Pelagic out of Eden NSW, 5-6 November 2005

Subject: Pelagic out of Eden NSW, 5-6 November 2005
From: "Simon Mustoe" <>
Date: Tue, 08 Nov 2005 20:16:26 +0000

Spent the weekend in Eden mainly on a charter for offshore cetacean. We saw surprisingly little on that front - some oceanic bottlenose dolphins being the highlight. I didn't keep a specific seabird score but saw some good birds including two new species for has been some time since I've scored any new seabird on one of these trips, so the weekend was very worthwhile.

Highlights were KERMADEC PETREL, BLACK-WINGED PETREL and LITTLE SHEARWATER. All were seen well. The Kermadec was dark phase, notable was the underwing patterning and the white primary shafts on the upperwing, as well as narrow wings, high arching flight and general slim appearance compared to providence and great-winged petrels. The black-winged petrel was seen very well. A small, compact and relatively short-billed bird with very thick black edges to the underwings and a wide dark 'M' mark on the back, not distinctly differentiated from the grey on the mantle and flight feathers. Facial markings were grey with dark around the eye but lacked any significant intrusion of colour into the neck area. The little shearwaters were both seen over very deep water. They were in fresh plumage with pale 'panels' in the secondaries and distinctly slaty (almost silvery) grey plumage. The underwings were white with narrow dark margins. Undertail coverts were white and there was some white over the eye, indicating birds from Lord Howe island. Flight was not typical in the first bird but the second exhibited the flutter and intermittent glide (reminiscent of common sandpiper) characteristic of this species. Size and shape was distinctly different from fluttering, being small and slim of build, rather like a very diminutive Buller's Shearwater. Interestingly, the only time I have previously seen this species in Australia was in very deep water (>2000m) in far eastern Bass Strait, not far south of this location.

The oceanography is currently dominated by the Tasman front which is just offshore. A warm core eddy is creating substantial upwelling. There were huge numbers of sunfish and many of the normally offshore species of seabird, such as Gibson's Albatross, were well inshore. Both these and sunfish were inside Twofold Bay, which is quite unusual. Water temperature was 17 degrees in the Bay and up to 20.6 degrees at the shelf. On both Saturday and Sunday, we travelled more or less eastwards and cruised a few miles up and down the shelf pursuing reported sperm whales, but to no avail. We transited the shelf into depths probably exceeding 2000m.

The following is a list of species seen during the weekend:

Little Penguin  Eudyptula minor (several heard and seen offshore)
Great-winged Petrel     Pterodroma macroptera
Providence Petrel       Pterodroma solandri (occasional offshore)
KERMADEC PETREL         Pterodroma neglecta (1 seen about 15 miles offshore)
BLAC-WINGED PETREL      Pterodroma nigripennis (1 seen about 15 miles offshore)
Wedge-tailed Shearwater         Puffinus pacificus
Sooty Shearwater        Puffinus griseus (1 seen on 6th)
Short-tailed Shearwater         Puffinus tenuirostris
Fluttering Shearwater   Puffinis gavia
Hutton's Shearwater Puffinus huttoni (one flock of about 15 birds, a few individuals)
LITTLE SHEARWATER       Puffinus assimilis (two very far offshore on 5th)
Gibson's Albatross Diomedea gibsoni (most abundant albatross sp. of weekend; mainly inshore)
Black-browed / Campbell Albatross       Thalassarche impavida / melanophrys
Shy / White-capped Albatross    Thalassarche cauta / steadi
Wilson's Storm-Petrel   Oceanites oceanicus
Australasian Gannet     Morus serrator
Black-faced Cormorant   Phalacrocorax fuscescens (1 in Twofold Bay)
Great Cormorant         Phalacrocorax carbo
Australian Pelican      Pelecanus conspicillatus
Eastern Reef Egret Egretta sacra (1 dark phase flying along rocks adjacent to coast)
Brown Skua      Catharacta lonnbergi
Pacific Gull    Larus pacificus
Crested Tern    Sterna bergii

Common Dolphin (>1000)
Humpback Whale (several pods, some feeding)
Oceanic Bottlenose Dolphin (two pods beyond the shelf)
Onshore Bottlenose Dolphin (a small pod within Twofold Bay)
Australian Fur Seal

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