Sydney Pelagic Trip Report - March 9, 2013

To: "birding-aus" <>
Subject: Sydney Pelagic Trip Report - March 9, 2013
From: "Roger McGovern" <>
Date: Sun, 10 Mar 2013 08:40:06 +1100

After several days of north to north westerly airstreams and with sea water
temperatures as high as they get off Sydney, there was an expectation that
today would bring some tropical 'goodies' to the waters off Sydney. To a
degree this was the case with two White-tailed Tropicbirds and a White Tern
all seen well but, for the older hands on the Halicat, there was a slight
feeling of disappointment that more northern vagrants did not turn up.
Having said that, the weather was ideal for a pelagic trip and, for those
participants who rarely get out on the ocean, it was a fantastic day on the
Weather conditions were excellent with a partly cloudy sky, very occasional
showers and the air temperature getting up to about 26degC. Surface water
temperatures were very high being 23.9degC at the Heads and rising to
27.2degC at our furthest point of travel beyond the shelf break. Winds were
very light from the north in the morning but increased to 15-18 knots from
the north east early in the afternoon. We departed from Rose Bay at 7.20am
and returned at 3.00pm.


We started the day in a somewhat interesting way with those passengers
waiting for the Halicat at Mosman Wharf hearing the calls of a very
late-staying Channel-billed Cuckoo from across the bay. With the harbour a
complete flat calm, three Little Penguins were seen as we motored over to
Rose Bay. Having collected the remainder of our complement, we set off back
towards Bradleys Head and found two more Little Penguins loafing on the
surface and providing great photo opportunities. We finally set off through
the Heads a little late with about 25 passengers on board and with a
screaming mass of Silver Gulls and the odd Crested Tern following the berley
trail. These harbour birds were soon joined by good numbers of Wedge-tailed
Shearwaters, one or two occasional Short-tailed Shearwaters and increasing
numbers of Flesh-footed Shearwaters. Pomarine Jaegers began to put in
appearance but no Arctic or Long-tailed Jaegers were seen during the entire
trip. A pod of about 12 Short-beaked Common Dolphins put in an appearance
and then an unexpected adult Shy Albatross joined the mass of shearwaters in
the berley trail and stayed with us for several kilometres.

As we approached the shelf break, our first Great-winged Petrel was seen (NZ
race gouldii or 'Grey-faced Petrel') but there were not many pterodromas
seen today. Our first drift at Brown's Mountain brought nothing new for a
while until an early returning Providence Petrel flew by and then Steve
spotted a high flying white bird approaching from the north which turned out
to be an adult White-tailed Tropicbird, a new species for quite a few of
those on board. A pod of about 15 Oceanic Bottlenose Dolphins swam closely
by the Halicat as we drifted, seemingly attracted by the berley trail.

With no new birds showing, we set off on a slow motor eastwards into deeper
water which didn't produce anything new until Steve called another tern-like
bird which he could see some distance away in the middle of a feeding group
of shearwaters. As we motored towards it, we had great views of a White Tern
which was busy diving for fish. With several flying fish seen in this area,
we wondered whether the tern and the shearwaters were feeding on these fish.
We continued motoring east in increasing wind and chop when another call of
'tropicbird' went up. I ran from the berley table to the front of the boat
and there was another White-tailed Tropicbird flying higher than the first
and looking to be an immature bird. We then had one of those quintessential
pelagic birding moments when we hit a large swell and three of us on the bow
were enveloped in a sheet of water. As I stood there saturated and dripping
with fish scraps from the berleying, I just thought this was an amazing
place to be!

We set off home a little early with the seas getting up and no new birds
appearing, but a Hutton's Shearwater flew by while we were still off the
shelf and was seen well by some on board. As we approached the Heads, a
distant Black-browed Albatross was spotted but it did not approach the boat
and views were therefore unsatisfactory. For the first time in memory, we
stopped the boat to have a good look at an Australasian Gannet, the reason
being that there had been two reports of Masked Booby off Sydney in the past
week. However, this bird remained, stubbornly, an Australasian Gannet. The
last sighting of note was a sea turtle at the Heads and presumed to be a
Green Turtle. With only 15 species recorded, it was not one of our most
prolific pelagic trips, but all on board were delighted with the
White-tailed Tropicbirds and the White Tern and it was a great day to be out
on the ocean. 


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

Little Penguin  5       (2)
Shy Albatross   2       (1)
Black-browed Albatross  1       (1)
Great-winged Petrel     8       (2)  all gouldii
Providence Petrel       1       (1)
Wedge-tailed Shearwater 400     (250)
Short-tailed Shearwater 3       (1)
Flesh-footed Shearwater 35      (8)
Hutton's Shearwater     1       (1)
White-tailed Tropicbird 2       (1)
Australasian Gannet     1       (1)
White Tern      1       (1)
Silver Gull     150     (120)
Greater Crested Tern    4       (1)
Pomarine Jaeger 8       (4)                             


Oceanic Bottlenose Dolphin      15      
Short-beaked Common Dolphin     12
Flying fish                             15
Green Sea Turtle                        1

The next Sydney pelagic trip will be on Saturday 13 April, 2013 departing
Mosman Ferry Wharf at 6.45am and Rose Bay Public Wharf at 7.00am. Call Hal
at 0411 311 236 to make a booking.

Roger McGovern  

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