Pelagic Trip Report - Port Stephens 11th July 2010

To: Birding Aus <>
Subject: Pelagic Trip Report - Port Stephens 11th July 2010
From: Mick Roderick <>
Date: Wed, 14 Jul 2010 21:48:45 -0700 (PDT)
Port Stephens Pelagic Trip Report - Sun 11th July 2010
Boat: M.V.Argonaut, skippered by Ray Horsefield
Michael Kearns, Dan Williams, Craig Anderson, Ann Lindsey, Richard Nicholas, 
Lorna Mee, Joy Nicholls, Allan Richardson, Craig Arms, Adam Fawcett, Alan 
Stuart, Ray McLean, Steve Roderick and Mick Roderick (leader and organiser). 

Despite forecasts predicting offshore winds at dawn, we were greeted by a 
moderate north-easterly wind as we passed through the heads. Conditions were 
sloppy due to the wave period being at around 3 second intervals, though only 
around 1m to 1.5m. A stiff northerly wind was the order of the day and this 
combined with the constant swell turned a couple of people on board a shade of 
green. Conditions were great for pelagic birds however and we were treated to a 
good attendance of birds all day.
The numbers of Fairy Prion around the back of the boat kept cameras clicking 
day, as did a good number of White-faced Storm-petrels. The star of the day 
though, was a Black-bellied Storm-petrel that remained close to the boat for 
about 15 minutes. 
Departed Nelson Bay Public Wharf at 0710, returning at 1645.
A lumpy ride out to the shelf was punctuated by some early Prions, of which 
one could be positively identified as Fairy. A Short-tailed Shearwater gave a 
quick fly-by from the bow and for the first time this year we had a group of 
Silver Gulls follow us all the way to the shelf. These gulls were joined for 
about an hour by an immaculate White-fronted Tern - probably the best 
looking individual of these birds I've seen. A few Yellow-nosed and 
Albatross accompanied these birds as well, with a brief appearance from a Shy 
Albatross and some Fluttering-type Shearwaters. There were plenty of Gannets 
around and not far from the shelf we saw a feeding flock of about 80 birds.
Despite the lumpy conditions and the feeling that we were actually covering 
'ground' over the ocean surface, we made it to the shelf drop-off in record 
time, getting there by just after 1000. We set up a drift at 32 56 05 / 152 34 
54 and it wasn't too long before the first White-faced Storm-petrels arrived. A 
few Solander's Petrels came in and before long there was a steady stream of 
these birds investigating the boat. The numbers of Fairy Prions built to a 
where there were about 70 birds in the slick or right at the stern, literally a 
couple of metres from the boat. Despite careful scrutiny, no 'different' Prions 
were observed amongst them.

Another Shy Alby and then the first Wanderer-type, a Gibson's, which was to be 
the first of 5 seen. Suddenly the group of 8 Silver Gulls that had been 
to the boat lifted all at once. We thought this was quite strange until we 
noticed a Brown Skua zoom in - one gull stood his ground briefly, but soon they 
all disappeared. The first of several Cape Petrels arrived at around midday and 
not too long after a lone Great-winged Petrel flew in.

With only 30 minutes left at the shelf a cry went out "Fregetta stormy!" and it 
did not take long for all on board to get their bins onto a beautiful 
BLACK-BELLIED STORM-PETREL. The bird approached the boat from the bow but soon 
took up residency in the slick and returned to the boat for a number of passes 
before disappearing. This is the 5th species of Storm-petrel seen off Port 
Stephens this year.  

It was a fairly uneventful trip back to port, although one young Black-browed 
Albatross did cause some excitement due to it's hooded appearance and somewhat 
lankier jizz. Closer inspection of photographs do make it an interesting bird, 
though we are reasonably happy it was not a juvenile Grey-headed.

To cap off the day a pod of 4 Humpback Whales surfaced quite close to the port 
side not far from Point Stephens.
Mick Roderick
Species: Total (maximum number around the boat at one time)
White-faced Storm-petrel: 15 (7)


Fairy Prion: 150 (70)
Yellow-nosed Albatross: 35 (8)
Black-browed Albatross: 20 (5) - no impavida confirmed (virtually all imms)

Shy Albatross: 3 (1) all cauta

Wandering Albatross: 5 (3) - 3 adults all gibsoni

Short-tailed Shearwater: 1
Fluttering-type Shearwater: 4 (2)

Cape Petrel: 7 (5) - all nominate
Solanders (Providence) Petrel: 60 (6)

Great-winged Petrel: 1
Australasian Gannet: 160 (85)
Crested Tern: 2 (1)

White-fronted Tern: 1

Brown Skua: 2 (1)
Silver Gull: 10 (8)
Inshore Bottlenose Dolphin: One pod of 5 at the heads. 
Humpback Whale: 4

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