To: "birding-aus " <>
From: Roger McGovern <>
Date: Tue, 16 Jun 2015 02:09:32 +0000


This trip had been booked out with a waiting list more than two weeks
beforehand, so we were holding our breath for good conditions and some good
birds on the day. After several days of very settled weather, the conditions
were ideal on the water with slight seas, just enough wind to keep the birds
flying and a light overcast for most of the day which made for ideal viewing
conditions. The birds didn't disappoint either with six species of
albatross, large numbers of Fairy Prions, close views of a Northern Giant
Petrel and, the avian highlight of the day, several ANTARCTIC PRIONS which
obligingly flew very close to the boat and even settled on the water. After
seeing no cetaceans all day, we spotted a Humpback Whale on our return
journey and, as we approached, it breached totally clear of the water very
close to us - and that was probably the highlight of the day for many on

We departed Sydney Heads at 7.40am in a light overcast with seas of about
1.0m and very light southerly winds. We motored out to a location near
Brown's Mountain some 22.5NM from the Heads, arriving there just before
10.00am, and then drifted with a berley trail for about an hour. We then
motored back to the top of the drift and did another shorter drift before
motoring north eastwards into deeper water. We departed the shelf area at
about 1.00pm and arrived back at Rose Bay at 4.00pm after stops for birds
and the Humpback Whale en route. Water temperatures were in the 18.0 to
18.5degC range and, with the benign sea conditions, there were no cases of
sea sickness on board.


We departed from Rose Bay at about 7.20am and, with all the summer
shearwaters long departed, we initially had a following only of Silver Gulls
and the odd Australasian Gannet on our berley trail. However, it was not
long before the first albatross arrived and, in a short space of time, we
had recorded Black-browed, Campbell, Indian Yellow-nosed and Shy Albatross.
We began to see a few Fairy Prions and then a Brown Skua started to follow
the boat much to the displeasure of the Silver Gulls. A handsome Buller's
Albatross brought our albatross tally to five species and we were joined by
a juvenile Shy Albatross in pristine fresh plumage which we determined had
to be the nominate race T. cauta cauta which depart their Tasmanian nesting
grounds in March/April. The New Zealand breeding (White-capped) T. cauta
steadi breed later and we do not see the juvenile birds off Sydney until
about August/September. As we approached the shelf break, the number of
Fairy Prions increased and we also started seeing a few Wilson's Storm
Petrels. We started our berley drift near Brown's Mountain and soon began to
see Providence Petrels and a few Great-winged Petrels. The latter species
appeared to be all nominate macroptera with just a touch of paleness above
the bill but we later saw one obvious gouldi  (Grey-faced Petrel) which had
the extensive pale face surrounding the bill base. Our attention was brought
to a prion which looked a little larger than a Fairy Prion and which flew
like a miniature pterodroma and, when it obligingly approached to within
just a few metres of the boat, it could be clearly seen to be an ANTARCTIC
PRION, a life bird for many on the boat as we have not seen this species off
Sydney for perhaps three years. There were at least two individuals and
there may have been as many as five or six as they continuously returned to
within close proximity to the boat for at least an hour.

As we motored back up our slick, a distant giant petrel was seen on the
water near a fishing boat - we motored over and, since the Northern Giant
Petrel was busy devouring a large fish, it stayed on the water at close
range offering great photo opportunities. We headed north eastwards into
deeper water and were rewarded with a fly-by wandering-type albatross, an
adult Antipodean Albatross ssp gibsoni  which unfortunately did not
investigate our boat but just kept going. Our only 'sea monster' so far on
the trip, a Southern Ocean Sunfish, put in an appearance and, with no new
bird species turning up and the wind getting up to 15knots from the south
west, we set course back towards Sydney. Shortly afterwards, a few people on
the boat had a very brief glimpse of what was thought to be a fregetta-type
storm petrel, probably a White-bellied Strom Petrel but the sighting was too
brief and no photographs were taken. (After reading of the New Zealand/New
Caledonian type storm petrel seen off Port Stephens the next day, I am
beginning to wonder what our 'fregetta type' bird may have been...).
Although there were always birds around on the return trip, nothing new was
seen but we did find a group of 24 Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross sitting
together on the water which was an unusual sight. I knew that several of our
passengers were very keen to see whales, so the skipper contacted the whale
watching boats that were out for the afternoon to see if they had located
any, to be told that there were none around. However, a few minutes later,
we spotted a Humpback travelling north and blowing at intervals, and went
over to get a closer look. As we approached, the whale breached partly from
the water and not everyone saw it but, a few minutes later when we were
closer, the whale breached again, this time completely clear of the water -
a spectacular sight.

Our thanks to the crew of the Avalon (George and Shane) for their help and
interest during the trip - it was a great winter Sydney pelagic trip enjoyed
by all on board.


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

Antipodean Albatross                                1
(1) subspecies gibsoni

Black-browed Albatross                            8

Campbell Albatross                                     2

Shy Albatross                                                 9
(3) all believed to be ssp steadi or 'White-capped Albatross' except for a
juvenile ssp cauta

Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross               34                    (24)

Buller's Albatross                                         2

Northern Giant Petrel                                1

ANTARCTIC PRION                                      5

Fairy Prion                                                      120

Great-winged Petrel                                  5
(1)   one ssp gouldi and the others believed to be macroptera

Providence Petrel                                       10

Wilson's Storm Petrel                                20

Fregetta type storm petrel                      1                        (1)

Australasian Gannet                                   38

Silver Gull                                                        60

Greater Crested Tern                                 2

Brown Skua                                                    2


Southern Ocean Sunfish                           1

Humpback Whale                                        1

The next Sydney pelagic trip is scheduled for Saturday 11 July, 2015
departing from Mosman at 6.45am and from Rose Bay at 7.00am. Please book
early to assist our planning and to avoid missing a spot - the MV Avalon
carries a maximum number of 23 so places are limited. All details of our
trips and contact details are in the website at and you can also find us on Facebook as well
as post photos:


Roger McGovern

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