Eaglehawk Pelagic Trip Report 20/01/2013

To: Birding-Aus <>
Subject: Eaglehawk Pelagic Trip Report 20/01/2013
From: pbrooks <>
Date: Thu, 24 Jan 2013 21:43:43 +1100
Eaglehawk Pelagic Trip Report 20/01/2013
Participants: Rob Hamilton, Jeremy O’Wheel, Michael Livingston, Els Wakefield, 
Hazel Britton, Karen Tie, Jason Jones, Peter Bain, Scott Linnane, Diana 
Womersely, and Paul Brooks (report compiler). Trip organised by James Melville, 
who was not in attendance.
Boat: The Pauletta, skippered by John Males
This trip had to be postponed by a week as a result of road closures enforced 
due to the bushfire situation on the Forestier and Tasman Peninsulas in the 
preceding weeks.  While everyone was excited to finally be getting out, it was 
a sobering experience to drive through some of the affected towns on the way to 
Pirate’s Bay and see the destruction to property and habitat.  We had three new 
trippers on board but nobody succumbed to sea-sickness.
Weather conditions were fairly benign for the whole day.  A south-westerly 
swell varied from 1 up to 3 metres at times but was never close and, with 
almost no sea, was very manageable.  Winds were generally westerly and varied 
between 5-15 knots but usually at the lower end.  There was zero cloud cover 
all day with air temperature up to the high teens.  Our skipper informed us 
that sea temperatures had risen by a few degrees a couple of days prior to the 
trip.  There was some speculation that ash fallout from the fires may have 
created a fertilisation effect, hopefully resulting higher bird numbers.  This 
didn’t seem to be the case, because numbers were not extraordinary.  Then 
again, the birds that were there didn’t seem all that hungry, so perhaps there 
had been abundant food recently.
It was a funny day on the water.  There never seemed to be huge numbers of 
birds around the boat and diversity was usually low at any given point, but 
there were a couple of purple patches that kept us interested.  At the end of 
the day, the species tally was respectable and we had seen some great birds.  
The obvious disappointment was the lack of any Pterodroma petrels.  It was 
encouraging to see Fairy Prions in higher numbers than have been seen here for 
a while. This is probably  the result of greater breeding success on Tasman 
Island since the eradication of feral cats.  The highlight of the day was a 
single Salvin’s Albatross, but good numbers of White-faced Storm-petrel 
throughout the day was notable and three Southern Royals in the slick at once 
was a thrill, especially for the first-timers.
We departed Pirate’s Bay Jetty and headed towards the Hippolytes at around 0700 
hrs.  We circumnavigated both rocks before heading out to the shelf at 0800 
hrs.  Bird activity picked up not long after we entered offshore waters.  Fairy 
Prions became very common and there was an unusual proliferation of White-faced 
Storm-petrels for the duration of the voyage to the drop-off.  After crossing 
the shelf, we pulled up to lay our first berley trail at 0915 hrs in a large 
flock of mainly Shy Albatrosses.  The flock turned out to be following a pod of 
Common Dolphins and quickly moved off to the north, although we managed to 
attract a few birds back when the berley went out.  A range of species began to 
arrive, although none were particularly interested in our offerings, which was 
the case for much of the day.
We drifted until 1000 hrs before deciding to take advantage of the calm 
conditions to head wider out.  This proved to be a mistake, as less and less 
birds were seen until things were basically barren at 7 nm past the shelf.  We 
turned around and headed back to about 3 nm off the shelf.  Here we set another 
slick at 1125 hrs and were pleased to get some better diversity around the 
boat, including Southern Royals, Wanderers and Giant-petrels.  The current here 
was almost non-existent and we drifted not much more than 20 metres in 1 ½ hrs.
We began to motor for home at 1300 hrs (with a detour to check out a report of 
a whale that didn’t show) but stopped over the shelf at 1400 hrs for one last 
drift.  Here we began to see greater numbers of Short-tailed Shearwaters 
heading south in a large band.  Although they had been present for most of the 
day, they were generally in lower numbers then we expected.  Not much other 
action here apart from our first and only definite Sooty Shearwater for the 
day.  Motoring back to home was fairly uneventful and we docked around 1515 hrs.
Mammal Species
Australian Fur Seal: c. 30 Hippolytes, with a few at sea
Common Dolphin: c. 20 First drift
Bird Species
Wandering Albatross: 2 (1) Second drift.  Both most likely gibsoni on plumage 
and size (compared against Southern Royal).
Royal Albatross: 3 (3) Second drift.  All adult epomophora.
Yellow-nosed Albatross: 2 (1) One seen briefly by one observer at the first 
stop, one other bird stayed with us for a while on the second drift.
Black-browed Albatross: 1 (1) One immature at the first drift.  Not 
attributable to race.
Shy Albatross: c. 120 (80) A flock of at least 80 birds (cauta) at the first 
stop was the most we saw at once all day but usually only up to 9 at once.  Two 
immatures.  One adult bird of race salvini joined us on our second drift and 
stayed for a few photos.
Buller’s Albatross: 1 (1) One adult during the second drift.
White-chinned Petrel: c. 30 (17) Omnipresent from the first drift onwards (1 
seen offshore in the morning).
Fairy Prion: c. 100 (1000+) Hundreds of birds offshore and several at each 
drift past the shelf.
Sooty Shearwater: 1 (1) Third drift.
Short-tailed Shearwater: c. 400 (2000+) Present all day but never in the 
numbers expected until the afternoon.
Fluttering-type Shearwater:  1 (1) Flying away from the boat offshore in the 
Wilson’s Storm-petrel: 4 (3) One well offshore in the morning, three in the 
slick on our second drift.
Grey-backed Storm-petrel: 4 (7) One well offshore in the morning and others 
seen during our first and second drifts.
White-faced Storm-petrel: 30+ (5) 13 offshore in the morning, between 2 and 5 
in each slick and several more while motoring between each drift.
Common Diving-petrel: 2 (1) Offshore in the morning.
Little Penguin: 2 (1) Offshore in the morning.
Pacific Gull: 2 (1) 1 adult Cheverton (Little Hippolyte) Rock, 1 adult 
Hippolyte Rock.
Kelp Gull: 300+ (c. 200) Several flying around inshore with the majority 
roosting on the Hippolytes with several juveniles.
Silver Gull: 100+ (c. 70) Several flying around inshore with the majority 
roosting on the Hippolytes.
Crested Tern: 5 Seen by one observer inshore.
Great Cormorant: 2 (1) One at the point at the entrance to Pirate’s Bay, 
another in the bay.
Black-faced Cormorant: 300+ (200) Several flying around inshore with the 
majority roosting on the Hippolytes.
White-faced Heron: 3 (2) on the rock shelf inshore in the morning.
Welcome Swallow: 2 (2) Seen by one observer in the morning.

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