Sydney Pelagic Report - July 10, 2010

To: "birding-aus " <>
Subject: Sydney Pelagic Report - July 10, 2010
From: "Roger McGovern" <>
Date: Wed, 14 Jul 2010 09:32:31 +1000

With a combination of good weather conditions after strong southerlies
during the previous days, the falling water temperatures and the good birds
seen from shore and offshore in the past month, I had a sneaky feeling that
it would be a big day on the water. Once again I was wrong, but it was a
very good typical winter birding day off Sydney and only those hoping for
spectacular rarities were disappointed. We recorded seventeen species for
the day with the highlights being a briefly-seen (but well photographed -
thanks Raja!) young immature GREY-HEADED ALBATROSS and an even briefer fly
pass by an Antarctic Prion seen by only a few people on board.

Surface water temperatures during the day were very steady ranging from
16.8degC at Sydney Heads to 17.1degC at the shelf break. We departed Rose
Bay a little late at 7.35am and returned at 4.00pm travelling in sea
conditions of 1.0m on a small swell. Winds were from the south east at 5 to
8 knots in the morning and backed around to the north east in the afternoon.
In these benign conditions, there was only one case of sea sickness during
the trip.

We had a very good complement of 27 passengers on board, the majority being
local and interstate birders together with a few overseas visitors. As we
passed through Sydney Heads, we set a course southwards parallel to the
coast to look out for migrating Humpback Whales and we immediately began to
see a few Black-browed, Shy and then Yellow-nosed Albatross. We then began
to see small groups of Fluttering Shearwaters heading past us in a southerly
direction but it took a while before we finally found a group of three
Humpbacks. Unfortunately, the whales did not cooperate with us (as is
sometimes the case) and after sounding a second time without giving us
satisfactory views, we gave up and set course for Brown's Mountain. We added
a Crested Tern and more groups of Fluttering Shearwaters to the tally and
then, at The Peak where there were several recreational fishing boats, we
found six Brown Skuas swimming around the boats.

As we got into deeper water, we began to see some prions, all of which were
examined very carefully but none of which could be identified as other than
Fairy Prion. Our first Wandering Albatross of the day brought great joy to a
couple of visitors for whom Wanderers were at the top of their wish list.
When we reached the recreational fishing fleet at Brown's Mountain, we
immediately saw a giant petrel in the water and motored over to identify it
as a Southern Giant-Petrel. We began a drift and set out a good berley trail
which quickly brought in more albatross including a lovely adult exulans, or
'Snowy Albatross' the nominate race of Wandering Albatross. Several Cape
Petrels came in to the slick and, surprisingly, all appeared to be of the
subspecies australe which I would not have expected in July. A number of
Providence Petrels put in an appearance and Fairy Prions continued to
examine the slick with some interest. We also had the visit of a shark which
appeared to be a large Blue Shark but it did not show itself well.

After a fairly lengthy time drifting it was apparent that we were not seeing
anything new and so we started the motors and drove slowly eastwards into
deeper water. We continued to see many of the species already recorded but
then a prion was seen which appeared larger than a Fairy Prion, had a fast
arcing pteradroma-like flight and which had dark breast patches. Although we
did not get a photograph of the bird, the consensus was that it was our
first Antarctic Prion of the day. Shortly afterwards, some of us had very
brief views of a medium size whale which surfaced briefly behind the boat
before disappearing into the depths - its size and coloration seemed to
indicate that it was probably a Minke Whale. As we came back past Brown's
Mountain another giant petrel was seen in the water which turned out this
time to be a Northern Giant-Petrel. We also found a very cooperative pair of
Australian Fur Seals which swam around the boat for a while giving everybody
great views.

As we headed back towards Sydney, we saw our first Australasian Gannets and
one of the groups of small shearwaters was seen to have at least two
Hutton's Shearwaters contained within the more numerous Fluttering
Shearwaters. About five miles off the heads came the most exciting moment of
the day when an albatross with a dark head and apparently dark underwings
was picked up, with subsequent analysis of the photographs showing that it
was indeed a young immature Grey-headed Albatross. We spent some time
detouring to try and find the bird again but to no avail.

(Note that the number in parentheses represents the maximum number within
sight at one time)

Southern Giant-Petrel   1       (1)             
Northern Giant-Petrel    1        (1)           
Cape Petrel                                8            (5)   all australe
Providence Petrel                     15              (2) 
Antarctic Prion                1                (1)     
Fairy Prion                               85          (4)
Fluttering Shearwater          140           (25)
Hutton's Shearwater              2            (2)
Wandering Albatross              8            (3)   all gibsoni except for
one exulans
Black-browed Albatross          18        (4)   2 or 3 Campbell Island race
Yellow-nosed Albatross          15        (2)
Shy Albatross                    8        (1)
Grey-headed Albatross            1        (1)
Australasian Gannet              7        (3)
Brown Skua                       8        (6)
Silver Gull                     45        (10)
Crested Tern                     3        (1)

Blue Shark                       1
Humpback Whale                   3
Minke Whale                      1
Australian Fur Seal              2
Flying fish                      1

The next Sydney pelagic trip will be on Saturday 14 August, 2010 departing
Mosman Ferry Wharf at 6.45am and Rose Bay Public wharf at 7.00am.
Call Hal at 0411 311 236 to make a booking.

Roger McGovern



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