Sydney Pelagic Trip Report - Saturday August 12, 2017

To: birding aus <>
Subject: Sydney Pelagic Trip Report - Saturday August 12, 2017
From: Roger McGovern <>
Date: Mon, 14 Aug 2017 06:38:17 +0000
Most of the NSW pelagic trips in the autumn/winter this year had proved to
be disappointing in terms of species diversity and numbers of birds possibly
because water temperatures have been running consistently at 2 or 3 degrees
higher than the norm. Consequently, I was not expecting a particularly
engrossing day even though the sea surface temperature had dropped below
20degC for the first time in many months. In the event, we had an excellent
winter’s day of seabird and cetacean watching even though there were no
rarities recorded and several of the ‘normal’ winter birds (prions, giant
petrels, Cape Petrel, Wilson’s Storm Petrel) were not present. There were
good numbers of albatross, unusually high numbers of Fluttering and Hutton’s
Shearwaters, Sydney’s first Wandering-type albatross of 2017 (Antipodean –
gibsoni) and several sightings of Humpbacks, Oceanic Bottlenose Dolphins and
Short-beaked Common Dolphins all of which made for an entertaining day on
the water.

We departed from Rose Bay at 7.10am with 21 passengers on the MV Avalon IV
and immediately had a good following of Silver Gulls and a couple of Greater
Crested Terns  in the harbour feeding on the berley trail well before we
reached the heads. Winds were initially less than 10 knots from the north
west and conditions were excellent for the first three hours of the trip
but, as forecast accurately by BoM, the winds picked up to 25knots from the
south west before 11.00am and it became quite uncomfortable and wet in
choppy 3 metre seas for a while before things quietened down again a couple
of hours later – the last three hours back to Sydney were very comfortable.
Shortly after leaving the heads, we came across two little penguins which
were seen by most on board and, as we got under way again, we were joined by
a small number of Wedge-tailed Shearwaters (our first for the spring) and
several Black-browed Albatross and an immature Campbell Albatross all
joining the feeding flock behind the boat. For the first time ever on a
Sydney pelagic, we had two Australian Pelicans follow the boat feeding on
the berley trail and one of them stayed with the boat until we were 11 NM
from the heads before it headed back to the harbour. A pod of 30
Short-beaked Common Dolphins joined us for a few minutes just outside the
heads and two distant humpbacks were seen blowing but they were deemed to be
too far away to investigate. Large parties of small shearwaters were passing
the boat flying southwards and in the good light, and from studying
photographs taken, they were all identified as Fluttering Shearwaters. A
lshort while later, there were one or two lone Hutton’s Shearwaters
identified separate from the large groups of Flutterers. The first of
several Brown Skuas joined the boat and it could be seen to be banded – it
caused quite a lot of consternation amongst all the Silver Gulls at first
before things settled down.

Although there were always good numbers of birds feeding behind the boat,
things quietened down somewhat on the second half of the trip to the shelf
break with the only new species recorded being a Shy Albatross (ssp steadi –
White-capped Albatross) – Steve A-S spotted a very distant prion but nobody
else got on to it and it was not seen again. Activity began to pick up as we
approached the shelf break with several flying fish seen and a pod of 30
Oceanic Bottlenose Dolphin swimming on the bow and alongside the boat. The
first Providence Petrels began to appear some 4 NM before reaching our
berleying destination at Brown’s Mountain and the long-awaited Indian
Yellow-nosed Albatross began to appear as well. We cut the motors and set up
the berley slick at Brown’s Mountain and immediately had good numbers of
Black-browed, Indian Yellow-nosed and a couple of Shy Albatross feeding
close to the boat along with wheeling Providence Petrels which flew around
us but showed no interest in the berley. A White-faced Storm Petrel was
briefly seen by some but some minutes later, another bird appeared this time
giving everyone reasonably close views. An immature Campbell Albatross came
to the slick and then, the highlight of the day for many on board, was the
appearance of an Antipodean Albatross (ssp gibsoni) which flew around the
boat at close quarters before disappearing after ten minutes or so.

With the sea becoming quite uncomfortable in the increasingly strong wind,
we abandoned our normal plan of exploring deeper water to the east and,
instead, took off on a southerly path for an hour before then swinging round
to head west back to Sydney. The only bird of note during this period was an
adult Campbell Albatross seen by some but not by many who were taking
shelter from the flying spray. As we approached within about 4 Nm of the
shoreline south of the heads, we came across large flocks of Hutton’s
Shearwaters  flying north and, try as we might, we could not locate a single
Fluttering Shearwater amongst them – very weird! Having earlier seen a
humpback breach clear of the water (only seen by those fortunate to be
facing in that direction when it happened) we then came across a pod of four
humpbacks swimming south about two or three miles from the heads. Another
Little Penguin was seen by some at the entrance to the harbour - all in all,
it was a good winter’s pelagic and everyone on board seemed to be happy with
the day.

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

Little Penguin                               3                (2)
White-faced Storm Petrel                     2                (1)
Antipodean Albatross                         1                (1)  ssp
Black-browed Albatross                       37              (20)
Campbell Albatross                           3                (1)  two
immature and one adult
Shy Albatross                                3                (1)  all
‘White-capped’ , ssp steadi
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross                17              (8)
Providence Petrel                            19              (5)
Wedge-tailed Shearwater                      16              (10)
Fluttering Shearwater                        300            (120)
Hutton’s Shearwater                          360            (60)
Australasian Gannet                          35              (6)
Silver Gull                                  60              (45)
Greater Crested Tern                         8                (3)
Brown Skua                                   4                (2)  one bird
was banded


Flying fish                                   4
Humpback Whales                               8
Oceanic Bottlenose Dolphin                    30
Short-beaked Common Dolphin                   30

The next scheduled Sydney pelagic trip is on Saturday September 9, 2017 and
all details of our trips and contact details can be found on our website at and on Facebook at


Roger McGovern

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