Sydney Pelagic Report - June 13, 2009

To: "birding-aus " <>
Subject: Sydney Pelagic Report - June 13, 2009
From: "Roger McGovern" <>
Date: Tue, 16 Jun 2009 12:31:06 +1000


June 13, 2009 



With the Humpback Whale northerly migration underway and with the strong
north westerly winds of the past few days having subsided, we were looking
forward to an interesting and productive day on the water. In the event,
although we found no major rarities, it was indeed a great day with large
numbers of albatross seen, several Humpbacks (although none of them showing
very well) and a respectable total bird species count for the day of


The weather was fine and partly cloudy with the maximum air temperature
reaching about 16degC. Sea water temperature inshore was 17.2degC and
reached just over 20degC at the shelf break. We departed Rose Bay at 07.35am
(due to a late arriving passenger) and returned at 4.15pm and travelled in a
moderate 1.5metre south easterly swell all day with only a 0.5metre sea on
top of that. Conditions were therefore quite reasonable and there were no
cases of sea-sickness on board. The wind started in the north west and
became a straight northerly during the day, 10 -15 knots in the morning and
dropping off to less than 10 knots in the afternoon.


Trip Summary

 A good contingent of 24 local, interstate and overseas birders departed
Sydney Heads with high expectations of a productive day since conditions
appeared to be very good. We initially headed southwards along the coastline
to look for whales and found several Black-browed Albatross, a couple of Shy
Albatross and an obliging Southern Giant-Petrel in the inshore zone off
Maroubra. Two pairs of Humpback Whales were located and we followed each of
them for some distance but they appeared very intent on their steady
northward journey and did not offer any spectacular displays.


We then set course for Brown's Mountain which is located 22.5NM SSE of
Sydney Heads on the continental shelf break. Our passage across the 'Abysmal
Plain' was more productive than is often the case with albatross being seen
at regular intervals, a large pod of Short-beaked Common Dolphins coming in
to ride on our bow wave, and a large feeding flock of Australasian Gannets
provided a spectacular sight as they dived for fish. As well as the gannets,
an Australian Fur Seal was also enjoying the fish meal and gave good photo
opportunities. As we continued eastwards, it was noticeable that
Yellow-nosed Albatross began to seriously outnumber the Black-browed - a
reversal of the relative numbers inshore.


As we approached the shelf break, a Wilson's Storm-Petrel made a brief
appearance as did a couple of Fairy Prions and a Sooty Shearwater which was
seen by only a couple of observers. We cut the engines at Brown's Mountain
and commenced our first drift as we set up the berley trail. Although a few
Providence Petrels and our first Wandering Albatross put in an appearance,
it seemed surprisingly quiet. The reason became apparent a few minutes later
when we saw an approaching trawler surrounded by large numbers of birds,
mostly Black-browed, Yellow-nosed and Shy Albatross. We abandoned our drift
and followed the trawler a short way before starting a new drift and
successfully 'stealing' most of the trawler's birds. We very quickly had a
large flock of feeding albatross around the boat with as many as 40
Yellow-nosed at one time - the biggest gathering of this species that I can
remember seeing off Sydney. Additionally, we were visited by more
Black-browed Albatross (two of them Campbell Island ssp), Shy Albatross,
Wandering Albatross (all gibsoni), Wilson's Storm-Petrels, Brown Skuas, a
few Cape Petrels, a Buller's Albatross (now a regular bird it seems!), Fairy
Prions, our only Northern Giant-Petrel   and an obliging Sooty Shearwater
which came to feed in the slick. The journey back to Sydney did not bring
anything new but everyone on board had an excellent day of seabird watching.



Bird List 

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


Southern Giant-Petrel                 1            (1)

Northern Giant-Petrel                 1            (1)

Cape Petrel                                  4            (1)

Providence Petrel                        22          (2) 

Fairy Prion                                  20          (3)

Sooty Shearwater                        2            (1)

Wandering Albatross                  5            (1)             all

Black-browed Albatross             45          (12)           two impavida 

Yellow-nosed Albatross             70          (45)

Shy Albatross                              24          (4)

BULLER'S ALBATROSS        1            (1)

Wilson's Storm-Petrel                 4            (2)

Australasian Gannet                    90          (35)

Brown Skua                                4            (1)

Silver Gull                                   50          (15)

Crested Tern                               12          (3)


Other Sightings 

Short-beaked Common Dolphin         60

Australian Fur Seal                              1

Humpback Whale                                6


Next Sydney pelagic trip will be on Saturday 11 July, 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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