Below is the trip report from last Sunday's (09/03) pelagic off Port Stephens.
The report + some photos can be seen in a much nicer format on the SOSSA
Stephens Pelagic Trip Report – Sunday 9 March 2014
M.V. Argonaut, skippered by Ray Horsfield
Eggins, Garry Eggins, Lorna Mee, Jean Tucker, Dick Jenkin, Ann Lindsey, Dan
Williams, Jim Smart, Neil Fraser, Michael Kearns, John Weigel, Steve Roderick
Mick Roderick (organiser).
contrast to the pelagic 2 weeks ago, it was a return to classic early autumn
conditions today with east / north-east winds experienced for the entire day
with very little swell and mild seas. A strong downhill current out wide
combined with the northerly winds pushed us rapidly southwards, with us
drifting nearly 5 miles in the first hour at the shelf. Water temperature at
the shelf was a very warm 26 degrees. In stark contrast to our last trip, no
one was seasick today.
was possibly the best pelagic run out of Port Stephens, laced with highlights
that we would normally be happy to see on any given day singly, but combined
they made for an exceptional day at sea. There were more cries of “stop the
boat!” than a Tony Abbott election campaign speech. Easily the stand-out for
the day was a totally unexpected adult Light-mantled (Sooty) Albatross that
gave frustrating ‘going away’ views as it flew south en-route to the shelf. The
other highlights were more ‘expected’ at this time of year in warm water and
included singles of Streaked Shearwater, Tahiti Petrel, an intermediate phase
Kermadec Petrel and a White-necked Petrel (the latter 2 seen now on consecutive
trips). A Black Petrel was photographed but not actually seen or called on the
day (as frustrating as that is). An adult Sooty Tern was nice, as were 2
Long-tailed Jaegers including a stunning adult with tail streamers half grown
out. “Good” numbers of Fleshy-footed Shearwaters was another highlight.
Nelson Bay Public Wharf at 0703 returning at 1715.
first birds seen up upon leaving the heads was a pair of Little Penguins near a
small fishing boat – the first seen from The
Argonaut since late 2012. Small numbers of Wedge-tailed Shearwaters followed
the boat but were generally not too interested in the offerings. Not too much
further out a good number (perhaps 30 birds?) of Fleshy-foots joined in and was
at times the only species behind the boat. This ended when a very hungry and
eager Streaked Shearwater flew in, instigating the first ‘stop the boat!’ for
the day. As it turned out we didn't really need to stop for this bird as it
followed us for the rest of the way to the shelf and for an hour or so out
there (so was with us for more than 3 hours).
Shy-type Albatross was seen, along with small numbers of both Fluttering and
Hutton’s Shearwaters. The first Long-tailed Jaeger arrived at about the
half-way mark, before Neil asked Ann Lindsey about a large, dark bird that had
just rounded the bow of the boat, heading south. When the shock of what was
flying past had subsided, a loud scream of excitement came from Ann and all on
board looked in the direction to which she was generally pointing, where a
Albatross was seen flying casually southwards. The boat was ordered to stop
once again as camera shutters went into overdrive. Unfortunately, the views
were both brief and predominantly of the bird flying away and although it did
make a turn back to look at the boat it circled and continued on towards ‘where
it belongs’. We did notice that one of its legs was dangling, likely broken,
which is obvious in the images. It is interesting also that this is only the
second confirmed record of a Light-mantled in the Hunter; the first being an
exhausted bird that was found on Stockton Beach on the 19 March 2012 (that
later died). Thus the only Light-mantleds we have recorded up here have both
been during the month when the water is warmest.
we continued I remarked to someone “imagine if we get a Tahiti Petrel today as
well – what an odd couple that would be!”.
the excitement of this sighting buzzing through the boat, we made our way to
the shelf and about an hour after the Light-mantled, sure enough a Tahiti
Petrel was seen at some distance in the wake of the boat. Just before yet
another cry to stop the boat was yelled, the skipper put the engine into idle
and motors cut as we had reached our destination (32 55 30s / 1542 33 40e).
Again, the views of this bird were frustratingly distant.
didn't take long before before the first Great-winged (Grey-faced) Petrel flew
in but things seemed to go very quiet after the high intensity journey out. A
beautiful adult Long-tailed Jaeger with growing out tail streamers did provide
some excitement though. We were drifting south very rapidly and decided after
about 90 minutes to reposition and head north towards where we’d arrived. As it
turned out we didn't get anywhere near this location because of the current but
on this short journey an intermediate phase Kermadec Petrel flew in from the
north, requiring yet another stopping of the boat for what were pretty ordinary
views of the bird that once past the boat, did not return to enable better
another uneventful drift we wondered if the running engines were actually
attracting birds to the boat! With only 15 minutes left on the final drift we
were looking at the prospect of making it 3 pelagics (and over 8 hours at the
shelf) without a single storm-petrel sighting. Fortunately this did not happen
as a Wilson’s Storm-petrel was picked up by an eager eye to the east, with most
on board getting a fleeting glimpse.
of the shearwaters began to follow us as we made our way back to port, along
with one of the Great-winged Petrels for some distance. About 30 minutes into
the return leg a White-necked Petrel was picked up well back in the wake and
once again the skipper was ordered in no uncertain terms to stop the vessel in
its tracks. The remainder of the journey yielded not much more aside from a
second Shy-type albatross, an Arctic Jaeger and a Caspian Tern close to the
heads and handful more Fluttering/Hutton’s Shearwaters. At least that is what
was thought on the day*.
was an extremely enjoyable autumn pelagic with 23 species seen outside of the
heads, including 14 species of Procellariiformes with 5 species of petrel and
the Light-mantled to cap it off nicely.
Post-script to trip report: With quite a number of Fleshy-footed Shearwaters
following us back, I (along with others scanning the trailing flocks from the
stern of the boat) checked each Fleshy carefully to ensure that we didn't miss
a possible Black Petrel. As it turned out, I have uncovered an unmistakeable
of a Black Petrel, which adds to an already good list of birds, but is somewhat
frustrating as trip leader.
Total (maximum number visible from the boat at one time) – note that many are
Penguin: 2 (2)
Albatross: 2 (1)
(SOOTY) ALBATROSS: 1
Shearwater: 4 (2)
Shearwater: 100 (60)
Shearwater: 250 (80)
Shearwater: 4 (2)
Shearwater: 2 (1)
(type) Shearwater: 5+
(Grey-faced) Petrel: 4 (2)
Gannet: 5 (2)
Tern: 6 (4)
Jaeger: 7 (3)
Jaeger: 2 (1)
Bottlenose Dolphin: 30+
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