Sydney Pelagic Trip Report - Saturday 10 November, 2012

To: "birding-aus " <>
Subject: Sydney Pelagic Trip Report - Saturday 10 November, 2012
From: "Roger McGovern" <>
Date: Sun, 11 Nov 2012 08:34:07 +1100


After several days of quite benign weather off Sydney, a strong southerly
airstream moved in overnight on Friday and we knew that we would be in for a
very bumpy ride on Saturday. It turned out to be one of those days that
really highlighted the adage that "pelagic birding is wet, miserable,
uncomfortable and sickness-inducing, but somebody has to do it". However, it
also added considerable weight to the old theory that the rougher it is,
then the better it is for birding as we had one of best days on the Halicat
with 26 species recorded. As well as recording most of the expected species
for November, we had many highlights including GOULD'S PETREL, two BLACK
PETRELS, an early Buller's Shearwater, all four skua species (including two
Long-tailed Jaegers and a late Brown Skua), and a Buller's Albatross.

It was a fairly cool and cloudy Sydney summer day although the sun did break
through later in the trip but the temperature did not rise above 20degC and
it felt much colder than that in the strong southerly wind. Sea water
temperatures were in the region of 18.5degC throughout and sea conditions
were very uncomfortable with a 2 metres sea on top of a 1.5 to 2 metre
swell. Interestingly, the worst sea conditions were encountered in the
middle section of the trip in both directions and, when we were drifting off
the shelf break, the conditions were reasonably acceptable. The winds were
around 15 to 20 knots from the SSE all day and there were several cases of
sea sickness on board which was unsurprising under the circumstances. We
departed Rose Bay at 7.10am and arrived back at about 3.00pm.  


We headed out of the harbour with 19 passengers on board from Germany,
Austria, USA, UK and Australia and, for many, it was their first pelagic
experience. David James set up a berley trail as we left the heads and we
were followed by numbers of Silver Gulls which were soon joined by some
Wedge-tailed Shearwaters. It quickly became apparent that the conditions
were going to be very difficult with everyone holding on tight in the heavy
bumps and clouds of spray, so much so that when we saw a Humpback Whale
breach some 500 metres to the south, there was no thought of changing course
into the sea to have a closer look. As we made our way slowly east, we added
Crested Tern, some Short-tailed Shearwaters, the odd Fluttering Shearwater
and our first albatross of the day, an immature Black-browed, to the list.
The upper deck was vacated by everyone except the skipper and myself after a
large wave broke over the deck soaking everybody but, after a brief stop, we
continued on our way to the shelf albeit quite slowly. There were plenty of
birds around as we crossed the abysmal plain and we added Shy Albatross,
several more Black-browed Albatross, a few Australasian Gannets, Arctic
Jaeger and Pomarine Jaeger to the day's tally. A small group of Oceanic
Bottlenose Dolphins came past the boat but did not stay with us.

As we finally approached the shelf break, things quickly began to hot up
with our first Great-winged Petrels putting in an appearance and then, the
first real excitement of the day when a BLACK PETREL came up behind the boat
and then stayed with us for a long while feeding on the berley. In the
difficult conditions, it was decided not to attempt to reach our usual
location of Brown's Mountain (an undersea mount) and we stopped and set up a
berley trail just over the shelf break about 20NM from the heads. The birds
came in to the berley slick in good numbers and variety and we soon added
Cape Petrel, a second BLACK PETREL, a lovely adult Campbell Albatross,
Wilson's Storm-Petrel, Long-tailed Jaeger, Sooty Shearwater, Hutton's
Shearwater and White-faced Storm-Petrel to the list. A late Northern
Giant-Petrel joined the feeding birds on the slick and was then joined by a
second bird.

After drifting for a couple of miles, we motored back up the slick to our
starting point and commenced a second drift. Steve's sharp eyes saw a
Buller's Albatross approaching the boat and, at the same time, a GOULD'S
PETREL appeared on the slick - everyone had good views of both birds but
neither of them stayed around. A young Wandering Albatross (race gibsoni)
arrived and fed around the boat to the delight of those who had this species
high on their wish list - it was to be the only one of the day.
Surprisingly, we did not record a single Providence Petrel which is most
unusual for a November trip.

After a short third drift with no new birds, we decided to start heading
back to Sydney as the wind was certainly not moderating. About 8 miles from
the heads we encountered a large feeding flock of shearwaters and went to
investigate - we had seen this flock on the way out but conditions were too
difficult to make a detour. The flock comprised Wedge-tailed, Fluttering and
Hutton's Shearwaters but also seen were a Sooty Shearwater and an early
Buller's Shearwater, the latter being seen flying directly away and being
missed by quite a few people. A Brown Skua put in a surprise appearance
after I had told someone that it was too late in the year for this species
and, to round things off, we located our first and only Flesh-footed
Shearwater of the trip (and the season so far - problems on the breeding
grounds on Lord Howe Island seem to have affected their numbers). Despite
the difficult conditions, everyone on board had a ripper of a day and went
home with some great memories. 

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

Northern Giant-Petrel           2       (2)
Cape Petrel                             4         (2)  all nominate race
Great-winged Petrel             24        (8)  all race gouldi
GOULD'S PETREL                  1         (1)
BLACK PETREL                    2         (2)
Buller's Shearwater             1         (1)
Wedge-tailed Shearwater         260       (200)
Sooty Shearwater                        3         (1)
Short-tailed Shearwater         160       (50)
Flesh-footed Shearwater         1         (1)
Fluttering Shearwater           15        (6)
Hutton's Shearwater             12        (4)
Wandering Albatross           1       (1)  gibsoni 
Black-browed Albatross          30        (20)
Campbell Albatross              3         (2)
Shy Albatross                   7         (3)  both nominate race cauta and
the NZ race steadi (White-capped Albatross)
Buller's Albatross              1         (1)
Wilson's Storm=Petrel           10        (2)
White-faced Storm-Petrel        2       (2)
Australasian Gannet             9         (5)
Brown Skua                              1       (1)
Arctic Jaeger                   2         (1)
Pomarine Jaeger                 7         (3)
Long-tailed Jaeger              2         (1)
Silver Gull                   150     (100) 
Crested Tern                  3       (1)


Humpback Whale                  1
Oceanic Bottlenose Dolphin      6
Flying fish                             1

The next Sydney pelagic trip will be on Saturday 8 December 2012 departing
Mosman Ferry Wharf at 6.45am and Rose Bay Public Wharf at 7.00am. Call Hal
0411 311 236 to make a booking.

Roger McGovern  

__________ Information from ESET Smart Security, version of virus signature
database 7210 (20120610) __________

The message was checked by ESET Smart Security.

__________ Information from ESET Smart Security, version of virus signature
database 7304 (20120716) __________

The message was checked by ESET Smart Security.


To unsubscribe from this mailing list,
send the message:
(in the body of the message, with no Subject line)

<Prev in Thread] Current Thread [Next in Thread>
  • Sydney Pelagic Trip Report - Saturday 10 November, 2012, Roger McGovern <=

The University of NSW School of Computer and Engineering takes no responsibility for the contents of this archive. It is purely a compilation of material sent by many people to the birding-aus mailing list. It has not been checked for accuracy nor its content verified in any way. If you wish to get material removed from the archive or have other queries about the archive e-mail Andrew Taylor at this address: andrewt@cse.unsw.EDU.AU