Hillarys Pelagic Summary - 2nd August 2009

Subject: Hillarys Pelagic Summary - 2nd August 2009
From: Frank O'Connor <>
Date: Tue, 11 Aug 2009 18:54:29 +0800

Perth Western Australia Pelagic Trip Report Sunday 2nd August 2009

Participants (26) :

Frank O'Connor (organiser), Alan Collins (organiser), Ben Allen, Martin Cake, Joe Fontaine, John Graff, Greg Howell, Pat Kelly, Maris Lauva, John Lillywhite, Kath Lindann, Mel Lintern, John  Litherland, Albert Low, Wayne Merritt, Clive Nealon, Yann Pichon (France), Robyn Pickering, Ian Reid (UK), Andrew Sherwin, Coralie Sherwin, Pam Smith, Mark Stanley, Derek Taylor, Nathan Waugh, Peter White.

Conditions :

Departed Hillarys Boat Harbour at 7.05am.  Returned at 3.40pm.  After a week of fine weather, the forecast was for another fine day with a 1 metre sea and a 2.5 metre swell with a maximum of 20°C.  The wave height was forecast to be 3.2 metres rising to about 3.4 metres late in the day.  The winds were forecast to be 5 to 10 knots E, calming by lunch and swinging to the S.  There was some cloud but the light conditions were generally good.  The internet indicated that the ocean surface temperatures would be about 18°C to 20°C, which is cooler than the past few years.

Description :

The highlights of the trip were the abundance of Yellow-nosed Albatross, Hutton's Shearwaters and Australasian Gannets.  The chum and fish oil worked well at bringing the albatross in close, giving excellent opportunities for photography.  The disappointment was the very small number of petrels.

From Hillarys we headed roughly WSW heading for the trench NW of Rottnest Island.  By the time we were roughly north of Rottnest Island we had seen high numbers of Australasian Gannets (all but one were adults), regular passage of small numbers of Hutton's Shearwaters, the first few Yellow-nosed Albatross, a few Brown Skuas and a distant Humpback Whale performing many tail slaps and breaches.  We stopped briefly for mother and calf Humpback Whales passing across the front of the boat with the depth at 44 metres.

Just after 9am we slowed as we saw the first White-faced Storm-Petrel.  We were at the north end of the trench.  We started to chum, laying out an oil slick and burley trail whilst motoring slowly S at 5 knots.  The number of Yellow-nosed Albatross increased and we stopped the boat with the depth at roughly 450 metres.  The albatross were attracted to the slick and increased to 30 but very little else was seen except for several White-faced Storm-Petrels and finally a Soft-plumaged Petrel made a close pass.  After 70 minutes we moved on.

For the first time, we had a boat that had access to satellite data for sea surface temperature, currents and plankton.  We headed SSE for an area of water with 17°C sea surface temperature.  It had been several years since we had had a temperature less than 20°C, so the hopes were high for a good variety of species.  We stopped when we saw a Great-winged Petrel and a Flesh-footed Shearwater in the mid distance with the depth at 260 metres.  The Great-winged Petrel was the only one seen during the day and it never reappeared.  The shearwater did pass close by. The number of Yellow-nosed Albatross increased with up to 60 around the boat.  There was good numbers of Australasian Gannets in the vicinity as we drifted with a few more immatures.  But there were no petrels which is very unusual.

We moved back to the N checking out points of interest from the satellite data.  We stopped for short periods when we saw something of interest, but we failed to find any large congregations of birds.  A few people very briefly saw a Wilson's Storm-Petrel.  A Brown Skua chased a Soft-plumaged Petrel behind the boat.  An immature Black-browed Albatross made a pass.  We had lunch where the depth was 260 metres.  We had drifted S back to about 400 metres by 13:30 when we headed for home.  We stopped for mother and calf Humpback Whales passing very close to the location we had seen them on the way out.

In summary, we had a very high numbers of a few species but a surprising lack of the less common species.  This was in spite of the colder water, the satellite data and an excellent burley trail.

Bird List (Christidis & Boles order) Total Number (Maximum at Same Time) :

Wilson's Storm-Petrel 1 (1)
White-faced Storm-Petrel 12 (4)
Black-browed Albatross  1 (1) (immature)
Yellow-nosed Albatross (race bassi) 210 (60)
Flesh-footed Shearwater 4 (1)
Hutton?s Shearwater 90 (12)
Soft-plumaged Petrel 2 (1)
Great-winged Petrel 1 (1)
Australasian Gannet 400 (80) (15 immatures)
Brown Skua 9 (2)
Crested Tern 50 (15)

The following were seen in the harbour.

Australasian Darter 1 male
Little Pied Cormorant 2
Great Cormorant 2
Little Black Cormorant 2
Pied Cormorant 30
Pacific Gull 2 immatures
Silver Gull 15
Australian Raven 1
Welcome Swallow 10

Mammal List :

Humpback Whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) 5 (2)
Dolphin sp. 1+ (1+)

Frank O'Connor           Birding WA
Phone : (08) 9386 5694              Email :


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