Sydney Pelagic Trip Report - Saturday 9 April 2016

To: "birding-aus " <>
Subject: Sydney Pelagic Trip Report - Saturday 9 April 2016
From: Roger McGovern <>
Date: Mon, 11 Apr 2016 23:25:07 +0000

After having to cancel last month's trip due to some health problems in the
family of the boat operator, it was good to get out on the water again on a
fine Sydney autumn day. The weather had been quite benign for the past few
days and was forecast to remain so for our trip - pleasant boating weather
but I was a little worried about how many birds would be around. It did turn
out to be a quiet day for bird species diversity and we saw no cetaceans of
any sort - however, these shortcomings were more than compensated for by a
beautiful breeding-plumaged ARCTIC TERN and a rare April record of Black

The weather was forecast for light and variable winds with slight seas but,
in the event, winds got up to 15knots from the south west and we had a chop
of 1.5m on top of a small swell. Water temperatures were around 23degC on
the shelf which is unseasonably warm - they were around 21.5degC at this
time last year. We departed the Heads at about 7.50am, motored out to
Brown's Mountain some 22.5NM ESE arriving at 10.45am where we drifted and
laid out a berley slick for about an hour. After doing a circular tour into
deeper water to the east for an hour, we headed back to Sydney arriving at
Rose Bay just after 3.30pm

We set off from Rose Bay a little late at 7.30am (the boat had to be
re-fuelled) with 21 passengers on the MV Avalon IV, most of whom were
regular locals - thanks very much for your support! As we passed through the
Heads we were able to attract a good number of Silver Gulls to follow the
boat for the fish offal. After a few minutes, they were joined by the first
Wedge-tailed Shearwater and, very slowly, the number of shearwaters began to
increase. However, the lack of other birds was quite worrying although we
did have excellent views of a fly-by Sooty Shearwater which is a species
that we do not see well very often off Sydney. A few Australasian Gannets
came by to see what was attracting the gulls and small numbers of
Short-tailed Shearwaters followed the boat for a while. A poorly seen
Hutton's Shearwater flew across the wake but we were to see a couple more
Hutton's at closer range later in the trip. As we got out to the 8 mile
mark, the first Flesh-footed Shearwater joined the feeding birds behind the
boat and numbers of this species grew steadily as we headed offshore. The
first major excitement of the day was the arrival of our first and only
albatross species of the day, a stunning adult Campbell Albatross which
remained with us for much of the trip.

We arrived at Brown's Mountain and started our berley drift with only the
Campbell Albatross, Wedge-tailed and Flesh-footed Shearwaters in evidence
for the first few minutes. The first of only two Providence Petrels flew
past but didn't stay around and then the first of several Wilson's Storm
Petrels appeared on the slick. The real excitement for the day started when
Tom Wilson thought he had seen a distant Procellaria and a little time
afterwards, a very bulky bird was seen a few hundred metres away and it then
flew in to the berley trail showing itself as a Black Petrel. It sat on the
water close to the boat feeding and giving great opportunities for photos
but then a shout went up for a small tern coming past the boat. With long
tail streamers and a shortish slender red bill, it was clearly an ARCTIC
TERN in breeding plumage and examination of the many photographs taken
confirmed this. The bird did not stay for more than a minute or two but
excellent views were had by all on board. We started the motors and headed
eastwards into deeper water and immediately saw our only Great-winged Petrel
of the day. Despite motoring for an hour in deep water, no new species were
seen and we then headed back to Sydney without further incident. It has to
be said that 13 avian species (and no cetaceans) for the day is below par
for April but, for most if not all on board, the Arctic Tern and Black
Petrel compensated for the lack in species diversity.

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

Wilson's Storm Petrel   6       (6)
Campbell Albatross      1       (1)
Great-winged Petrel     1       (1) ssp gouldi
Providence Petrel       2       (1)
Black Petrel    1       (1)
Wedge-tailed Shearwater 35      (25)
Sooty Shearwater        1       (1)
Short-tailed Shearwater 12      (4)
Flesh-footed Shearwater 30      (20)
Hutton's Shearwater     3       (1)
Silver Gull     100     (80)
Greater Crested Tern    7       (2)
ARCTIC TERN     1       (1)

The next Sydney trip is scheduled for Saturday 14 May 2016 and all details
of our trips and contact details are shown in the website at  and you can also find us on Facebook and
post photos at

Roger McGovern

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