Sydney Pelagic Trip Report - June 8, 2013

To: "birding-aus" <>
Subject: Sydney Pelagic Trip Report - June 8, 2013
From: "Roger McGovern" <>
Date: Tue, 11 Jun 2013 11:28:01 +1000


If you had to write a script for a typical early winter day's birding off
Sydney, then this day would have matched it very closely. The Humpback
Whales were very prominent and easy to find on their northward migration and
most of the winter birds had arrived with the exception of Cape Petrel and
Brown Skua, perhaps because the water temperature was a couple of degrees
higher than is usual for early June. Although there were always large
numbers of birds attracted to the berley around the boat there was only one
unusual sighting, that being an Antarctic Prion quite well seen and possibly
a couple more which were too distant to make a positive identification. The
large numbers of Black-browed Albatross and good numbers of Fairy Prion were
also notable on the day.

After a few days of reasonably calm weather, a southerly came up overnight
on Friday and we were greeted by strong 20knot winds and some seas up around
3 metres as we left the heads and this led to a very slow and quite
uncomfortable ride out to Brown's Mountain. The day was initially overcast
but we reached an area of clear sky out towards the shelf and the air
temperature was about 19degC, although it felt cooler with the wind. Sea
water temperature was 19.7degC at the heads, dropping to 18.4degC at Brown's
Mountain which contrasts with the 17degC temperatures encountered on the
June trip last year. On reaching the shelf, the wind began to ease and
backed around towards the east, making the journey back to Sydney very
comfortable. There were a couple of people who succumbed to sea sickness on
the journey out but they appeared to improve once we reached the shelf
break. We departed from Rose Bay at 7.10am and returned at 3.45pm.


We departed through Sydney Heads with an almost full boat of 28 passengers,
mostly birders but also some folk that wanted to see some migrating whales.
The latter did not have to wait long when, shortly after leaving the heads,
Steve picked up a group of migrating Humpbacks in the very choppy
conditions. As we motored towards them, one animal breached clear of the
water - a truly spectacular sight. Unfortunately that was the last of the
pyrotechnics and, although we tracked the pod of four for some distance, we
saw nothing more except dorsal fins and the occasional tail slap. We then
set course for Brown's Mountain directly into a very sloppy and
uncomfortable sea such that our headway was reduced to 6 or 7 knots. We were
followed out by large numbers of Silver Gulls, the odd Crested Tern, a
couple of Australasian Gannets and very good numbers of Black-browed
Albatross - the only albatross species in evidence for much of the journey
out. A Northern Giant-Petrel joined us, the first of three for the day, a
Hutton's Shearwater was well seen and then several Fluttering Shearwaters
came by. Fairy Prions began to be seen regularly followed by the odd
Short-tailed Shearwater, Shy Albatross and a Southern Giant-Petrel. Those on
the upper deck saw a good sized flying fish gliding for a great distance and
then, as we were nearing Brown's Mountain, we encountered our first
Yellow-nosed Albatross of the day.

It was almost noon by the time we reached Brown's Mountain and we therefore
had less time than usual to drift and berley. However, the birds continued
to show in good numbers with several Campbell Albatross noted, small numbers
of Providence Petrels, our first Antipodean Albatross came in followed over
time by four more (all of them subspecies gibsoni) and Wilson's
Strom-Petrels also arrived in small numbers. During all of this time, there
were plenty of Fairy Prions around the boat when Steve alerted me to a prion
that appeared larger and which had a more erratic flight style with twisting
glides rather than the low, fixed wing flight of the Fairy Prions. Although
it did not make a close approach, there was no doubt that its larger size,
very conspicuous upper wing 'M', narrow terminal band on the tail, and
somewhat bull-headed appearance confirmed this bird as an Antarctic Prion.
Another bird was seen by David a few minutes later that may also have been
this species but it stayed a long way away from the boat. We had a
non-descript shearwater sitting in the berley slick for some time which was
the subject of conjecture as to whether it was a Short-tailed or a Sooty but
its long bill convinced me that it was Sooty even though the underwing
pattern was not conclusive.

Our journey back to Sydney with a following sea was very comfortable but we
didn't add any new bird species to the list. However, we did meet a large
pod of Short-beaked Common Dolphins travelling on the surface very rapidly
towards us from the east. Some of them joined us for a while, riding on the
bow, but they soon left us and continued on their way. As we approached the
heads, we stopped along with several other craft to observe two Humpback
Whales travelling north but, once again, they were not in the mood to put on
an aerial display. Shortly afterwards, Steve saw an Antarctic Minke Whale
surface not far from the boat but, despite all our efforts, it could not be
relocated. Entering the harbour we encountered some Little Penguins bringing
our day to a satisfactory conclusion with a species count of 19.


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

Little Penguin  3       (2)                     
Antipodean Albatross    5       (3) all gibsoni
Black-browed Albatross  42      (30)
Campbell Albatross      4       (2)
Shy Albatross   11      (3)
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross   9       (4)
Southern Giant-Petrel   1       (1)
Northern Giant-Petrel   3       (2)
Antarctic Prion 1       (1)
Fairy Prion     45      (5)
Providence Petrel       5       (2) 
Sooty Shearwater        1       (1)
Short-tailed Shearwater 4       (1)
Fluttering Shearwater   25      (4)
Hutton's Shearwater     3       (2)
Wilson's Storm-Petrel   5       (2)
Australasian Gannet     22      (5)
Silver Gull     250     (200)   
Greater Crested Tern    14      (6)


Short-beaked Common Dolphin     100
Humpback Whale  7
Antarctic Minke Whale   1
Flying fish     1 

2013. The next Sydney pelagic trip will be on Saturday 10 August, 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. Please try to book well ahead to
assist our planning.

Roger McGovern  

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