G'day all, here is the trip report for yesterday's Eden pelagic.
Saturday the 21st of July 2012 saw 12 Canberra birdos descend on Eden, southern
NSW, for what is now an annual pelagic trip aboard the Connemara. Conditions
all week had been quite calm, with only light winds and no swell to speak of.
Conditions on Saturday turned out to be decent, with 15 or 20 (?) or so knot
southerlies once we had got out beyond the lee of Green Cape. Sea temperatures
as I recall them were about 14.5 C inshore and about 15.5 or a bit more at the
shelf. The sea was a bit choppy but with no large swells to talk about, and we
only had one or two seasick passengers despite a few newcomers to pelagic
It turned out to be another weird old day on the ocean. There was a distinct
lack of regular winter specials, as witnessed by a complete absence of any
Providence Petrels, Cape Petrels, White-fronted Terns, Wilson's Storm-Petrels,
Northern/Southern Giant-Petrels and Buller's Albatross, all very regular birds
at this time of the year.
In sheer bird numbers, it was the Shy Albatross and Fairy Prions that kept the
day going, the latter affording excellent views and great photo opportunities.
In the albatross stakes, the odd Black-browed or Indian Yellow-nosed had to
work hard to break the Shy monotony, while a single probable 2nd-year Gibson's
Albatross put in a brief appearance at the burley point at the shelf edge to
wow the first-timers. In amongst the prions was a smattering of Fluttering
Shearwaters, the odd Sooty and Short-tailed Shearwater and a Brown Skua which
obligingly gorged itself on the burley thrown to it.
The avian highlight was most certainly a Grey-backed Storm-Petrel which I
spotted at the burley point at the shelf edge, but unfortunately it approached
and left via the reflected sun and thus only one other person got to see it at
least half satisfactorily. I spotted another one (or the same bird?) again on
the way back to port but again, it kept its distance and remained very elusive.
Perhaps the most interesting moment of the day was when we stopped close to
shore to burley at the 40-fathom mark. Fairy Prions were the first birds to be
attracted to the trail of sharks liver left behind the boat and eventually a
few Shy Albatross showed interest, before a stunning adult White-bellied
Sea-Eagle turned up out of the blue and dived down to pick a piece of burley
off the surface of the water, all quite close to the boat! I think some great
photos could have been obtained if those of us on board had been a bit more
ready for the action.
For large periods of the day there were very few birds in sight, but it was
interesting to see how the number of Shy Albatrosses peaked at the 40-fathom
mark and again at the shelf-edge, particularly the latter where it seemed as
though were were motoring into a wall of wheeling birds.
I was not counting on the day, but below are estimates of species numbers.
Numbers in brackets are the maximum numbers observed at one time.
Fairy Prion 100+ (30)
Fluttering Shearwater 5 (2)
Sooty Shearwater 1 (1)
Short-tailed Shearwater 3 (2)
Wandering Albatross 1 (1) gibsoni
Black-browed Albatross 5 (2)
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross 3 (1)
Shy Albatross 150+ (70)
GREY-BACKED STORM-PETREL 2? (1)
Australasian Gannet 50 (20)
Brown Skua 2 (1)
Silver Gull 5
Crested Tern 3 (2)
White-bellied Sea-Eagle 1
In addition, we had Little Black, Great, Black-faced Cormorants and Darter as
well as Pacific Gull, Australian Pelican and Welcome Swallow in the bay.
On the mammal front, we had Australian Fur Seals and Short-beaked Common
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