Sydney Pelagic Report - Saturday October 11, 2008

To: "birding-aus " <>
Subject: Sydney Pelagic Report - Saturday October 11, 2008
From: "Roger McGovern" <>
Date: Mon, 13 Oct 2008 13:55:34 +1100


October 11, 2008 



It was a beautiful spring day in Sydney and hopes were high for a good day
of pelagic birding in the light of some of the goodies seen on private
charters recently. The day was mostly sunny with normal temperatures for the
time of year, reaching perhaps 22degC when we were offshore. The sea water
temperature was 18.1degC inshore and became marginally warmer at 18.8degC at
the shelf break.


The MV Halicat departed from Rose Bay at 07.05hrs and returned at 15.45hrs.
The sea conditions were quite reasonable with a north easterly swell running
at about 1.0metres and a sea of 0.5metre on top of that. Despite the fairly
benign conditions, a couple of people on board succumbed to mild bouts of
sea sickness. The wind was north west at about 5 -10 knots in the morning
and backed around to the east at 15 knots in the afternoon.


Trip Summary

 A calling Tawny Frogmouth right outside my Cremorne unit was a great start
to the day at 5.45am but I didn't feel that I could fairly put it on the
pelagic list. We had a good complement of 22 passengers from Australia,
North America, the UK, Germany and the Czech Republic and, as we passed
through Sydney Heads, it was apparent that the flat conditions had reduced
the numbers of inshore birds compared to a week ago. However, there were
plenty of Wedge-tailed Shearwaters in evidence, along with a few
Short-tailed Shearwaters still on their southwards migration. The numbers of
Fluttering and Hutton's Shearwaters were low but good views of both species
were had during the course of the day. We rounded off the inshore excitement
by recording several Australasian Gannets, Wandering and Black-browed
Albatross and a single Sooty Shearwater.


Our journey into what we call the Abysmal Plain was surprisingly interesting
today particularly from a cetacean standpoint. Firstly, we had great views
of a mother and calf Humpback Whale followed by two large pods of
Short-beaked Common Dolphins. After adding Shy Albatross, a late Brown Skua
and Flesh-footed Shearwater to the growing trip list, we came across the
cetacean highlight of the day, a pod of about 60 False Killer Whales.
Shortly afterwards, we were joined by a group of 30 Oceanic Bottlenose
Dolphins bringing the cetacean list to four in a relatively short space of


After reaching the shelf break at Brown's Mountain we started drifting and
laying out a burley slick but the conditions were so benign that the birds
were obviously well fed and not responding strongly to the food supply. A
few Great-winged and Providence Petrels joined us as did an unusually large
number of Wilson's Storm-Petrels, with a peak of eight of the latter species
at one time. A stunning Campbell Island Black-browed Albatross came by and
Wandering Albatross joined us in increasing numbers with the usual
discussions about the forms - we more or less agreed that they were all
gibsoni with the exception of one bird that may have been a female exulans.
The avian highlight of the day was a Procellaria which came in to the slick
and which was initially identified as a Black Petrel based on its apparent
small size and possible dark bill tip. However, closer inspection showed
that the bill was in fact totally pale and there was also a very small white
chin which was very difficult to see, making this our first WHITE-CHINNED
PETREL on the Sydney boat for at least a couple of years.


The journey back to Sydney was notable for the large numbers of Humpback
Whales in evidence and we again had great views of these magnificent
creatures. A couple more stops to observe mixed flocks of shearwaters,
gannets and albatross chasing feeding shoals of predatory fish and it was
back to Rose Bay after another great day on the ocean.


Bird List 

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


Providence Petrel                        30          (6)

Great-winged Petrel                    8            (1)

WHITE-CHINNED PETREL   1            (1)                     

Wedge-tailed Shearwater           300        (50)          

Short-tailed Shearwater              45          (6)           

Flesh-footed Shearwater            12          (1)

Sooty Shearwater                        1            (1)

Fluttering Shearwater                 10          (3)            

Hutton's Shearwater                  6            (2)

Fluttering type shearwaters        55          (8)

Wandering Albatross                  16          (7)                    

Black-browed Albatross             12          (3)            

Shy Albatross                              10          (2) 

Wilson's Storm-Petrel                 14          (8)

Australasian Gannet                    32          (10)

Brown Skua                                1            (1) 

Silver Gull                                   60          (15)

Crested Tern                               6            (2)



Humpback Whale                               16

Short-beaked Common Dolphin         80

Oceanic Bottlenose Dolphin               30

False Killer Whale                               60


Next Sydney pelagic trip will be on Saturday 8 November, 2008 departing
Mosman Ferry Wharf at 0645 and Rose Bay Public Wharf at 0700. Call Hal on
0411 311 236 to make a reservation. 




Roger McGovern 



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