Sydney Pelagic Trip Report - Sunday July 24, 2016

To: "birding-aus " <>
Subject: Sydney Pelagic Trip Report - Sunday July 24, 2016
From: Tom Wilson <>
Date: Mon, 8 Aug 2016 11:30:56 +0000

This pelagic trip was a reschedule of the 9 July trip, which was lost to a very 
large swell and poor conditions.  We experienced fresh winds (15-20 knots) and 
a big swell (3m) but the latter was nicely spaced (about 14 seconds between 
tops according to the skipper Mark) so the boat rode up and down without too 
much discomfort for any on board (although losing birds behind the wave tops 
was a regular source of frustration).  Unlike the May trip, several days of 
strong westerlies did not seem to reduce the number of birds this time around 
and we saw 15 species outside the heads, although several in ones or twos only. 
 Black-browed Albatross were the dominant species by a long margin.

We departed Rose Bay Wharf at approx. 7:15 am with 21 passengers on board – 
with a few regulars but a large number of visitors and first time trippers as 
well. (One missing regular was Roger McGovern so I am filling in as pelagic 
correspondent for this trip).  Although the berley trail was started as we left 
the harbour, we had managed to attract about a dozen Silver Gulls as we crossed 
from Mosman to Rose Bay.  As we left the harbour, a White-bellied Sea Eagle 
cruised past us at Watsons Bay (although when it crossed the harbour and flew 
over Clarke Island, the Raven attacks made its flight somewhat less serene).  
When berleying started, we attracted a good following of Silver Gulls which, in 
turn started to attract a following of other birds.  Several Australasian 
Gannets came for a look, as well as some Crested Terns and shortly after 
leaving the harbour we saw the first of many Black-browed Albatross.    We also 
drew the attention of three Brown Skuas, a species which would be an almost 
permanent companion as we headed east and again on our way back in.  A couple 
of small groups and some single Fluttering-type Shearwaters were seen, but none 
were close enough to the boat to allow a positive ID to be obtained.

As we headed out towards Browns Mountain, the crowd of Black-broweds grew, as 
did Skuas, the latter numbering six at one point.  They were joined by several 
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross and a single Shy Albatross and sporadic Fairy 
Prions were also seen.  Throughout the day the Black-broweds were checked to 
see if any were Campbells Albatross, but none of the adult birds showed the 
distinctive golden eye of the latter species.  We encountered a small pod of 
Short-beaked Common Dolphins that came to the boat, but only for a short period 
and a single Shy Albatross crossed the wake.  As we got further out, we 
continued to see sporadic single prions, a Shy Albatross put in a better 
appearance and the first Providence Petrel of the day was seen.  We reached our 
destination at about 10:30 and (perhaps not surprisingly given the conditions) 
ours was the only vessel there.  We started a berley drift for about an hour, 
motored back up the slick and did a second drift for a slightly shorter period. 
 Just after starting the drift, a single Wilsons Storm-petrel was seen, but it 
did not stay and was not seen again.  We had similar brief views of a Bullers 
Albatross and an adult Wandering-type Albatross.  (The shortage of experts on 
the boat meant it was not narrowed down to type.)  More Providence Petrels came 
to the boat, as did up to three Great-winged Petrels. The crowd of 
Black-broweds had grown to nearly 50 by that time, with a range of plumages 
including some very nearly adult birds that showed some black smudging at the 
base of the bill but were otherwise in adult-looking plumage.  As we commenced 
our shorter second drift a second Bullers Albatross flew in – this one was more 
inclined to stay with the boat so much better views were obtained.  Of interest 
was the six of the Silver Gulls that had joined the berley trail had followed 
us all the way to Browns Mountain – it is unusual to see them in very deep 
As we motored back in, we were followed by several albatross (from 4 species) 
and at one point a single Cape Petrel followed the boat for 2 minutes, but it 
did not come close (and we had run out of berley by then).  We came close to a 
pod of Oceanic Bottlenose Dolphin but they were busy hunting and not interested 
in the boat. We also saw the blows from some Humpback Whales but they were not 
seen well.  Even close to shore the swell made following birds and whales far 
from straightforward, so looking for penguins outside the heads was a fruitless 
task.  However, to conclude the trip list, a pair of Little Penguin were seen 
just inside the harbour before we got to Watsons Bay.

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

Black-browed Albatross                 150 (50)
Shy Albatross                                   10    (3)
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross    40  (10)
Wandering Albatross  (ssp not known)                  1  (1)
Bullers Albatross                           2 (1)
Fairy Prion                                  40 (10)
Providence Petrel                        20   (10)
Great-winged Petrel                   5 (3)
Cape Petrel                                    1 (1)
Wilsons Storm-petrel                    1  (1)
Fluttering-type Shearwater            20 (6)
Australasian Gannet                 50  (10)
Brown Skua                                20 (6)
Silver Gull                            100   (30)
Greater Crested Tern              8    (4)

Short-beaked Common Dolphin    10
Oceanic Bottlenose Dolphin         10
Humpback Whale                            2

For details of future Sydney pelagic trips, please visit the website at which has details of all trips and contact 
details for making bookings. 

Tom Wilson
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