Esperance Pelagic Trip Report - 30 November 2013 (belated)

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Subject: Esperance Pelagic Trip Report - 30 November 2013 (belated)
From: John Graff <>
Date: Fri, 27 Dec 2013 10:45:54 +0800
Hi all,

I've finally gotten around to completing the report for the inaugural Esperance 
pelagic trip run at the end of November. Overall it was a successful trip 
(despite a gale warning!), though we had no really unusual sightings. The 
highlights were a number of Wandering Albatross, large numbers of White-faced 
Storm-Petrel, several gouldi Great-winged Petrel, and a good number of 
Short-tailed Shearwater

A text version of the report is included below. There is a full version with 
photos online at


Participants: John Graff (Organiser), Deb Sullivan (Organiser), Plaxy Barratt, 
James Bennett, Heather Beswick, Kylie Bishop, Bart Brieffies, Pam Burgess, 
Martin Cake, Dave Crossley, Stewart Ford, Jen Ford, Mike Gibbs, Greg Howell, 
John Lillywhite, Dan Mantle, Bill McRoberts, Wayne Merritt, Josan Moss, Margot 
Oorebeek, Ken Read, Pam Smith, Athol Staaden, Derek Stokes, Vicki Stokes, Roy 
Teale, Ray Turnbull.

Conditions: Despite a gale warning for the Esperance Coast region, forecast 
conditions off Esperance itself were relatively moderate, with seas forecast 
below 1.5m, increasing to 2-3m in the afternoon, and swell forecast at 1.5-2m, 
increasing to 2-3m in the afternoon. Winds were forecast at 15-25knts. Actual 
conditions were roughly as forecast, but towards the milder end of the forecast 
range. A few light showers were encountered on the outbound journey, but for 
the most part overhead conditions were fine and sunny.

This was the first pelagic trip we've organised off Esperance, 
so we were unsure exactly what to expect. Although we did not pick up 
any particularly unusual sightings, overall it was a successful trip, 
and likely to be well worth repeating. The highlights were a high counts
 of Wandering (-type) Albatross and White-faced Storm-Petrel, several 
Great-winged Petrel of the NZ race gouldi ('Grey-faced Petrel') with 
extensive pale faces, and a good number of Short-tailed Shearwaters – 
although common off Esperance, the species has only been recorded once 
before on WA pelagic trips (a single bird off Albany) and was a lifer 
for several on board. Overall, at least 11 tubenose species were 

We met bright and early just before 5am and boarded the Southern Conquest at 
Taylor St jetty. Unfortunately it became clear that there had been some 
miscommunication about the object of the trip, so some hasty negotiations were 
required to get us to the shelf break. Fortunately we were able to work out a 
solution that seemed to work for everyone without too much trouble, and started 
motoring out. Pacific Gulls followed the boat out, and the first shearwaters 
appeared not long afterwards, both Short-tailed Shearwater and Flesh-footed 
Shearwater. Nothing new was seen for a period, before the first albatross was 
seen off the port side – unfortunately it disappeared into the rising sun and 
couldn’t be identified, though thoughts centred on Black-browed Albatross. 
Shortly afterwards, the first Shy Albatross made an appearance and a Little 
Shearwater was seen by a few people. The first Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross 
then appeared, and a couple of Hutton’s Shearwaters were seen. Bridled Terns 
also made regular appearances, and a group of three Fairy Terns was also seen. 
Shy Albatross continued to be almost everpresent, along with Flesh-footed and 
the occasional Short-tailed Shearwater. As we passed Termination Island and 
approached the shelf, the first White-faced Storm-Petrel and Great-winged 
Petrel were also seen.

We stopped at the shelf edge in around 400m of water, and deployed the chum. 
Flesh-footed Shearwaters and Shy Albatross moved in immediately, along with 
Great-winged Petrels. At least one of these had enough white in the face to 
indicate the NZ race gouldi (‘Grey-faced Petrel’) which is relatively rarely 
reported in WA waters. Soon after, the call went out for a Wandering-type 
Albatross coming in from a long way off, but it made a reasonable pass – quite 
a white individual, most likely a Snowy Albatross (exulans), but possibly a 
male Gibson’s ([antipodensis] gibsoni) or Tristan (dabbenena). White-faced 
Storm-Petrel numbers in the slick built up, and the first Wilson’s Storm-Petrel 
made an appearance, along with the first few Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross 
joining the Shy Albatross. Then a jaeger was called just off the stern – though 
it didn’t remain in the area, we were able to identify it as an Arctic Jaeger. 
Several Wandering-type Albatross made passes, likely involving at least two 
taxa; Snowy, and Gibson’s and/or Tristan.

After a while, we had drifted into shallower water and so we repositioned at 
our initial starting point and deployed the remaining chum. The same species 
mix continued to be seen, including high numbers of White-faced Storm-Petrel 
and regular passes from several Wandering-type Albatross. A Short-tailed 
Shearwater made a few close passes before sitting behind the boat. The 
Great-winged Petrels seen here included several more individuals of race 
gouldi. The first new species was a young Black-browed Albatross that made a 
mid-distance pass, then remained distantly off the stern but did not come in. 
Shortly afterwards though, another individual did come in to the back of the 
boat, and a third individual was seen soon afterwards. A dead shearwater 
(probably a Short-tailed Shearwater) floated past, and was picked at by a group 
of young Shy Albatross. However, nothing different was seen and eventually we 
had to head for home.

Due to the long distance to the shelf, the return journey took 4hrs, and little 
different was seen. A few more Hutton’s Shearwaters were seen, along with a 
distant jaeger sp. As we moved closer to shore, some small dolphins were seen, 
unfortunately not well enough to establish their identity with certainty – 
however they weren’t Common Bottlenose Dolphins, the typical species on other 
WA pelagics. A Brown Skua also flew purposefully past the stern. Just before 
docking, we made a detour for some close views of the Black-faced Cormorants at 
the end of the Tanker Jetty.

All in all, this was a fairly successful first trip from Esperance, and 
hopefully will be repeated. Thanks as always to all the participants, and to 
the skipper and crew for their friendly assistance throughout the day. A 
further thanks to all on board, participants and crew, for the way the early 
issues were sorted out.

Species List [Total Count (Maximum seen at one time)]
Wandering Albatross [sp.] 8+ (3) (most probably Snowy exulans, 2+ more likely 
Gibson’s ([antipodensis] gibsoni)/Tristan (dabbenena)
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross 15 (6)
Black-browed Albatross 4 (2)
Shy Albatross 60 (12)
Great-winged Petrel 35 (7)
Great-winged Petrel (race gouldi) 5 (1)
Flesh-footed Shearwater 400 (45)
Short-tailed Shearwater 40 (14)
Hutton's Shearwater 10 (3)
Little Shearwater 1 (1)
Wilson's Storm-Petrel 8 (3)
White-faced Storm-Petrel 170 (60)
Australasian Gannet 9 (1)
Brown Skua 1 (1)
Arctic Jaeger 1 (1)
Jaeger sp. 1 (1)
Crested Tern 6 (2)
Bridled Tern 18 (4)
Fairy Tern 3 (3)
Silver Gull 2 (1)
Pacific Gull 12 (4)

Dolphin sp 10+
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