Sydney Pelagic Report - February 13, 2010

To: "birding-aus " <>
Subject: Sydney Pelagic Report - February 13, 2010
From: "Roger McGovern" <>
Date: Thu, 18 Feb 2010 12:52:48 +1100
SYDNEY PELAGIC REPORT - Saturday February 13, 2010 

We were looking forward to the first Sydney pelagic trip of 2010 knowing
that water temperatures were high and that several good tropical vagrants
had been reported from shore sites in the past couple of weeks. The day
certainly did not disappoint and it turned out to be a typical February trip
with some surprising sightings and some 'dips' on species that we hope for
at this time of the year, notably White Tern, Grey Ternlet, Tahiti Petrel
and either tropicbird. However, the birds that we did see more than made up
for these misses with Common Noddy, White-necked Petrel, White-winged Black
Tern, Buller's Shearwater and several Long-tailed Jaegers providing
excitement for all on board. Probably the most notable event of the day was
that we recorded a total of no less than 20 Sooty Terns during the trip
which is quite astounding when you consider that we have recorded a total of
about ten of this species from the Halicat cumulatively in the past ten or
twelve years!

The weather for the day was quite overcast and dark with occasional rain
showers particularly in the morning - air temperatures were reasonable with
a maximum of around 24degC. As we left Sydney Heads the seawater temperature
was 22.4degC and this steadily increased to 24.0degC at the shelf break. We
departed Rose Bay at 7.10am and returned at 4.00pm having travelled in
fairly benign sea conditions with about a one meter sea on a low swell. The
winds were fairly light not exceeding 10 knots from the south in the morning
and backing to the northeast in the afternoon. 

We departed Sydney Heads with a good complement of local, interstate and
overseas birders on board and set off at a heading of ESE towards the
underwater sea mount known as Brown's Mountain. Initially bird numbers were
quite low with just a few planing Wedge-tailed Shearwaters, some
Short-tailed Shearwaters, a couple of Crested Terns, a single and distant
Fluttering Shearwater and an Australasian Gannet. As we headed out into the
Abysmal Plain, we came across our first Sooty Tern of the day, along with a
Pomarine and a couple of poorly seen Long-tailed Jaegers. At the ten mile
mark, we were astonished to look up and see a high flying flock of
White-throated Needletails actively feeding in the dark clouds. There was
something else higher than the needletails which may have been a tropicbird,
but even Steve's eagle eyes could not resolve it into something

As we moved further into deeper water, it became apparent that all the birds
today were obviously following feeding fish, probably Striped Tuna and we
encountered several feeding flocks which mostly comprised Wedge-tailed,
Short-tailed and Flesh-footed Shearwaters, up to three Sooty Terns and the
occasional Long-tailed Jaeger. As we approached the shelf break, these mixed
flocks began to contain Great-winged Petrels (mostly moulting gouldi but
with a few more pristine macroptera) and then we had our first rarity of the
day, a White-necked Petrel. Unfortunately, when spotted, the bird was flying
away and disappeared quickly so only a few observers had brief and
unsatisfactory views. However, any disappointment was quickly dispelled when
the very next flock was found to contain a Common Noddy, an uncommon summer
vagrant off Sydney. At about this point we also had the bow-riding visit of
a small pod of Short-beaked Common Dolphins, our only cetacean sighting of
the day.

When we reached Brown's Mountain, we stopped and set up a berley slick but
it quickly became apparent that the birds were not interested in our
offerings but were more intent on following the schools of tuna, and we soon
decided to spend the rest of our time going in search of birds rather than
waiting for them to come to us. Before setting off, a high flying
White-winged Black Tern brought a lot of excitement to the assembled birders
- it was the first seen from the Halicat in several years. As we motored
along in deep water off the shelf break, our small tuna lures being trolled
off the back accounted for a number of Striped Tuna and then, after passing
a lounging Striped Marlin with its bill out of the water, the marlin grabbed
one of the tuna lures and created some excitement for Hal before it somewhat
predictably broke off! Despite seeing several more mixed flocks of birds,
nothing new was encountered until late in the trip when a well-seen Buller's
Shearwater gave everyone great views. As we approached the Heads, more
shearwaters were seen, including better views of a Fluttering Shearwater,
along with another Long-tailed Jaeger and two more Australasian Gannets.
Everybody on board thoroughly enjoyed an entertaining summer's day of
pelagic birding.

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

Great-winged Petrel     75      (8)
White-necked Petrel     1       (1)
Buller's Shearwater     1       (1)
Wedge-tailed Shearwater 240     (15)
Short-tailed Shearwater 55      (5)
Flesh-footed Shearwater 115     (10)
Fluttering Shearwater   2       (1)
Australasian Gannet     3       (2)
Pomarine Jaeger 2       (1)
Long-tailed Jaeger      6       (2)
Silver Gull     45      (8)
White-winged Black Tern 1       (1)
Crested Tern    4       (1)
Sooty Tern      20      (3)
Common Noddy    1       (1)
White-throated Needletail       10      (10)


Short-beaked Common Dolphin     15
Marlin  3
Shark (sp)      1

Next Sydney pelagic trip will be on Saturday 13 March, 2010 departing Mosman
Ferry Wharf at 6.45am and rose Bay Public Wharf at 7.00am. Call Hal at 0411
311 236 to make a reservation.

Roger McGovern 

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