Sydney Pelagic Trip Report - Saturday March 12, 2011

To: "birding-aus " <>
Subject: Sydney Pelagic Trip Report - Saturday March 12, 2011
From: "Roger McGovern" <>
Date: Fri, 18 Mar 2011 09:58:52 +1100


With recent reports of Great Shearwater from Eden and European Storm-Petrel
from Tasmania, there was a lot of conjecture as we set out on this trip as
to whether such rarities might be possible. However, with very benign
weather and light winds for the previous few days coupled with the 'in
between' water temperatures, it did not bode well for rarities or for
tropical vagrants. However, it was an absolutely stunning late summer day on
the water with probably the highlight being provided by cetaceans rather
than birds - most certainly for the 'dolphin lady' from Adelaide. 

Surface water temperatures were fairly constant during the entire trip being
slightly cooler inshore at 21.3degC and up to 22.0degC beyond the shelf
break. We departed from Rose Bay ferry wharf at 7.05am and returned at
3.45pm. Sea conditions were reasonably benign with a north easterly swell of
less than a metre and hardly any chop on top of that. The wind started off
quite light at 5 knots from the north to north east and freshened a little
during the return journey to perhaps 10 knots or so. The weather was mostly
sunny and warm and, despite the flat sea conditions, there was one mild case
of sea-sickness which dissipated as soon as the cetaceans appeared.


We headed out of the harbour with a complement of 14 on board, most of them
local and interstate birders. The inshore zone was fairly quiet with numbers
of Wedge-tailed Shearwaters, Crested Terns, Australasian Gannets, the odd
Pomarine Jaeger and a few Flesh-footed Shearwaters in evidence. We stopped
to observe a feeding area of birds about 3NM short of Brown's Mountain and
spent some time berleying to see whether anything new might come in to join
us. Other than a few Great-winged Petrels, the only excitement came from a
brief fly by from a Wandering Albatross considered to be of the nominate
race exulans.
We moved on to Brown's Mountain where the berleying operation initially
attracted good numbers of Wedge-tailed Shearwaters, Flesh-footed Shearwaters
and Great-winged Petrels. A distant Shy Albatross was seen by all but did
not approach the boat. When the attendant birds around the boat had had
their fill of beef fat, they then just retreated and rested on the water and
were not replaced by anything new, and so we decided to head off eastwards
into deeper water. Again, the birds were few and far between, but a fresh
plumaged Providence Petrel was a delight to see and we also had
unsatisfactory views of another pterodroma which some observers thought
might be a Kermadec Petrel - but photographs proved inconclusive. As we
motored north-westwards back off the shelf break, another Shy Albatross and
a Hutton's Shearwater were seen along with our only sunfish of the day which
dived upon our approach and was not well seen.
After passing through a huge area of bait fish which had no attendant
predators in the form of fish or cetaceans, we began to wonder if we would
see any cetaceans at all today. However, as we passed the shelf break
heading inshore, we came upon a pod of about 30 Oceanic Bottlenose Dolphins
which rode on our bow for a while and then, shortly after, a pod of 15
Risso's Dolphins which allowed an unusually close approach and which showed
very well by spy-hopping and with synchronised breaching of up to six
individuals at a time. Great views and photographs were obtained and Raja
Stephenson's gallery can be viewed at . During the
trip back, a large pod of 200 Short-beaked Common dolphins joined us for a
few minutes again giving great views and much enjoyment to all on board. A
lone Fluttering Shearwater was seen by some observers and a dark morph
Arctic Jaeger was also seen as we approached Sydney Heads. It was not a
spectacular day on the water with a fairly low species count and no rarities
but it was highly enjoyable none the less.

(Note that the numbers in parentheses represent the maximum number of that
species in view at one time)

Great-winged Petrel     30      (12)
Providence Petrel       2       (1)
Wedge-tailed Shearwater 150     (40)
Flesh-footed Shearwater 120     (15)
Fluttering Shearwater   1       (1)
Hutton's Shearwater     2         (1)
Wandering Albatross     1       (1)   exulans
Shy Albatross           2         (1)
Australasian Gannet     8       (3)
Arctic Jaeger           1       (1)
Pomerine Jaeger         11      (2)
Silver Gull             240     (80)
Crested Tern            14      (4)


Southern Ocean Sunfish  1
Oceanic Bottlenose Dolphin  30
Risso's Dolphin  15
Short-beaked Common Dolphin  200

The next Sydney pelagic trip will be on Saturday 9 April 2011 departing
Mosman Ferry Wharf at 6.45am and Rose Bay Ferry Wharf at 7.00am. Call Hal at
0411 311 236 to make a booking.

Roger McGovern  


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