short lived and soon the wind dropped completely, which
left us enjoying the sunshine on a glassy smooth ocean, most Pacific!
Suddenly, an albatross with an all grey head appeared from the east. The
underwing was typical of Buller's Albatross as was the black-and-golden
colouration of the bill but the head was too dark and lacking an obvious
white crown. This was an adult PACIFIC ALBATROSS that gave us perfect
views as it flew past the boat several times. Sooty black lores were
apparent between the base of the bill and the eye. The fore-crown was
faintly paler than the remainder of the head but this was not visible from
most viewing angles, even from nearly head on in its initial approach.
Most observers commented that the bird looked front heavy, especially the
bill and those with an experienced eye noted that the ramicorn was mostly
golden yellow. While the conversations still buzzed a Wilson's
Storm-Petrel, a Cape Petrel and a Southern Giant Petrel appeared,
beautifully illuminated against the smooth ocean. Suddenly the prion flock
that had consisted entirely of Fairy Prions for more than a day brought
forth several ANTARCTIC PRIONS to within metres of the boat. Even those
who had been convinced previously that attempting to identify prions is a
waste of effort were impressed.
Sadly it was time to head for port so with reluctance we had to leave this
productive little patch of ocean. We need not have worried for the next
excitement arrived soon in the form of an adult BULLER'S ALBATROSS. We
stopped the boat to enjoy prolonged views of this beautiful bird in perfect
light and flat calm conditions. This was a fantastic opportunity, since
this bird was clearly different from the images of the PACIFIC ALBATROSS
that still were fresh in our minds.
The trip back to the harbour had further surprises in store. Little
Penguins in 80 fathoms of water are unusual at Wollongong but this sighting
paled into insignificance alongside two LITTLE SHEARWATERS observed about 6
The PACIFIC ALBATROSS was the first record for Wollonong Pelagics since the
species has been recognised, although an old record is under review.
LITTLE SHEARWATERS headed up a cast of five species of shearwater in one
day, quite a surprise in winter. Excellent views of ANTARCTIC PRIONS and a
young PACIFIC GULL were most rewarding. Stunning views of both PACIFIC
ALBATROSS and BULLER'S ALBATROSS within about 40 minutes of each other made
this a memorable day.
Birds recorded according to the latest Environment Australia Reporting
Species code: Species name: Numbers:
(Note: numbers in parenthesis = highest count at any one time)
005 Little Penguin Eudyptula minor 3 (2)
929 Southern Giant-Petrel Macronectes giganteus 1
080 Cape Petrel Daption capense australe 2 (1)
075 Great-winged Petrel Pterodroma m. macroptera 4 (2)
971 Solander's Petrel P. solandri 4 (3)
083 Fairy Prion Pachyptila turtur 300+ (100+)
084 ANTARCTIC PRION P. desolata 3 (3)
067 LITTLE SHEARWATER Puffinus assimilis 2 (1)
068 Fluttering Shearwater P. gavia 7 (2)
913 Hutton's Shearwater P. huttoni 2 (1)
070 Sooty Shearwater P. griseus 2 (1)
071 Short-tailed Shearwater P. tenuirostris 1
088 Black-browed Albatross Thalassarche melanophrys 14 (3)
859 Campbell Albatross T. impavida 7 (3)
931 BULLER'S ALBATROSST. bulleri 1adult
860 PACIFIC ALBATROSS T. sp. nov. 1 adult
861 White-capped Albatross T. steadi 10 (5)
864 Indic Yellow-nosed Albatross T. carteri 24 (11)
063 Wilson's Storm-Petrel Oceanites oceanicus 2 (1)
104 Australasian Gannet Morus serrator 15 (16)
096 Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 1
106 Australian Pelican Pelicanus conspicillatus 13 (9)
980 Brown Skua Catharacta lonnbergi 3 (3)
126 PACIFIC GULL Larus pacificus 1 first year
981 Kelp Gull L. dominicanus 17 (7)
125 Silver Gull L. novaehollandiae 120+ (85+)
114 White-fronted Tern Sterna striata 4 (3)
115 Crested Tern S. bergii 12 (5)
In the harbour:
005 Little Penguin Eudyptula minor 1
106 Australian Pelican Pelicanus conspicillatus 4
115 Crested Tern Sterna bergii 1
28 species of seabird identified outside the breakwater.
Australian Fur-Seal Arctocephalus pusillus 3
Humpback Whale Megaptera novaeangliae 5
All Pelagic Trips from NSW are operated at no profit to the organisers
being operated as group boat charters for the benefit of all who wish
to join us. If you would like to join one of these trips please contact us
To make a booking on the SOSSA Wollongong Pelagic Trips that depart on the
4th Saturday of each month contact:
SOSSA: Phone 02 4271 6004.
Carl Loves Phone: 0427 423 500
Pete Milburn: Mobile 0428 249 506, 02 6255 1313 (AH) or 02 6125 4173 (BH)
To make a booking for Sydney Pelagics,
which depart on the 2nd Saturday of each month contact
Tony Palliser Ph; 02-99001678 (w), 02-94115272 (h)
To make a booking for Eden Pelagics which are run on the 5th
Sunday of each month it occurs.
Barbara Jones or Ph (02) 6495 7390
Note: SOSSA = Southern Oceans Seabird Study Association
Dr P.J. Milburn
Biomolecular Resource Facility
Australian National University
GPO Box 334
+61 2 6125 4173 'Phone
+61 2 6125 4326 FAX
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