Port Stephens (semi) Pelagic Trip Report – Sun 20th March 2011
Boat: M.V.Argonaut, skippered by Ray Horsefield
Graeme O’Connor, Joy Nicholls, Michael Kearns, Allan Richardson, Dan Mantle,
Williams, Bruce Hosken, Win Filewood, Adam Fawcett, Sheila Perrotet, Bronwyn
Ellis, Alan Stuart, Steve Roderick and Mick Roderick (leader and organiser).
Well it was the conditions that turned today’s pelagic into a semi-pelagic, as
broad series of storm fronts forced us to turn around about half way to the
shelf. Prior to this we had been punching through a moderate (about 2m) but
closely-spaced easterly swell that made for a very bumpy ride out. With little
wind chop there wasn’t a great deal of sea on top of the swells but when a
storm cell stretched out across the horizon confronted us, seemingly
intensifying, the skipper decided that any risk of wind squalls on top of the
swell that we had combined with pouring rain was enough for us to retreat to
Although we never made it to the shelf we still recorded 10 species recorded
outside of the heads, with a single Streaked Shearwater being the highlight for
the (half) day. An immature Black-browed Albatross was also nice for March.
DepartedNelson Bay Public Wharf at 0710, returning at 1220.
After clearing the line of Boondelbah Island a large trawler was noticed
slightly to the north of our path. The boat had a lot of birds in-tow, so we
slightly changed our course to intercept the boat. Behind it were a few hundred
Wedge-tailed and Flesh-footed Shearwaters and it didn't take too long to entice
the bulk of them (and a few Pomarine Jaegers) to the stern of our vessel. After
having seen not one Gannet the day before, we saw several groups of Gannets
today, unusually all flying south. About half-way to our destination the
decision was made to turn around and head back to port due to a large storm
to the east.
The fishermen on board decided to troll for pelagic fish and when one of the
reels began to sing Al Richardson grabbed the rod. Whilst the tussle with the
Dolphinfish was happening an immature Black-browed Albatross came in and
the boat a few times.
About 2km short of Boondelbah a Streaked Shearwater was picked up ahead of the
boat and this bird did a few passes of the boat before eventually disappearing
couple of minutes after the boat had cut it’s engines. We remained here and
burleyed for about 15 minutes and attracted good numbers of Pomarine Jaegers of
varying plumage patterns.
We then headed back to port via a close look at Boondelbah and Cabbage Tree
Islands, seeing the nest boxes of Gould’s Petrels on the former. Clearly
disappointing to not have made it to the shelf break, but it was still a very
pleasant half day and the Streaked Shearwater was a new bird for most on board,
including several observers that had been on 20+ pelagic trips.
Species: Total (maximum number around the boat at one time)
Black-browed Albatross: 1
Fluttering Shearwater: 3 (1)
Hutton’s Shearwater: 2 (1)
Fluttering-type Shearwater: 2 (1)
Wedge-tailed Shearwater: 350 (250)
Flesh-footed Shearwater: 60 (25)
Short-tailed Shearwater: 30 (10)
Streaked Shearwater: 1
Crested Tern: 4 (4)
Pomarine Jaeger: 20 (15)
Arctic Jaeger: 2 (1)
Silver Gull: 6 (4)
Australasian Gannet: 55 (25)
+ Peregrine Falcon (1) and Great Cormorant (1) on Boondelbah Island and Topknot
Pigeon (2) and Pheasant Coucal (1) on Cabbage Tree Island.
Inshore Bottlenose Dolphin: numbers not noted.
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