St Helens Tasmania. Pelagic trip report 29/12/2007

To: Birding-aus <>
Subject: St Helens Tasmania. Pelagic trip report 29/12/2007
From: Ian May <>
Date: Wed, 02 Jan 2008 12:12:10 +1100
G’Day All

This is the trip report for 29 Dec. 2007, St Helens Pelagic. Our
objective was to observe Gadfly Petrels and the day did not disappoint,
good numbers were in view for most of the day beyond 10Nm offshore.

Vessel: 60’ Starboat, Nifty II of St Helens.

Participants, 11 POB, Skipper Greg Rainbird, Crew, Geoff Goodluck,
Observers, Ken Cross, Chris Coleburn, Bill Wakefield, Jack Hunt, Liz
Zneidersik, Peter Bertens John Zneiderzik,, Andrew Gyenge (boat
photographer), Ian May (organiser)

Weather Forecast: 29 Dec. 2007 TASMANIA UPPER EAST COAST, St Helens Pt
to Wineglass Bay: Saturday until midnight: North to northwest winds 10
to 20 knots tending south to southeast at similar speeds late afternoon.
Seas 2 to 3 metres. Confused swell to 1 metre.

Our Activity: With wind blowing about 25 knots NW, we departed St Helens
wharf at 0630, traversing George Bay estuary and clearing the barway
entrance at 0655. Traveling at 12 knots we followed a course @060 deg.
to maximize comfort on sea state 4 and headed for 148.28E where a
remarkable flock of Shearwaters and Storm Petrels had been reported.
After passing through this spectacular congregation the wind moderated
below 15 knots and we changed course @080 deg. crossing the continental
shelf at at 08.15 at a depth of 130 meters. Although the swell was
confused beyond the shelf , the joggily sea state abated to level 2 and
comfort was good as we continued 6 Nm. @120 deg to the seamount known as
“The Hill” at 41.13S, 148.35E arriving at 0840. Here we presented about
3 liters of shark liver mixed with selected fish oils creating a light
berley trail while drifting 2 Nm south for the next 2.5 hours At about
11.30am we set course @260 deg. stopping at two other locations, before
returning to St Helens via Merricks Rock. As we entered the sheltered
waters of George Bay, westerly winds squalled to 30 knots proving the
skippers competence in good timing and maximizing comfort for all on
board. Here we stopped at the bird banks; sandy shoals adjacent to
Pelican Point observing roosting terns and waders before returning to St
Helens wharf at 1500.

Bird Activity: Birds were plentiful in George Bay. After clearing the
barway pelagics began to steadily increase from 148.24 until we were
about 8 Nm offshore in the vicinity of about 41.11S, 148.28E where tens
of thousands of Short-tailed Shearwaters created shimmering brown clouds
over the eastern horizon. As we approached this most spectacular sight,
we observed many hundreds, perhaps thousands of White-faced Storm Petrel
skipping among the swarms of shearwaters that were wheeling and diving
about what appeared to be great schools of fish (tuna?) extending north
and south for many miles. Unfortunately the sea state was too rough to
stop so we continued and surprisingly from here, the shearwater clutter
diminished and we observed mainly Petrels and Albatross.

Traversing beyond the continental shelf, with the wind and sea state
abating, we passed over a deep sea canyon and continued into the Tasman
to our destination, a deep water seamount known as “The Hill” that rises
steeply towards the surface from the deep sea floor from greater than a
thousand meters. Upwelling currents occur here and although birds were
few when we arrived, after presenting a light berley trail comprising of
shark liver and selected fish oils, we soon attracted large numbers of
our sought after pelagics. Berley was also presented at “the Cliff”
41.13, 148.39 and also inside the shelf at “the patch” near 41.12,
148.33, and again good numbers of Procellariidae including Gadfly
petrels were attracted.

Bird List 40 species

Inshore, within George Bay entrance.

Hooded Plover 1
Red-capped Plover 2
Fairy Tern 9
Bar-tailed Godwit 54
Red Knot 1
Eastern Curlew 9
Sooty Oystercatcher 3
Pied Oystercatcher 18+
Masked Plover 19+
White-faced Heron 5
Black Swan 150+
Chestnut Teal 20+
Pelican 12+
Pacific Gull 12+
Crested Tern 100+ There were at least 5 seen pelagic at the Hill
Silver Gull 19+
Welcome Swallow 3+
White-breasted Sea-Eagle 2
Little Pied Cormorant 7
Great Black Cormorant 5
Black-faced Cormorant 6 inside George Bay, 5 outside Barway

Bird List Offshore (pelagic)

Australian Gannet 10 (3)
Kelp Gull 2
Crested Tern 12 (4)
Common Diving Petrel 4
Short-tailed Shearwater, Tens of thousands, mainly from 5 to 9Nm off shore
White-faced Storm Petrel. Thousands. Seen constantly from about 5 Nm off
Buller’s Shearwater 1 (3+)
Sooty Shearwater 3 (1)
Fleshy-footed Shearwater 1 Soon attracted to the boat at the Hill,
giving us excellent views as it wheeled about for ten minutes, it’s
identity was discussed considering Black or Westland Petrel but its
slender appearance and legs not extending beyond tail was noted and
later Bill Wakefield established from his photographs, pink feet, bill
proportions and all other characteristics that confirmed FFS.
Soft-plumaged Petrel (light phase) 1, photographed. This bird wheeled
around the boat once and departed but gave excellent views as it passed
Soft plumaged Petrel (dark phase) 1 Wheeled in at “the Cliff” but its
appearance was brief. ID by Bill Wakefield and also seen by several
others on board
White-headed Petrel 1
Providence Petrel 3 (1))
White-chinned Petrel 25+ (5) Usually 3 to 5 birds around much of the time
Great-winged Petrel Several hundred plus (70) Usually 20 + around us all
the time
Shy Albatross 27+ (11) Stayed with us most of
Wandering Albatross 5+ (3) Soon joined us and stayed at most berley points
Northern Royal Albatross 1 Attracted to the boat at the Hill where it
stayed with us.
Buller’s Albatross 3+ (2) a single bird attracted to at each stop
however bill photographs show variation indicating more than one bird
Black-browed Albatross 1
Fairy Penguin 1

Conspicuous by their absence today were Yellow-nosed Albatross, Cape
Petrel, Giant Petrels, Prions and Skuas. No marine mammals were seen
although humpback whales have been regularly reported in the area. Also
of interest were many yachts passing by including a tall ship about 25
mile offshore. Many of these vessels were participants in the
Sydney/Hobart, Launceston/Hobart and Melbourne/Hobart races and they
looked splendid with their colours and unique shapes under full sail
racing south against the back ground of Tasmanias east coast.

Please Note:

Our 2008 schedule for birding pelagics;

May 2008 Thursday 15th, Friday 16th, Saturday 17th (almost booked out)
June 2008 Thursday 19th, Friday 20th, Saturday 21st (vacancies available)
July 2008 Thursday 24th, Friday 25th, Saturday 26th. (vacancies available)

Cost of winter trips is $100 per day for all three days or $130 per day
for any one or two days, shark liver berley is supplied and we depart St
Helens wharf at 06.30am returning about 15 00 hrs. For a bit of extra
fun a copy of Albatrosses, Petrels and Shearwaters of the World (Onley
and Scofield) will be awarded to the finder of the best bird for each 3
day trip. If you are interested give me a ring on (03)63121123 and i
will book you in.


Ian May
St Helens Marine Services
PO Box 110, St Helens Tas 7216
03 6376 1966
A/H 03 6312 1123
Mob: 0428337956

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