Port Stephens Pelagic Trip Report - Sun 10th October 2010

To: Birding Aus <>
Subject: Port Stephens Pelagic Trip Report - Sun 10th October 2010
From: Mick Roderick <>
Date: Mon, 11 Oct 2010 01:45:26 -0700 (PDT)
Port Stephens Pelagic Trip Report - Sun 10th October 2010
Boat: M.V.Argonaut, skippered by Ray Horsefield
Michael Kearns, Dan Mantle, Kristy Peters, Ann Lindsey, Dick Jenkin, Craig 
Alan Morris, Tim Morris, Mike Kuhl, Allan Richardson, Mike Newman, Alan Stuart, 
Steve Roderick and Mick Roderick (leader and organiser). 

A stiff east-sou-east wind greeted us at the heads and despite the meagre swell 
the windy conditions made for a very wet trip to the shelf as we punched into 
the choppy sea. Fortunately there were no sea-sick casualties though most 
punters were pleased to arrive at the shelf break to get a good chance to dry 
off a bit. Water temperature was about 19 degrees at the shelf. 

A great pelagic with a good variety of birds; some in good numbers. 23 species 
were recorded outside of the heads, the highlights being 2 Black Petrels, a 
White-headed Petrel, 6 Black-bellied Storm-petrels and the sheer spectacle of 
the Short-tailed Shearwater migration. A Little Tern was an interesting 
at sea and witnessing a White-bellied Sea-eagle take a Short-tailed Shearwater 
was a sight you don't see every day. 

DepartedNelson Bay Public Wharfat 0700, returning at 1640.
Having read Roger McGovern’s post to Birdline the night before (re: 2 Little 
Shearwaters but which also mentioned the Short-tailed Shearwater migration), 
anticipation for today went sky-high. Persistent on-shore winds combined with 
migrating birds was a good recipe for a great day at sea. Within minutes of 
leaving the heads we could see the streams of Short-taileds flying southwards 
(albeit through quite a lot of spray as we forged our way into the chop). These 
birds were seen in continuous streams of groups of several hundred and 
estimating their numbers is very difficult. 

After beginning to berley we were followed only by a few Wedge-tailed 
Shearwaters before a pair of young Wandering Albatross was seen to the south. A 
Little Tern was also seen flying south over the wake. Soon after, about 10 
from the heads, a White-headed Petrel joined the frey and to the delight of all 
on-board, followed the boat for about 15 minutes, dropping to the water to feed 
and giving several very obliging passes of the stern. This was followed soon 
after by 2 or 3 Wilson’s Storm-petrels. Seeing birds like these so far from the 
shelf boded well. 

The first Great-winged Petrels showed not far from the shelf break and a 
Cookilaria got away from us without any hope of an ID. Once at the shelf it was 
clear that there was a hive of activity waiting. Before the engines were even 
cut we had our first Black-bellied Storm-petrel beside the boat. Setting up a 
drift at 32 55 18 / 152 34 59 things heated up very quickly. Within the first 5 
minutes after we stopped we had 3 species of Storm-petrel (a White-faced had 
joined the Black-bellied and small group of Wilson’s), two Black Petrels and 
first Solander’s Petrel. Great-winged Petrels soon outnumbered Wedgies at the 
rear of the boat as the hordes of Short-taileds passed-by. I cast my mind back 
to the trip reports I’d read about the Wollongong pelagics in October 1996 when 
the Mottled Petrels moved through close to the coast. I was quickly awoken from 
my daydream by a Long-tailed Jaeger, a Cape Petrel, numerous more Wilson’s and 
few more Black-bellied Stormies. As a Yellow-nosed Albatross circled the boat 
the place was a-buzz and it was difficult to decide where to focus the bins as 
there were literally birds everywhere you looked.
Unfortunately things did plane-out after this initial flurry and even more 
unfortunate was 2 more “misses” on Cookilarias passing by. The only bird that 
was seen reasonably well appeared to be obviously pale-headed, thus ruling out 
Gould's and opening up some other possibilities that will only remain as such. 

We started our comfortable journey back to port with a peak count of 13 
Wanderers at the rear of the boat. Just over half-way back to port we were 
joined by our first Flesh-footed Shearwaters for the day, which soon swelled to 
about 40 birds. A lone Hutton’s Shearwater was the only other tubenose addition 
to the list. Not far from the heads the numbers of Shearwaters had dwindled, 
this didn’t deter a White-bellied Sea-eagle from swooping at speed onto a small 
group of birds about 100m behind the boat. The raptor was successful in taking 
Short-tailed Shearwater and it triumphantly flew back to shore with its catch. 
Another one flew out soon after to investigate the menu but didn’t attempt a 

A fantastic day at sea. 
Mick Roderick
Species: Total (maximum number around the boat at one time)
White-faced Storm-petrel: 7 (3)
Wilson’s Storm-petrel: 150 (40)
Black-bellied Storm-petrel: 6 (4)
Yellow-nosed Albatross: 1
Shy Albatross: 1
Wandering Albatross: 20 (13) 
Hutton’s Shearwater: 1
Fluttering-type Shearwater: 4 (1)
Wedge-tailed Shearwater: 150 (40)
Flesh-footed Shearwater: 40 (40)
Short-tailed Shearwater: ?up to 10000 (500)
Cape Petrel: 5 (2)
Solanders (Providence) Petrel: 4 (1)
Great-winged (Grey-faced) Petrel: 25 (8)
Cookilaria-type Petrel (Pterodroma spp.): 3 (1)
Little Penguin: 1
Australasian Gannet: 6 (1)
White-bellied Sea-eagle: 2 (1)
Crested Tern: 5 (2)
Little Tern: 1
Long-tailed Jaeger: 3 (2) 
Brown Skua: 1
Silver Gull: 10 (5)
Humpback Whale: 1

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