Sydney Pelagic Trip Report - Saturday 10 March, 2012

To: "birding-aus " <>
Subject: Sydney Pelagic Trip Report - Saturday 10 March, 2012
From: "Roger McGovern" <>
Date: Sun, 11 Mar 2012 10:37:56 +1100


What an absolute ripper of a late summer pelagic trip off Sydney with great
conditions and several notable species recorded. The bird of the day had to
be the BRIDLED TERN which flew gracefully across the front of the boat at a
range of about 100 metres giving excellent views to most on board. If
accepted by NSW ORAC, this will be the fourth confirmed record for NSW.
Other great sightings that would normally be noteworthy on their own were a
high RED-TAILED TROPICBIRD which flew directly away and did not provide
great views, a very obliging WHITE-CHINNED PETREL which fed on the berley
close to the boat for several minutes, and a WHITE-NECKED PETREL which
circled the boat several times giving good views to all. An early returning
Buller's Albatross stayed with the boat for a couple of hours, and the Shy
and Black-backed Albatrosses (our first this year) gave the feeling that
winter may be on the way! With all three jaeger species well seen and a
total of 20 species recorded, it was indeed a noteworthy day.
Surface water temperatures were cooler than last month being 18.6degC just
outside the heads and rising to as high as 20.9degC off the continental
shelf. We departed from Rose Bay at 7.15am and returned at 3.35pm. Sea
conditions as we departed Sydney Heads were quite benign with just an oily
swell of 1.5 to 2.0 metres and no chop. The conditions became even calmer as
the day progressed and there were no cases of sea sickness noted. For most
of the day, the wind was very light from the west and, later in the
afternoon, a south easterly at about 15 knots picked up but, by that time,
we were almost back to the heads.


We headed out of the harbour with a complement of 25 passengers on board,
comprising overseas visitors, and local and interstate birders. David
started the berley trail before we left the harbour and the attendant scrum
of Silver Gulls and Crested Terns were soon displaced by a following of
Wedge-tailed Shearwaters, Flesh-footed Shearwaters and Pomarine Jaegers as
we headed out to sea - these three species remained with the boat for the
duration of the trip. In the first five miles or so, we recorded our first
albatrosses of the year with firstly an adult Black-browed, followed soon
afterwards by a two year old bird of the same species. A couple of
Fluttering Shearwaters and Short-tailed Shearwaters put in an appearance and
then we had our first (of several) Shy Albatross for the day. The first
major sighting of the day was an adult Buller's Albatross which stayed with
the boat for at least two hours giving great views as it fed on the berley.
Our first Australasian Gannet put in an appearance and then, as we
approached the shelf, our first Great-winged Petrels of the day began to be
seen in numbers. The Great-winged were almost all gouldi but, during the
course of the day, a couple of macroptera were picked up indicating again
the change in the season. Just before reaching Brown's Mountain, we
encountered a large pod of Oceanic Bottlenose Dolphins which rode on the bow
for some time.

We set up a berley trail at Brown's Mountain surrounded by large numbers of
Wedge-tailed Shearwaters, Flesh-footed Shearwaters, Great-winged Petrels,
Pomarine Jaegers, Shy Albatross and the lone Buller's Albatross. The first
new arrival was a WHITE-NECKED PETREL which circled the boat for some time
giving everyone great views and photo opportunities. This was followed
shortly afterwards by the first of two Long-tailed Jaegers of the day and
then, another star bird, a RED-TAILED TROPICBIRD. Unfortunately, when
Nikolas picked the bird up, it was quite high and flying away so that most
people on board had only distant views which was a bit disappointing. After
a period where no new species were coming to the boat, we set off in a
south-easterly direction to the location of a very deep trench (1700 metres
water depth) located about 29.5 miles off Botany heads. There were
noticeably more Great-winged Petrels present at this wider location and,
after drifting for a few minutes, Steve picked up a bird that was much
bulkier than the attendant Great-wings and Flesh-footed Shearwaters. It very
obligingly landed close to the boat to feed on the berley revealing itself
as a WHITE-CHINNED PETREL, the first procellaria that we have had from the
Halicat in a couple of years. A few minutes later, a tern was sighted flying
across behind the boat which was immediately identified as a BRIDLED TERN
based on its brown (rather than black) upperparts, the supercillium which
extended beyond the eye, and the flight style which was more buoyant than
that of Sooty Tern. This was a new species for the Halicat (the second month
in a row that this has occurred) and, if accepted by NSW ORAC, will be the
fourth confirmed sighting in NSW.

The journey back to Sydney was less eventful with no major rarities seen but
we did manage to add a further three species to the day's list. The first
was an obliging Hutton's Shearwater which circled the boat at close quarters
giving everyone the opportunity to see clearly the ID characteristics
separating this species from Fluttering Shearwater. As we approached the
heads with a shearwater throng behind the boat, David picked up our first
Sooty Shearwater of the day and then, at the heads, we were joined by two
Arctic Jaegers which neatly brought our species count to twenty. It was a
truly memorable day on the water and everyone went home talking about one of
their 'best pelagic days'. 

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

Great-winged Petrel           50      (15)   all gouldi except for a couple
of macroptera
White-necked Petrel             1         (1)
WHITE-CHINNED PETREL            1         (1)
Sooty Shearwater                        1         (1)
Short-tailed Shearwater       5       (2) 
Wedge-tailed Shearwater       300     (80) 
Flesh-footed Shearwater       150     (25) 
Fluttering Shearwater           6         (1)
Hutton's Shearwater           1       (1) 
Black-browed Albatross          2         (1)    both nominate race
Shy Albatross                   13        (6)
Buller's Albatross              1         (1)
RED-TAILED TROPICBIRD           1         (1)
Australasian Gannet             3         (1)
Arctic Jaeger                 2       (2) 
Pomarine Jaeger               16      (6) 
Long-tailed Jaeger              2         (1)
Silver Gull                   80      (40) 
Crested Tern                  9       (3)
BRIDLED TERN                    1         (1)


Oceanic Bottlenose Dolphin      100

The next Sydney pelagic trip will be on Saturday 14 April 2012 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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