Port Stephens Pelagic Trip Report 24-06-2012 (incl. possible Atlantic Ye

To: Birding Aus <>
Subject: Port Stephens Pelagic Trip Report 24-06-2012 (incl. possible Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross)
From: Mick Roderick <>
Date: Thu, 28 Jun 2012 22:40:06 -0700 (PDT)
Port Stephens Pelagic Trip Report – Sun 24th June 2012 
Boat: M.V.Argonaut, skippered by Ray Horsefield
Adam Fawcett, Angus Adair, Michael Kearns, Allan Richardson, Eric Sohn Tan, Ann 
Lindsey, Julia Perry, Lorna Mee, Jim Smart, Alan Stuart, Dick Jenkin, Steve 
Roderick and Mick Roderick (organiser). 
A pretty comfortable day at sea with the westerly winds swinging somewhat to 
the south during the day, allowing us to return to port without punching 
directly into a westerly onslaught. Generally it never got over 15 knots and 
there was little swell to talk of. There was some hope of seeing some ‘southern 
species’ given the cold airstream that had pushed up the east coast over the 
past few days. 
The numbers of Albatross around the boat provided plenty of visual spectacles 
for the punters on board and we recorded our second trip with Buller’s 
Albatross present, with 2 individuals seen. I wonder if, like Sydney and 
Wollongong, this species becomes one of the ‘usual’ Albatross species seen in 
winter months. There were also a couple of “interesting” birds in the form of a 
‘dark-headed’ Yellow-nosed Albatross and a skua that appeared to be 
superficially like a South Polar, but for which identification is still pending 
(if it happens at all). 
Departed Nelson Bay Public Wharf at 0710, returning at 1705.
Rounding Boondelbah Island we saw our first Fluttering Shearwater and soon 
after, some feeding flocks of Gannets could be seen ahead of us. By the time we 
got to these birds we noticed the occasional (predominantly Yellow-nosed) 
flying about. One Yellow-nosed with an unusually ‘dark head’ was briefly picked 
up but frustratingly disappeared. The albatross followed our boat to the shelf 
and this was to set the scene for the rest of the day. The Alby’s were like 
Shearwaters in summer – dozens of birds behind the boat. Two very distant 
petrels were seen on the way out, along with a Brown Skua and probably the 
boat’s favourite bird of the day in the form of an adult Buller’s Albatross. 
About fifteen miles out to sea a flock of 43 Silver Gulls materialised and were 
to accompany us for the remainder of the day.  
Once at the shelf (32 55.182 / 152 35.15) a single Sooty Shearwater did laps of 
the boat and eventually fed in the slick. There was some debate over its 
identity but eventually it was agreed that it had to be a Sooty. The 
‘dark-headed’ Yellow-nosed Alby made a brief return (assuming it was the same 
bird seen on the way out), but once again after it was called it disappeared in 
front of the bow, presumably leaving the boat altogether, as it wasn’t seen 
again. The only images I have been able to source of this bird are my own, 
which can be seen at the link below. Thus far the feedback I have had is that 
it could be a good candidate for an Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross, but that 
with these images being the only ones available it is very tough to call. I 
would be very keen to hear from anyone with good experience of both 
(sub)species. Incidentally, I wasn't being pre-emptive with the subject of the 
email; I figured it might attract some readers to
 flick through and have a look at the images.
Another identification “problem child” came into the rear of the boat not long 
after setting up the drift. A second Brown Skua flew up the slick and a few 
comments were made about it appearing pale, but generally it didn’t seem 
obviously different to our first bird, and most assumed it was the same bird. 
However, it is definitely an interesting bird given its general paleness, very 
pale lores / nuchal collar and really dark underwing coverts, all features that 
fit an (darkish) intermediate South Polar Skua. The bill also does not look 
definitive, but doesn’t (to my eye anyway) appear as large as a typical Brown’s 
bill. Some very experienced sea-birders cannot assign the bird to either 
species and one very experienced person has even suggested it could be a 
hybrid! To see some images, go to the link below (and please, comments very 
A couple of Wilson’s and a single White-faced Storm-Petrel joined the fray, 
along with one or two Fairy Prions and three Cape Petrels. The Pterodroma 
action was very slow with only brief and few passes from Solander’s Petrels. 
But the day belonged to the albatrosses and soon a second Buller’s joined the 
Yellow-nosed, Black-brows and occasional Shy. 
The trip back to port was really just a journey for the birds that had been 
with us out at the shelf, with a few more albatross (most notably a few 
juvenile Shy’s) joining us, as well as a couple of Sea-Eagles close to port.
Mick Roderick
Species: Total (maximum number visible from the boat at one time)
Wilson’s Storm-petrel: 2 (1)

White-faced Storm-petrel: 1

Fluttering Shearwater: 2 (1)

Fluttering-type Shearwater: 5 (2)

Sooty Shearwater: 1

Fairy Prion: 5 (2)

Yellow-nosed Albatross: 35 (18) (incl. one possible Atlantic YNA)

Black-browed Albatross: 12 (6)

Shy Albatross: 7 (4)

Buller’s Albatross: 2 (1)

Northern Giant Petrel: 1

Solander’s Petrel: 6 (1)

Cape Petrel: 3 (3)

Australasian Gannet: 150 (60)

Crested Tern: 25 (20)

Brown Skua: 1 

Brown / South Polar Skua??: 1

Silver Gull: 70 (43)

White-bellied Sea-Eagle: 2 (2)

Short-beaked Common Dolphin

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