Sydney Pelagic Trip Report - April 10, 2010

To: Roger McGovern <>, birding-aus <>
Subject: Sydney Pelagic Trip Report - April 10, 2010
From: Nikolas Haass <>
Date: Sat, 10 Apr 2010 19:38:15 -0700 (PDT)
Hi all,

(does anyone have a theory as to why this once rare bird off NSW is 
now almost commonplace?) 

There is a theory that Buller's Albatross is filling the gap left by the sad 
decline of Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross. Not sure how much scientific evidence 
there is though.

In addition we had some cool fish:
a Leatherjacket
a group of unidentfied "baitfish" making the water "boil" around the boat
a Remora sucked onto a Pantropical Spotted Dolphin
and finally, a sad story: a large (more than 3 meter) possible Tiger Shark 
tortured by six "manly heroes" on a boat called "Dreemin", on the back it said 
"Warlord" and on the side "Sylvania Marina, Caribbean 35". The shark had his 
stomach pulled out of his mouth. The guys were poking him with hooks all over, 
blood everywhere, barbaric. We have documentation photos and I offer to 
volunteer if these people need to be reported.
I could imaging that these people will proudly display the jaws of their victim 
next to a Lion's head and a stuffed Grizzly in their living room. Welcome to 
the 19th century!



Nikolas Haass

Sydney, NSW

----- Original Message ----
From: Roger McGovern <>
To: birding-aus  <>
Sent: Sun, April 11, 2010 9:20:39 AM
Subject: Sydney Pelagic Trip Report - April 10, 2010


After the two previous exceptional trips in February and March, this day
didn't quite reach the same levels of excitement. However, having said that,
it was an absorbing day on the ocean and, as ever, we saw things that were
new to all of us. The weather and sea conditions were absolutely ideal and
we all set off with the intention of scouring the ocean for a possible New
Zealand Storm-Petrel after the recent sightings off Ulladulla and Port
Stephens. In the event it was indeed storm-petrels that were the highlight
of the day but they were Wilson's rather than New Zealand! At about 15 NM
off Sydney Heads, we came across a band of Wilson's Storm-Petrels that
stretched for as far as the eye could see. Obviously very difficult to count
but the consensus was that in this group, plus those we saw at the shelf and
another group on the return trip, we had seen at least 250 Wilson's
Storm-Petrels and quite possibly a lot more. For the experienced observers
on board, this was a unique experience with perhaps 50 having been the
biggest aggregation previously seen off Sydney. Other avian highlights were
our first Buller's Albatross of the year (does anyone have a theory as to
why this once rare bird off NSW is now almost commonplace?) and a very early
returning Brown Skua. It was a good day too for cetaceans with two groups of
Risso's Dolphins and two groups of Pantropical Spotted Dolphins well
observed - interesting too that there were no Bottlenose or Common Dolphins
seen on the trip.

The weather for the day was excellent with a mixture of sun and some
overcast and air temperatures in the low 20's Celsius. Surprisingly, sea
water temperatures were about 1degC higher than on the February trip ranging
from 20.4degC at the heads up to 22.3degC beyond the shelf break. The
assumption was that the warm east coast current spiral had swung closer to
shore recently which could also account for the lack of Wandering and Shy
Albatross on today's trip. We left Rose Bay at 7.10am and returned at 3.30pm
with sea conditions being quite benign, a 1.5m swell early but settling down
to almost a flat sea by the early afternoon. Despite the calm conditions
there were a couple of mild cases of sea-sickness perhaps due to lack of
preparation by inexperienced sea goers!

A single Little Penguin was seen as we passed through the heads and then for
about fifteen minutes, there were no birds to be seen except for the
ubiquitous Silver Gulls. We commenced laying a berley trail behind the
Halicat with the very smelly fish scraps from the Fish Markets and we quite
quickly attracted a following of Silver Gulls, Wedge-tailed Shearwaters,
Crested Terns and the occasional inquisitive Australasian Gannet. Additional
species put in brief appearances as we motored eastwards including a few
Short-tailed Shearwaters, Sooty Shearwaters, a couple of Fluttering
Shearwaters and a Hutton's Shearwater. A small shearwater that was called as
a Fluttering did raise possibilities that it may have been a Little
Shearwater but it was seen too briefly and at too great a distance to call.
A Black-browed Albatross (race impavida) joined us for a while, as did a
very early returning Brown Skua. At about the 15 mile mark, we encountered
the agglomeration of Wilson's Storm-Petrels referred to earlier in this
report and we drifted the boat and berleyed with all manner of oils and
fishy materials to attract these birds closer to the boat but they remained
steadfastly at some distance down our slick. So, after satisfying ourselves
that there was not a New Zealand Storm-Petrel lurking amongst the mass of
Wilson's, we continued on our way to Brown's Mountain.

As we approached the deeper water at the shelf break, Flesh-footed
Shearwaters became more numerous and a few pterodromas began to show,
primarily Providence Petrels and a few Great-winged Petrels (all gouldi). A
group of three Risso's Dolphins were seen and allowed a fairly close
approach and then as we approached Brown's Mountain, we were joined by a
lovely adult Buller's Albatross which stayed around for quite a while. Our
berley session did not produce large numbers of customers with just two
Black-browed Albatross coming in to the back of the boat and good numbers of
Wilson's Storm-Petrels dancing down the slick. We decided to motor into
deeper water to see what we could find and travelled slowly about 5NM
further east from Brown's Mountain. We found another, larger group of
Risso's Dolphins which entertained us for some time. One individual swam
straight towards the bow of the Halicat to have a look at us and then went
into a fast vertical dive right in front of us - even Steve had not seen
this behaviour from a Risso's before! While we were watching the Risso's, a
small group of three Pantropical Spotted Dolphins joined us looking for a
bow wave ride. No new birds were added to the day's tally during this period
but there were a couple of frustrating long-range sightings including a
possible Kermadec Petrel (white primary shafts were thought to be seen at
great distance) and a distant petrel with very white underparts that could
have been a White-necked Petrel. However, neither was seen well enough to
include on the bird list for the day.

The trip back to Sydney was fairly uneventful although another group of
Pantropical Spotted Dolphins came to ride on our bow wave for a few minutes,
and we came across good numbers of Wilson's Storm-Petrels in the same area
where we had seen them on the way out. So, despite the lack of any major
rarities, I think that everyone on board really enjoyed the day, even those
who suffered from sea-sickness! 

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

Little Penguin            1    (1)
Great-winged Petrel        6    (1)    all gouldi
Providence Petrel            20    (3)
Wedge-tailed Shearwater        80    (25)
Sooty Shearwater            3    (1)
Short-tailed Shearwater        5    (1)
Flesh-footed Shearwater        36    (6)
Fluttering Shearwater        2    (1)
Hutton's Shearwater        1    (1)
Black-browed Albatross        5    (2)    three impavida
Buller's Albatross        1    (1)
Wilson's Storm-Petrel        250    (80)
Australasian Gannet        34    (9)
Brown Skua                1    (1)
Silver Gull                45    (15)
Crested Tern            9    (4)


Risso's Dolphin            33
Pantropical Spotted Dolphin    18

The next Sydney pelagic trip will be on Saturday May 8, 2010 departing
Mosman Ferry Wharf at 6.45am and Rose Bay Public Wharf at 7.00am. Call Hal
on 0411 311 236 to make a reservation.

Roger McGovern

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