Albany Pelagic Trip Report - 7 Feb 2015

To: "" <>, Birding-Aus <>
Subject: Albany Pelagic Trip Report - 7 Feb 2015
From: John Graff <>
Date: Sat, 21 Feb 2015 11:34:03 +0800
Hi all,

The report and some photos from the Albany pelagic on Saturday 7th February is 
now online at
 The text-only version is included below.

This was a new time of year for Albany pelagics, and it turned out to be a good 
trip with a few interesting records. Notable records included a large pod of 
Pilot Whales (probably Long-finned) around the boat, Sooty Terns (first records 
I can find for the south coast of WA), and Long-tailed Jaegers (rarely reported 
in WA, but probably under-reported). The most frustrating sighting was a 
Wandering-type Albatross which did not come in at all, but photos show to have 
been a typical antipodensis or amsterdamensis type!


Summary: This was the first trip run off Albany in February (or any summer 
month, for that matter) so it was difficult to know what to expect. It turned 
out to be an interesting trip, with a reasonable variety of seabirds. 9-10 
tubenose species were recorded, along with several skua and tern species. The 
highlights were close views of a large pod of Pilot Whales around the boat, and 
records of Sooty Tern, Long-tailed Jaeger, and Short-tailed Shearwater. The 
latter two were not unexpected at this time of year, but both represent the 
second records of the species for Albany pelagics. The Sooty Terns were more 
unexpected, and appear to represent the first records of the species off the 
south coast of WA.

Participants: Alan Collins (Organiser), John Graff (Organiser), Plaxy Barratt, 
Bill Betts, Rose Ferrell, Stewart Ford, Ross Jones, Dan Mantle, Ian Mayer, Peta 
Moore, Michael Morcombe, Robyn Pickering, Nathan Piesse, George Swann, Peter 
Taylor, Roy Teale, Peter Valentine

Conditions: Conditions were forecast to be relatively calm, with seas 1-1.5m 
and swell 1.5-2m. Winds were forecast easterly at 10-15 knts. Conditions were 
largely as forecast; if anything somewhat calmer.

We departed Emu Point Boat Harbour at approximately 0600. Activity in King 
George Sound was limited, but several people saw a distant Arctic Jaeger, and 
the first Flesh-footed Shearwaters began to appear. As we approached the heads, 
a small group of Common Bottlenose Dolphins was seen briefly. We cleared the 
heads, but little was seen aside from increasing numbers of Flesh-footed 
Shearwaters. Eventually, the first albatross was seen, a young 
Black-browed-type which may have been a Campbell Albatross, but separation of 
immatures ranges from difficult to impossible. This was followed by an adult 
Black-browed Albatross, and the first Indian Yellow-nosed and Shy Albatross 
followed reasonably shortly afterwards. A jaeger was then seen in the 
mid-distance; the buoyant, tern-like flight style indicated a Long-tailed 
Jaeger. A second was seen shortly afterwards, but little else was seen until we 
reached the shelf break.

We passed over the continental shelf edge and stopped the boat in 800m of 
water, and a third Long-tailed Jaeger was seen briefly making a pass over the 
boat by several people. Indian Yellow-nosed and Shy Albatross joined the 
Flesh-footed Shearwaters around the boat and the call for whales went out 
almost immediately, as a large pod of Pilot Whales was seen off the starboard 
side. Whilst initially quite distant, several groups made very close passes of 
the boat. Separation of Short-finned and Long-finned Pilot Whale at sea is very 
challenging and both could occur off Albany, though Long-finned is the more 
likely species. The relatively prominent pale saddle on a number of the animals 
is also suggestive of Long-finned. A few people also saw some more triangular 
dorsal fins which suggested a second cetacean species was present, which has 
subsequently been supported by photographs – identification has so far proved 
problematic though. The first White-faced Storm-Petrel made an appearance in 
the slick, and the species remained present in small numbers at both stops. A 
Short-tailed Shearwater was also spotted making a pass amongst the numerous 
Flesh-footed Shearwaters – this was the second record for Albany pelagics, but 
was not unexpected as the species breeds in large numbers on islands in the 
Recherche Archipelago off Esperance. Then a group of five terns were sighted 
off the stern. These were initially assumed to be Bridled Terns, but as they 
made a pass of the boat, several observers suggested that at least some of them 
were in fact Sooty Terns. Photographs have subsequently indicated all five 
individuals were Sooty Terns, a first record for Albany pelagics and quite 
possibly a first record for the south coast of WA. The first Wilson’s 
Storm-Petrel for the day was also seen, and another group of Pilot Whales also 
made a close pass of the boat.

After drifting for around two hours, we relocated a little deeper, stopping the 
boat in 900 m of water at around 1100. Whilst travelling, another Sooty Tern 
and another Long-tailed Jaeger were seen. We deployed the second chum block, 
but the species present remained similar to the previous stop until a 
Great-winged Petrel was finally spotted amongst the Flesh-footed Shearwaters. A 
few more individuals made passes throughout the stop. Several more Sooty Terns 
also made passes, including a pair passing high over the boat. The major 
interest came when the call went out for a Wandering-type Albatross. 
Frustratingly, it passed by distantly and did not come into the boat. The 
frustration increased when photos showed it to be a classic antipodensis (sensu 
stricto) or amsterdamensis type, with a wholly dark upperwing, dark cap and ear 
coverts, but largely pale body. Photos even suggest a dark bill tip, so it is 
very disappointing the bird didn’t come closer.  The final sighting of note was 
a shark that appeared off the back of the boat – expert opinion is that the 
dorsal fin shape in photos indicates a Dusky Whaler.

We set off for home shortly before 1400. The return trip was largely 
uneventful, with nothing new seen, though we did pass a small flock of eight 
White-faced Storm-Petrels. Two Arctic Jaegers gave good views in King George 
Sound, and a few Australasian Gannets were also seen. We docked at 
approximately 1630. Many thanks as always to all the participants, and to Tony 
and Fred from Spinners Charters for their assistance.

Species List (Total count [Maximum seen at one time])
Wandering Albatross sp. 1 (1) – antipodensis (sensu stricto) or amsterdamensis
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross 18 (6)
Black-browed Albatross 1 (1)
Black-browed Albatross [sp.] 1 (1)
Shy Albatross 10 (3)
Great-winged Petrel 6 (1)
Flesh-footed Shearwater 300 (60)
Short-tailed Shearwater 1 (1)
Wilsons Storm-Petrel 9 (6)
White-faced Storm-Petrel 20 (8)
Arctic Jaeger 3 (2)
Long-tailed Jaeger 6 (1)
Caspian Tern 1 (1)
Crested Tern 5 (2)
Sooty Tern 10 (5)
Australasian Gannet 4 (2)

Pilot Whale 60+ (50+) – probable Long-finned Pilot Whale
unidentified cetaceans 5+ (5) – possibly False Killer Whales
Common Bottlenose Dolphin 4 (4)
Dusky Whaler 1 (1)

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