SYDNEY PELAGIC REPORT - SATURDAY MARCH 13, 2010
A great autumn day's birding off Sydney with heaps of interesting birds for
all on board the Halicat to enjoy. Yes, I know that I always say that, but
it was a terrific day despite the uncomfortable sea conditions caused by the
persistent southerly of the past few days and which caused 4 or 5 people to
suffer some sea-sickness - none seriously. We altered our berleying
technique today as Hal had been to the fish markets and collected a large
esky full of rather smelly and disgusting fish scraps. We started putting
this material out shortly after leaving Sydney Heads and we had an entourage
of birds following us all the way to the shelf - it made a great difference
to our usual somewhat quiet journey over the Abysmal Plain. The birds of the
day were undoubtedly a WHITE-BELLIED STORM-PETREL which came quite close to
the boat in great light showing all the diagnostic features and two GOULD'S
PETRELS which stayed around our slick and occasionally passed close by for
at least half an hour. The White-bellied Storm-Petrel is only the second
seen off Sydney from the Halicat and will be submitted to the NSW ORAC.
The weather for the day was a mix of overcast with some sunny periods
staying dry until we approached Sydney Heads in the afternoon to be greeted
with a couple of heavy rain showers. Air temperature ranged from 19degC in
the morning up to 23degC later in the day. Sea water temperature in the
harbour was 20.4degC, outside the heads was around 21.3degc and reached a
maximum of 22.6degC at the shelf break. We left Rose Bay at 7.15am and
returned at 4.15pm having travelled all day in sea conditions of a 1.5m sea
on a 1.5m swell. The wind blew at a constant 12 to 15 knots all day from the
south and this caused us to take a more northerly route than usual to avoid
the discomfort of fighting into the southerly seas.
We set off from Sydney Heads with about 15 passengers on board from NSW,
interstate and overseas and travelled on a heading due east rather than our
usual route to the ESE and Brown's Mountain. Initially, there didn't seem to
be a lot of birds around except for the odd Wedge-tailed Shearwater.
However, after deploying the fish offal, we began to attract some customers
and, in fact, stopped about 3 miles off the heads for a berleying session.
This brought in good numbers of Wedge-tailed and Flesh-footed Shearwtaers,
several Pomarine Jaegers and, surprisingly for March, an adult Black-browed
Albatross. Short-tailed Shearwaters passed by and a few Australasian Gannets
came along to see what was happening.
We then continued motoring eastwards and berleying as we went with large
numbers of shearwaters and the Pomarine Jaegers travelling with us. This
activity brought a second Black-browed Albatross to the wake and then, to
everyone's delight, an adult Wandering Albatross (ssp gibsoni) joined us for
a short while. A single Hutton's Shearwater was seen by some on board and a
Sooty Tern was seen by only one observer - but we were to see another later.
The only cetaceans seen for the day approached the Halicat some 6 miles
short of the shelf break and turned out to be a pod of about 50 Pantropical
Spotted Dolphins, a new cetacean for many on board and one which is seen
annually from the Halicat when the water temperatures are high.
After a slow ride to the shelf break, we finally started a berleying drift
at about noon some 12NM north of Brown's Mountain and, with the contingent
of birds that we had 'brought with us' many more began to come to our slick.
Great-winged Petrels of the NZ race gouldi appeared in small numbers, a
couple more black-browed Albatross appeared, a few Wilson's Storm-Petrels
came obligingly close to the boat and then, just as this observer was about
to call a Long-tailed Jaeger on one side of the boat, the cry of 'Gould's
Petrel' went up on the other! The Gould's (and a second one which arrived
soon after) continued to draw everyone's interest since they provided
fantastic views and a great opportunity to study the field marks. However,
while this was going on, one of the several storm-petrels which were dancing
around the back of the boat 'morphed' into a fregetta and, with it flying
straight towards us in good sunlight, was clearly a White-bellied
Storm-Petrel, a lifer for many on board. The interest continued with good
views of a Sooty Tern, the arrival of a Shy Albatross (probably of the
Australian nominate race) and another Wandering Albatross, this time a very
young bird, again a gibsoni.
Since it had taken so much time to get to the shelf, we had to reluctantly
leave and set off back to Sydney. On the way, we added a couple of
Fluttering Shearwaters and, in the harbour, a dark morph Arctic Jaeger to
bring our species tally to a very respectable total of 19.
(Note that the number in parentheses represent the maximum number seen at
Great-winged Petrel 8 (2)
Gould's Petrel 2 (2)
Wedge-tailed Shearwater 300 (150)
Short-tailed Shearwater 24 (6)
Flesh-footed Shearwater 80 (20)
Fluttering Shearwater 2 (1)
Hutton's Shearwater 1 (1)
Wandering Albatross 2 (1) both gibsoni
Black-browed Albatross 4 (2) all nominate race
Shy Albatross 1 (1) prob cauta
Wilson's Storm-Petrel 7 (4)
White-bellied Storm-Petrel 1 (1)
Australasian Gannet 26 (8)
Arctic Jaeger 1 (1)
Pomarine Jaeger 22 (6)
Long-tailed Jaeger 1 (1)
Silver Gull 60 (15)
Crested Tern 5 (4)
Sooty Tern 2 (1)
Pantropical Spotted Dolphin 50
Next Sydney pelagic trip will be on Saturday 10 April, 2010 departing Mosman
Ferry Wharf at 06.45am and Rose Bay Public Wharf at 07.00am. Call Hal on
0411 311 236 to make a reservation.
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