Ulladulla pelagic trip

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Subject: Ulladulla pelagic trip
From: "Overs, Anthony (REPS)" <>
Date: Thu, 23 Oct 2008 11:34:43 +1100

Hi everyone

I got back to Canberra late Monday night after the most amazing couple of days of birding.

Suzi Bond and I went on the deepwater pelagic trip run by the Southern Ocean Seabird Study Association (SOSSA). We went from Ulladulla on the MV Banks, which SOSSA charters a couple of times a year to go out well beyond the continental shelf. Our Canberra resident seabird expert and SOSSA guide, Peter Milburn, was on board too.

On the way down to Ulladulla we stopped at Racecourse Beach to find a Hooded Plover. We promptly found a pair, about ten metres from the Shorebird nesting area sign. A new bird for me and a great start to the trip. Many thanks to Damien, Bob, Sue and Stuart for the directions.

We arrived in Ulladulla, found the boat and loaded our bags on board. The boat left the harbour at 9.30pm and headed east at a steady ten knots or so, on a reasonably calm sea.

By the time we woke up at 5.30am we were about 100 nautical miles off the coast. The birding action started pretty soon after first light and it was all go. I saw an incredible eight new species in the first hour. I guess that wasnt really much of a surprise as it was only my second pelagic trip. I saw LITTLE SHEARWATER, GREAT-WINGED PETREL, WANDERING ALBATROSS, CAPE PETREL, WILSONS STORM-PETREL, BLACK-BELLIED STORM-PETREL, BLACK PETREL and MOTTLED PETREL. The Mottled Petrel became number 500 on my Australian list. All this before egg and bacon rolls for breakfast!

Other new birds for me over the two days were PROVIDENCE PETREL, WHITE-FACED STORM-PETREL, WHITE-CHINNED PETREL, SOOTY SHEARWATER, NORTHERN ROYAL ALBATROSS and HUTTONS SHEARWATER. We also saw plenty of BLACK-BROWED ALBATROSS, including the CAMPBELLS race impavida. Enormous groups of SHORT-TAILED SHEARWATERS were seen heading south. A single YELLOW-NOSED ALBATROSS and a single FAIRY PRION were spotted. A single KERMADEC PETREL was seen too but by the time I got onto it the bird was too far away for me to identify. Closer to the continental shelf we caught up with many SHY ALBATROSS, and on the way back closer to the coast, we picked up FLUTTERING SHEARWATER, BROWN SKUA, CRESTED TERN and AUSTRALASIAN GANNET.

One of the main objectives of the trip for SOSSA was to band some birds so we got straight into catching and banding some Wandering Albatross. An obvious highlight for me as a bird bander was to hold, band and measure a Wandering Albatross and a Campbells Albatross. Apparently the grin on my face nearly pushed the ears off my head!

A couple of pics:


At one stage there were more than 40 albatross sitting in the water around the boat. We ended up catching more than 30 Wandering Albatross and two Campbells Albatross. We got some very interesting retrapped Wanderers: one wearing a South African band; one wearing a French band, probably from Crozet Island; one banded on the NSW south coast in 1985.

We saw several species of mammal too: KILLER WHALE, SHORT-BEAKED COMMON DOLPHIN, and HUMPBACK WHALE. We also saw several blows that were characteristic of a SPERM WHALE.

The MV Banks ( was a fantastic vessel to travel on. It is a large (100 feet), stable vessel. Sleeping on a moving vessel was an interesting experience, but the very comfortable beds made it very good. The crew were very friendly and helpful and the food was excellent. Only a couple of people got crook, on the first morning, but they got through that and ended up having a good time too. Im pleased to say that I do indeed have good sea legs, although it took me a couple of days to regain my land legs!

I can thoroughly recommend the trip to anyone that is interested in seabirds. There are three trips scheduled for next year, in March, July and October. Check the SOSSA website for details. Remember that its birders like us that help fund SOSSAs research by going on these trips.

Also, many thanks to Milburn for his guidance with the banding, and identifying some of the birds and explaining their diagnostic features.



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