Sydney Pelagic Trip Report - Saturday 12 November 2011

To: "birding-aus " <>
Subject: Sydney Pelagic Trip Report - Saturday 12 November 2011
From: "Roger McGovern" <>
Date: Mon, 14 Nov 2011 16:18:01 +1100




After the great excitement last Friday when we had our first ever Fin Whale
off Sydney, we were absolutely amazed to find two Sei Whales about 5NM off
Sydney Heads with one of them breaching and giving great views and photo
opportunities. (See Raja's great shots on her website at ).On the way back in the afternoon, we
encountered another (or maybe one of the same two) Sei Whale, so there may
have even been three individuals of a species not previously recorded from
the Halicat. There were also a couple of notable birds seen but both were
frustratingly far away and not everyone on board saw them. A distant
Buller's Shearwater was an early arrival for the summer season but was seen
at distance and continued to fly away. A cookilaria petrel was similarly
seen at some distance and continued to fly away from the boat. Raja
miraculously managed to get a couple of shots of this bird (see her website)
and, after a lot of subsequent discussion and research after the trip, the
consensus is that it is a Cook's Petrel despite the apparent large dark
leading edge and the apparent long tail in one of the shots. A total of
nineteen species was recorded for the day which is a better-than-average
tally for November.


Surface water temperatures were still quite cold for the time of year being
generally in the range of 18.0 to 18.5degC but with some narrow warmer bands
where the water temperature got up to 19.5degC. We departed from Rose Bay
ferry wharf at 7.15am and returned at 4.40pm, the later than normal return
caused by watching the Sei Whale on the way home. Sea conditions in the
morning were quite choppy with a small swell but with a north east chop of
up to two metres which made travelling out a little uncomfortable. The wind
started off at about 15 knots from the north east and dropped a little
during the day to around 10 knots from the east. The weather was quite
cloudy in the morning which gave a good quality flat light and the sun
appeared around lunchtime to produce a fine afternoon.



We headed out of the harbour with a complement of 20 on board, comprising a
few overseas visitors and a good number of local birders. Although David
started berleying before leaving the harbour, the birds showed little
interest in our offerings and we were unable to get a critical mass of
shearwaters following the boat out to the continental shelf. There were
plenty of Wedge-tailed Shearwaters evident as we left the heads and set
course for Brown's Mountain but the first excitement came about 4 - 5NM from
the heads when we were approached by a small pod of Common Dolphins and
then, a Rorqual whale was seen on the surface with a slender, fairly erect
dorsal fin and a low blow. After watching the whale for a while, it was
positively identified as a Sei Whale and we then realised that there was a
second Sei Whale present which was distinguishable from the first by its
damaged dorsal fin. This second whale breached twice and the very good views
which were obtained and photographed confirmed the identification. As we
continued through the inshore zone, small groups of Short-tailed Shearwaters
were seen passing through to the south and two Fluttering Shearwaters, a
Sooty Shearwater, a couple of Flesh-footed Shearwaters and a Pomarine Jaeger
kept interest levels high. As we entered the Abysmal Plain, bird numbers
fell off rapidly but a juvenile Black-browed Albatross, a juvenile
Australasian Gannet, a couple more Pomarine Jaegers and an Arctic Jaeger
were added to the count and good-sized parties of Short-tailed Shearwaters
continued to pass by.


As we approached Brown's Mountain, a distant Buller's Shearwater was picked
up by Dion but was seen by very few others on the boat as it disappeared
into the distance. Good views of a passing Hutton's Shearwater were had by
most of those on board. When we reached Brown's Mountain, there were very
few birds evident but a good slick was put out by the Burleymeister and the
birds began to arrive in some numbers. Both Great-winged Petrel (all
gouldii) and Providence Petrels came in to the slick as did two Wandering
Albatross (both gibsoni), Shy Albatross, a superb adult Campbell Island
Black-browed Albatross and a couple of Wilson's Storm-Petrels. After a long
drift, we motored back up the slick for a second drift and this is when the
distant cookilaria petrel was picked up by Rob Hynson and seen by most
people on board albeit at some great distance. The initial diagnosis on the
boat was that it was probably a Black-winged Petrel but subsequent
examination of Raja's photographs raise doubts about this diagnosis and
subsequent discussions have settled on Cook's Petrel as the correct ID.  


We left Brown's and motored to the north east and were delighted to come
across a pod of about 25 pilot whales which approached the Halicat in a very
relaxed manner and allowed close examination of their pectoral fins by those
with polaroid glasses, showing them to be Short-finned Pilot Whales. On the
way back, no new species were seen although a few more Fluttering
Shearwaters put in an appearance. About five miles off the heads, we came
upon an enormous feeding flock of Wedge-tailed Shearwaters obviously
following predatory feeding fish (probably tuna) below and, in amongst these
birds was a whale which again turned out to be a Sei Whale which may or may
not have been one of the individuals that we saw on the way out. We were
also joined by a large pod of more than 100 Short-beaked Common Dolphins
which produced a great spectacle to complete another great day on the water.
Amazingly, no Humpback Whales were recorded on the day!




(Note that the numbers in parentheses represent the maximum number of that
species in view at one time)



Great-winged Petrel           20      (6)

Providence Petrel             10      (2)

COOK'S PETREL                 1       (1)

BULLER'S SHEARWATER           1       (1)

Sooty Shearwater              3       (1)

Short-tailed Shearwater       1500    (400)

Wedge-tailed Shearwater       2000    (1500)

Flesh-footed Shearwater       6       (1)

Fluttering Shearwater         4       (2)

Hutton's Shearwater           3       (1)

Wandering Albatross           2       (2)   both gibsoni

Black-browed Albatross        4       (2)   one impavida

Shy Albatross                 8       (6)

Wilson's Storm-Petrel         3       (1)

Australasian Gannet           2       (1)

Arctic Jaeger                 1       (1)

Pomarine Jaeger               6       (2)

Silver Gull                   80      (20)

Crested Tern                  3       (1)




SEI WHALE                     2 (possibly three)

Short-finned Pilot Whale      25

Short-beaked Common Dolphin   110

Flying fish                   4


The next Sydney pelagic trip will be on Saturday 10 December 2011 departing
Mosman Ferry Wharf at 6.45am and Rose Bay Ferry Wharf at 7.00am. Call Hal at

0411 311 236 to make a booking.



Roger McGovern  











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