Sydney Pelagic Report - July 8, 2006

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Subject: Sydney Pelagic Report - July 8, 2006
From: "Roger McGovern" <>
Date: Mon, 10 Jul 2006 11:05:50 +1000

July 8, 2006

For the first time in a long while, the Halicat had a full complement of 40 
local and international birders together with some whale watchers, this being 
peak season for the northerly migration of Hump-backed Whales.

A stunning Sydney winter day with bright sunshine and cool temperatures in a 
range from 8degC to 15degC

Water temperature was a consistent 19degC from the heads to the shelf break

Departed at 0725 and returned at 1545

1.5m sea on a 2.5m swell, moderating as the day progressed

Fresh south-west winds of 20-25 knots in the morning backing to the north-west 
and easing to 10 knots later.

Trip Summary
Although the 'old hands' on board might have been disappointed with the absence 
of any rarities, this was a really typical Sydney winter pelagic trip that 
brought new sightings for many of the observers on the boat. The sea conditions 
as we went out through the heads were quite lumpy and uncomfortable with 
several people soon succumbing to the effects of mal-de-mer. A lone Common 
Dolphin was spotted just inside the heads (the only one of the day) and then, 
as we headed north along the coast, we encountered several Black-browed 
Albatross and numbers of Fluttering Shearwaters. We quickly sighted a group of 
five Hump-backed Whales travelling northwards and despite our efforts to 
maintain distance from them, they insisted on coming alongside of us and giving 
everybody memorable sightings. In the same area, we had our only Giant-Petrel 
of the day but, unfortunately, it did not come close enough to be identified to 
species. In this inshore area also, we had three White-fronted Terns approach 
the boat and we were to see two more later out on the edge of the shelf.

The journey out to the shelf was quite slow due to the prevailing sea 
conditions and, as is usually the case across what we have dubbed the 'Abysmal 
Plain', few birds were seen except for distant prions, large numbers of 
Australasian Gannets and occasional Black-browed and Yellow-nosed Albatross.

As we approached Brown's Mountain at the shelf break, the wind began to back to 
the north west and drop off to 10 knots and sea conditions became noticeably 
more comfortable. Due to the extended time that it had taken to reach the 
shelf, we drifted at only one location for about one and a half hours berleying 
up and setting a good slick. Yellow-nosed and Black-browed Albatross 
immediately began building up in numbers around the boat and we had occasional 
fly-bys of Providence Petrels. Two of the Black-browed Albatross feeding by the 
boat were of the subspecies impavida or Campbell Albatross giving stunning 
views to all on board. Several Fairy Prions came close to the boat giving the 
opportunity to note the identification features of this species, and many more 
prions were seen at greater distances. Wandering Albatross began to appear with 
two adult gibsonsi settling in to feed and others, including a stunning Stage 1 
gibsoni, merely doing fly-bys. Two Shy Albatross put in a brief appearance (one 
showing characteristics of White-capped Albatross) and several Cape Petrels and 
a Brown Skua added to the mix of birds around the boat.

All too soon, we had to make our way back to Sydney but we had a couple of 
interesting non-avion sightings en route. Firstly, Steve's sharp eyes spotted 
some interesting cetaceans at some distance and, as we approached, we were 
thrilled to the sight of a group of about 20 Risso's Dolphins spearing towards 
us like pale torpedoes. Just before reaching Sydney Heads, a large turtle was 
spotted swimming in the water, a rare occurrence off Sydney let alone in the 
middle of the winter. Although fairly good views of the turtle with a brown 
carapace and reddish-brown head were obtained, identification to species was 
not made although it was almost certainly a Green Turtle.

In summary, it was a memorable day out on the water for everyone on board.

Bird List
(Note that numbers in parenthesises represent the maximum numbers seen at any 
one time)

Giant-Petrel (sp)                        1    (1)

Cape Petrel                                5     (2)

Providence Petrel                      6     (2)

Fairy Prion                             200    (60)

Fluttering Shearwater              40     (5)

Wandering Albatross                6     (3)    all gibsoni

Black-browed Albatross          18    (9)    two impavida

Shy Albatross                            2     (2)             prob one Shy and 
one White-capped

Yellow-nosed Albatross          10     (6)

Australasian Gannet               90      (40)

Brown Skua                              1      (1)

Silver Gull                              30      (10)

White-fronted Tern                   5      (3)

Crested Tern                             4      (2)

Oceanic Common Dolphin       1

Risso's Dolphin                     20

Hump-backed Whale              10

Green Turtle (prob)                  1

Next Sydney pelagic trip will be on Saturday 12 August, 2006 departing Cremorne 
Point or Mosman (check ahead with Hal) at 0645 and from Rose Bay at 0700. Call 
Hal on 0411 311 236 to make a reservation


Roger McGovern

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