Sydney Pelagic Report - August 9, 2008

To: "birding-aus " <>
Subject: Sydney Pelagic Report - August 9, 2008
From: "Roger McGovern" <>
Date: Tue, 12 Aug 2008 16:53:32 +1000


August 9, 2008 



A pleasant Sydney winter day although it was bitingly cold in the early
morning - yet again! It has been an unseasonably cold winter in Sydney. We
had mostly sunny conditions throughout and air temperatures ranged from
6degC in the morning up to about 15degC later in the day.

The seawater temperature inshore was a very cool 15.5degC and reached a high
of 16.0degC at the shelf break, which is about as cold as we see it off

Departed at 0715hrs and returned at 1515hrs

1.5m sea on a 1.5m swell made for slightly lumpy conditions but ideal for
pelagic birding. Only one person suffered from sea sickness. 

Winds were fresh westerly to south westerly all day.


Trip Summary

 We had a good attendance of about 30 passengers mostly overseas birders and
first time pelagic participants and, as we headed east through Sydney Heads,
we were greeted with good numbers of birds with a good species diversity
also. We quickly had fly-bys from Black-browed, Yellow-nosed and Shy
Albatross with the Black-broweds outnumbering the Yellow-nosed inshore as is
usually the case. Also in evidence were good numbers of Fairy Prions along
with Fluttering Shearwaters which showed well close to the Halicat. Despite
a close examination of all the passing shearwaters, no Hutton's were seen on
the outward journey. 


As we entered the 'Abysmal Plain' which commences about 5NM east of the
heads, we had our first Brown Skua of the day followed shortly afterwards by
an obliging White-fronted Tern. On the journey to the shelf break, bird
numbers were fairly sparse with just the odd few Fairy Prions, Australasian
Gannets and another Brown Skua. Today, as last month, we searched hard for a
prion other than Fairy Prion, but without success - a larger, darker prion
was seen at distance and may have been an Antarctic Prion but it did not
approach the boat.


We reached the shelf break at Brown's Mountain in good time thanks to the
westerly breeze behind us but, when we got there, there was an ominous lack
of bird activity despite what looked like ideal conditions. We cut the
motors and started a slick and began to be visited by a few customers
although none of them lingered for long - they just didn't seem to be
hungry. The first arrivals were a pair of Crested Terns, followed shortly
afterwards by a few Fairy Prions and then, by four species of albatross. The
small numbers of Wandering Albatross all appeared to be gibsoni and amongst
the several Shy Albatross was one showing the characteristics of
White-capped Albatross (steadi). A very few Providence Petrels put in brief
appearances and then a single Cape Petrel arrived and fed on the slick
giving everyone excellent views. After a lengthy drift, we motored back to
our starting point and drifted down the slick once more but with no increase
in the number of species already seen. However, we did see a couple of
feeding fur seals which attracted the albatrosses and prions but nothing
else of note. 


We then decided to go looking for the birds by motoring slowly southwards
along the edge of the shelf break and, although we saw more Brown Skuas and
White-fronted Terns, we did not add to the species count until we arrived
inshore and were able to separate a couple of Hutton's Shearwaters from the
numerous Fluttering Shearwaters. As we travelled northwards along the coast
from Maroubra, two Humpback Whales were spotted (apparently travelling
southwards in the 'wrong' direction) and gave excellent views to all on


In summary, we had a very pleasant winter's day of seabird watching and a
satisfactory number of species were recorded. 


Bird List 

(Note that numbers in parenthesises represent the maximum numbers seen at
any one time) 


Cape Petrel                                      1 (1)

Providence Petrel                             3 (1)                     

Fairy Prion                                  170 (20)

Fluttering Shearwater                  200 (30)

Hutton's Shearwater                        3 (1)

Wandering Albatross                       5 (2)      (all gibsoni)

Black-browed Albatross                12 (2)

Yellow-nosed Albatross                10 (2)

Shy Albatross                                10 (2)       (one probable

Australasian Gannet                      20 (6)

Brown Skua                                     6 (1)   

Silver Gull                                   200 (50)

Crested Tern                                    6 (2)

White-fronted Tern                          7 (5)



Humpback Whale                            2

Fur Seal  (sp)                                   2


Next Sydney pelagic trip will be on Saturday 13 August, 2008 departing
Mosman Ferry Wharf at 0645 and Rose Bay Public Wharf at 0700. Call Hal on
0411 311 236 to make a reservation



Roger McGovern 



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