Sydney Pelagic Trip Report - Saturday October 8, 2011

To: "birding-aus " <>
Subject: Sydney Pelagic Trip Report - Saturday October 8, 2011
From: "Roger McGovern" <>
Date: Sun, 9 Oct 2011 18:14:36 +1100


With the September pelagic trip being cancelled due to high seas, it was
several months since this observer had been out on a regular monthly trip,
and it was with great anticipation that an almost-full boat of 34 birders
set off on a cloudy but benign late spring day. Conditions at sea were
excellent with not one passenger suffering from sea-sickness and a good
variety of late-winter/early-summer birds were seen. The highlight of the
day was undoubtedly a lovely Salvin's Albatross which kept everyone
enthralled by making close passes around the Halicat and landing in the
water to feed at close range. Nineteen bird species were recorded and, along
with a Minke Whale (thought to be a Common rather than Antarctic Minke),
several Humpbacks, a Southern Ocean Sunfish (Mola ramsayi) and a New Zealand
Fur Seal, there was plenty to maintain interest during the trip. We also had
arguably the weirdest sighting of our many offshore trips when a micro bat
flew low over the Halicat off the continental shelf and continued flying

Surface water temperatures were still very cold for the time of year being
15.8degC just outside Sydney Heads, rising to 18.5degC at 15 NM from the
heads and dropping back to !7.7degC off the continental shelf break. We
departed from Rose Bay ferry wharf at 7.15am and returned at 3.30pm. Sea
conditions were slight with a southerly swell of less than a metre and
hardly any chop on top of that. The wind started off very light at less than
5 knots from the south west and freshened a little during the day to 10-15
knots from the south. The weather was quite cloudy in the morning which gave
quite a flat light and there was some sunshine later in the trip.


We headed out of the harbour with a complement of 34 on board, comprising
Jeri Langham's group from the USA, overseas visitors from Canada, the UK and
Sweden and many local and interstate Australian birders. In my absence over
the past few months, David James had taken on the role of burleyer-in-chief
and, dressed in his very fetching pinny, he began to set a burley trail as
soon as we left the heads. We immediately began to see Wedge-tailed
Shearwaters (which began to follow the boat in good numbers), a few
Fluttering Shearwaters, Australasian Gannets and small numbers of migrating
Short-tailed Shearwaters. It was interesting that after seeing Fluttering
Shearwaters inshore, virtually all of the small shearwaters seen further
from shore were Hutton's Shearwaters. An early Arctic Jaeger flew past the
boat but did not show any interest in our berleying, a juvenile Black-browed
Albatross was the first albatross of the day and a sleeping New Zealand Fur
Seal allowed quite a close approach before waking up and slipping away. A
pod of three Humpbacks were seen but did not allow a close approach from the
Halicat and, after waiting for a while hoping for better views of the
whales, we continued on our way. Another juvenile Black-browed Albatross and
the first Flesh-footed Shearwater of the spring were recorded and then, as
we began to approach Brown's Mountain, the first Wandering Albatross of the
day came in giving many people on board their first look at this species.
There was brief excitement when Steve called a Minke Whale directly in front
of the boat and several people saw it briefly before it immediately

When we were almost at Brown's Mountain, the call went up from Rob Hynson of
"Salvin's Albatross" and, over the next 45 minutes or so, everyone was
enthralled to see this bird at close quarters as it fed on our berley trail.
Rob's photos can be seen on this link 
The action picked up at Brown's, with more Wandering Albatross coming in,
two Cape Petrels, several Wilson's Storm-Petrels, a juvenile Indian
Yellow-nosed Albatross and a very obliging Northern Giant-Petrel all showing
well. After drifting down the berley slick a couple of times, we decided to
motor out into deeper water to seek out new species and, possibly, some
Sperm Whales. No Sperm Whales were seen but we did add a Sooty Shearwater,
larger numbers of Great-winged Petrels than we had seen at Brown's, and an
adult Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross to the tally along with the amazing
micro bat that flew directly over the boat heading south. David was heard to
say that he would bring a can of live mosquitoes on the next trip so that he
could berley for bats! Well, it was that sort of day...

Nothing new was seen on the trip back. We did hook up with some more
Humpbacks and had better views of them than previously. As we came back
through the heads into dark cloud and rain, there was a general consensus
that we had had an excellent day on the water.

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

Northern Giant-Petrel           1         (1)
Cape Petrel                             2         (1)
Great-winged Petrel             16      (4)
Providence Petrel               25      (5)
Sooty Shearwater                        1         (1)
Short-tailed Shearwater         150       (40)
Wedge-tailed Shearwater         350     (80)
Flesh-footed Shearwater         18      (4)
Fluttering Shearwater           14      (5)
Hutton's Shearwater             16        (3)
Wandering Albatross             8       (4)   all gibsoni
Black-browed Albatross          4         (2)   all nominate race
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross 2 (1)
SALVIN'S ALBATROSS              1         (1)
Wilson's Storm-Petrel           14      (4)
Australasian Gannet             12      (4)
Arctic Jaeger                   1       (1)
Silver Gull                     140     (30)
Crested Tern                    3       (1)


Southern Ocean Sunfish          1
Humpback Whale                  10
Common Minke Whale              1
New Zealand Fur Seal            1

The next Sydney pelagic trip will be on Saturday 12 November 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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