To: "birding-aus " <>
From: "Roger McGovern" <>
Date: Tue, 17 Feb 2015 11:18:24 +1100



Historically, February is the month when we see the most tropical vagrants
off Sydney and, with very warm water coming in off the Eastern Australian
Current together with recent reports from Sydney land-based birders of
Streaked Shearwaters, Sooty Tern and Red-tailed Tropicbird, we set off in
the MV Lormar with some anticipation of a good summer trip. Conditions were
pleasant with light to moderate winds and some cloud cover, and with 16
species (possibly 17) recorded on the day, it turned out to be a productive
day on the water. The highlight of the day was the Red-billed Tropicbird
which was seen taking off from the water surface and disappearing to the
north east. However, to everyone's relief, we caught up with it and had good
views as it flew languidly away from the boat to the north. For many on
board, another major highlight was the huge shoals of flying fish which
launched themselves from the water at frequent intervals - we usually see
the odd flying fish when the water is warm and blue, but never in the
numbers that we saw on this trip. Strangely, we saw no cetaceans of any sort
during the trip - a very rare occurrence.


We left the heads in reasonable sea conditions of a less than one metre sea
on top of a one to one and a half metre swell and, with light northerly
winds in the morning strengthening to maybe 15 knots from the north east
after lunch, conditions stayed much the same for the whole trip. Despite the
good conditions, there were three cases of sea-sickness all of which
affected people who had not been on a pelagic before - two had taken no
medication and the third had taken the medication only just before getting
on the boat. Our journey out to the shelf was in a direct easterly direction
under partially cloudy skies with an odd rain squall around us. We left the
heads at about 7.40am and arrived at the shelf break some distance north of
Brown's Mountain at 11.15am - we took this track to ensure that the stronger
afternoon north east wind would be behind us for the journey back. We did
one berley drift at the shelf break and then started back to Sydney at
around 12.15pm arriving in Rose Bay at 3.30pm. Sea water temperatures were
as warm as we have ever seen off Sydney reaching 25.5degC at the shelf



We departed from Rose Bay in the Lormar with 16 passengers, mostly locals
but with visitors from France and the UK. We should have had 17 passengers
but unfortunately one of our regular birders mistakenly thought that it was
a 7.30am departure and just missed us which was very unfortunate. If he had
had our cell phone numbers he could have called us back to pick him up -
they can be found on the website at . As we
left the harbour, the Silver Gulls showed no interest in our trail of fish
offal but a Pomarine Jaeger and a couple of Greater Crested Terns got the
trip list up and running. Shortly after leaving the heads, the shearwaters
finally picked up on our berley trail and, in a short space of time, we had
a good following of shearwaters which stayed with us all the way out to the
shelf break. They were mostly Wedge-tailed Shearwaters with surprisingly
good numbers of Flesh-footed Shearwaters along with them. In the inshore
zone, we also had a single adult Australasian Gannet, a single Fluttering
Shearwater (as well as a few distant fluttering-like shearwaters) and
several Pomarine Jaegers along with a single Arctic Jaeger. The odd
Short-tailed Shearwater and Sooty Shearwater, the latter in heavy moult,
were seen from time to time. A distant jaeger was thought to a long-tailed
but did not approach the boat - however, we were to have good sightings of
this species later.


As we headed out into deeper water, the mix of birds did not change for some
time. Steve Anyon-Smith came back from a lone stint at the bow of the boat
to report that he had seen what was almost certainly a LITTLE SHEARWATER,
but it flew away from the boat in that fast direct style that this species
displays and it was never seen again - so it went down only as a 'possible'.
We began to be entertained by the large numbers of flying fish that were
coming out of the water in shoals of 50 or 60 and then Steve and I saw a
white bird come of the water surface ahead of us and the cry of 'tropicbird'
went up. The bird flew off to the north east and was lost in the glare of
the sun but we kept motoring in that direction and, after five minutes or
so, relocated it with everyone getting great views of an adult (or possibly
an older sub-adult) RED-TAILED TROPICBIRD. The bill did not appear to be
bright red (which may have been caused by the back lighting) and the eye
patch was a little smudgy - however, there was no suggestion of any immature
plumage characteristics. When we arrived at the shelf break, we began to see
small numbers of Great-winged Petrels (ssp gouldi) but not much else for a
while except shearwaters. However, the appearance of one and then two more
Long-tailed Jaegers which approached quite close to the boat was a highlight
for many. There was great excitement when the call went up from the front of
the boat of an approaching large white albatross. Some on board were
thinking that it might be a Southern Royal but a couple of close fly-bys
showed all the identification characteristics of a young adult Wandering
Albatross (D. exulans) - nevertheless, it was a fabulous bird. The trip back
to Sydney brought two more new species for the day. An unexpected Immature
Black-browed Albatross (most unusual for February) made a close pass of the
boat and then, sometime later, we came across an adult Sooty Tern which gave
great views to all on board.


All in all, it was a really good summer's day on the water with enough
action to keep everybody's attention.



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


Wandering Albatross                     1                       (1)

Black-browed Albatross               1                       (1)

Great-winged Petrel                     12                     (3) all

Wedge-tailed Shearwater           110                  (40)

Sooty Shearwater                           3                       (1)

Short-tailed Shearwater              5                       (1)

Flesh-footed Shearwater            30                     (20)

Fluttering Shearwater                   1                       (1)

Fluttering type shearwaters       4                       (2)

(LITTLE SHEARWATER?)                1                       (1) brief
sighting by one observer

RED-TAILED TROPICBIRD              1                       (1)

Australasian Gannet                      1                       (1)

Silver Gull                                           40

Greater Crested Tern                    3                       (1)

Sooty Tern                                         1

Pomarine Jaeger                             9                       (3)

Parasitic (Arctic) Jaeger                1                       (1)

Long-tailed Jaeger                          4                       (2)



Flying fish                                           >500


The next Sydney pelagic trip is scheduled for Saturday 14 March, 2015
departing from Mosman at 6.45am and Rose Bay at  7.00am. We intend to use
the large catamaran 'Explorer' for this trip and with its speed and size, we
will be able to extend the trip beyond Brown's Mountain into deeper waters.
Please book early so that we have a good idea of numbers by contacting Hal
or me at the numbers and e-mail addresses shown in the Sydney Pelagic
website .


































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