Sydney Pelagic Report - May 9, 2009

To: "birding-aus " <>
Subject: Sydney Pelagic Report - May 9, 2009
From: "Roger McGovern" <>
Date: Mon, 11 May 2009 11:35:45 +1000


May 9, 2009 



With the Wedge-tailed and Flesh-footed Shearwaters having departed Sydney's
coastal waters for a few months, bird numbers on this trip were well down on
the norm particularly since the warm water temperatures seemed to have
delayed the arrival of some of our winter visitors. However, it was a
fascinating day on the water with a major rarity in the form of a Westland
Petrel and what is becoming almost a non-rarity off Sydney and Wollongong
these days, two Buller's Albatross. Another curiosity of the day was that we
saw only four shearwaters during the entire trip, but they were of four
different species! Sixteen species were recorded for the day and a
frustratingly distant pterodroma that may have been a Kermadec Petrel could
have made it seventeen.


The weather was fine and sunny for most of the day with the maximum air
temperature reaching about 21degC. Sea water temperature inshore was
21.5degC and, surprisingly, did not vary much offshore dropping to 21.3degC
at the shelf break. We departed Rose Bay at 07.15am and returned at 3.45pm
and travelled in a moderate 1.5metre south easterly swell all day with
perhaps a 1metre sea on top of that. Conditions were therefore quite
reasonable and there was only one serious case of sea-sickness on board. The
wind started in the west and backed around to the south during the day and
was a consistent 10 knots all day.


Trip Summary

 A good contingent of 24 local, interstate and overseas birders departed
Sydney Heads with high expectations of a good day since conditions appeared
ideal. However, there was almost a complete absence of birdlife in the
inshore zone with just a few Australasian Gannets and a couple of
Black-browed Albatross to stir the interest. As we passed the five mile
mark, a Hutton's Shearwater flew obligingly across our bow and, a little
later, a brief view of a Wilson' Storm-Petrel was had by some of the onboard
observers. Things remained quiet out to the shelf break but, just before
reaching Brown's Mountain, a Wandering Albatross (gibsoni) flew past giving
everyone good views, but it was the only one of the day. A flying fish
showed that our water temperatures were still high and one or two Providence
Petrels began to appear. Just before stopping for our first berleying drift,
a couple of birders on the upper deck sighted a Buller's Albatross but were
unable to alert the others in time to get on to it. Small numbers of
Yellow-nosed Albatross put in an appearance and some of these settled on our
berley slick. Several Wilson's Storm-Petrels came and investigated the slick
and then we had a fly-by Shy Albatross, again the only one of the day. As we
motored back up the slick to start a second drift, far distant views of a
pale pterodroma were had by several observers but the views were such that
it could only go down as a 'possible' Kermadec Petrel. 


As we commenced our second drift, we were visited by a second (or possibly a
return of the first) Buller's Albatross and this time everyone had good
looks at it, although it did not stay around. Shortly after this there was a
call from Steve Anyon-Smith of a possible giant petrel approaching. However,
it became immediately clear that it was actually a very large and bulky
procellaria and, to me, had to be a Westland Petrel. Over the past year or
so, we have seen about six Black Petrels from the Halicat and the size
differential with the Westland Petrel was very obvious. Subsequent
examination of the photographs of this bird showed a bill structure and a
dark maxillary unguis that confirmed the identification. (Many thanks to
Nevil Lazarus and Christina Port for taking the photographs) A submission
will be made to the Birds Australia Rarities Committee.


On the way back to Sydney, we encountered a pair of marlin lounging on the
water surface and were then entertained by our only cetaceans of the day in
the form of a pod of at least 100 Short-beaked Common Dolphins. A single
Short-tailed Shearwater was briefly seen, to be followed by a single
Fluttering Shearwater and an over-flying White-fronted Tern. Just before
reaching the heads, we encountered our sixteenth species for the day, a very
late Wedge-tailed Shearwater - it seemed strange to get excited about a
Wedge-tailed! Despite the lack of bird numbers, there was a good diversity
and everyone agreed that it was yet another good day on the water.


Bird List 

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


Providence Petrel                        5            (1) 

WESTLAND PETREL              1            (1)             

Wedge-tailed Shearwater           1            (1)          

Short-tailed Shearwater              1            (1)

Fluttering Shearwater                 1            (1)

Hutton's Shearwater                   1            (1)

Wandering Albatross                  1            (1)

Black-browed Albatross             6            (1)

Yellow-nosed Albatross             13          (4)

Shy Albatross                              1            (1)

BULLER'S ALBATROSS        2            (1)

Wilson's Storm-Petrel                 7            (3)

Australasian Gannet                    23          (5)

Silver Gull                                   50          (15)

Crested Tern                               16          (6)

White-fronted Tern                     1            (1)


Other Sightings 

Short-beaked Common Dolphin         100

Flying fish                                            1


Next Sydney pelagic trip will be on Saturday 13 June, 2009 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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