Port Stephens Pelagic Trip Report Sun 23rd June 2013

To: Birding Aus <>
Subject: Port Stephens Pelagic Trip Report Sun 23rd June 2013
From: Mick Roderick <>
Date: Fri, 28 Jun 2013 05:46:11 -0700 (PDT)
Stephens Pelagic Trip Report – Sun 23rd June 2013 
M.V. Argonaut, skippered by Ray Horsefield
Stuart, Jean Tucker, Greg and Judy Little, Jim Smart, Steve Edwards, Bronwyn
Ellis, Allan Richardson, Ann Lindsey, Dan Williams, Michael Kearns, Lorna Mee, 
Jenkin and Mick Roderick (organiser). 
an(other) impending East Coast Low bearing down on the NSW coastline and news
forecasts that were heralding a virtual apocalypse the skipper was somewhat
apprehensive about the journey to the shelf. The forecast was for light winds
on a moderate swell, but it was the predicted 150-200mm of rain on the BOM
website that had him worried. As it turned out, we were extremely lucky and it
seemed that the bulk of the rain that did fall was on land, though we skirted a
very dark storm front situated off Seal Rocks. Swell was 2 to 2.5m, settling
down somewhat in the afternoon, whilst the winds were out of the sou-east at a
reasonably stiff 15 knots, creating a pretty good chop. Water temp at the shelf
was approximately 19 degrees. 
was a trip with a few highlights and was easily the best winter pelagic that we
have run out of Port Stephens in this ‘round’ of organised trips (since 2010). 
species of seabird were recorded and a total of 22 bird species outside of the
heads. The number of attendant albatross was a definite highlight and having at
least 3 Buller’s Albatross was good for Port Stephens. We also had sightings of
the Hunter’s first Antarctic Prion since 2000 and the first Slender-billed
Prion since 2002. A Black-bellied Storm-petrel was also nice to see, even if it
did keep fairly wide of the boat.  
Nelson Bay Public Wharf at 0720 returning at 1635.
a false start and a quick return to the public wharf to fetch our last
passenger we set off in quite comfortable conditions – gentle offshore breeze
into a moderate but widely-spaced swell amongst a cloudy sky, but far from the
rainy conditions that we had all driven through on our way to Nelson Bay
earlier. The first Fairy Prion and Black-browed Albatross were encountered
before we’d even made the ocean proper, setting the scene for the day. Normally
I don’t start throwing the berley out til we at least clear Boondelbah Island,
but with a number of albatross showing interest in the boat, I started only a
mile or so from the heads. From this point onwards we were constantly followed
by most Black-browed, but also Shy and Yellow-nosed Albatross. There seemed to
be high proportion of adult Black-broweds too. 
Brown Skua joined in just before the arrival of the first Buller’s Albatross. 
species is (or has been) scarce in these waters and always gets the camera
shutters going mad. The remainder of the journey to the shelf break was a
matter of having many albatross following the boat and motoring through
occasional groups of Fairy Prions, the odd Fluttering Shearwater and a distant
look at the day’s only Wandering Albatross. Once at the shelf itself (-32 56 8 /
152 33 26), it wasn’t long before we had our first Wilson’s Storm-petrels and a
Solander’s Petrel. It was such a relief for me to see the Solander’s as we have
had 3 pelagics this year that have been ‘petrel-less’. Many gannets were also
at the shelf, with two separate flocks of about 30 feeding birds each (with 
below) seen out wide. 
Northern Giant Petrel had honed in on us and before long some Fairy Prions
settled in to feed near the rear of the boat. After about 10 minutes on the
drift Al Richo and I had noticed a prion that appeared bulkier and darker
around the side of the head but had lost it amongst the Fairy’s. Moments later
Dan Williams called a pale-backed bird and once we got a good view of the tail
we confirmed it as a Slender-billed Prion. While people were getting onto the
Slender-billed the bulkier bird came back into view and we called “Antarctic
Prion”, giving us 3 prion species for a brief time (neither of the non-Fairy’s
hung round for long). These are the first Slender-billed and Antarctic Prions
for pelagics run off the Hunter coastline for many years (since 2002 and 2000
20 minutes passed before a Black-bellied Storm-petrel came in, unfortunately 
making one pass of the port side at a moderate distance. With the drift
unusually taking us north, we had drifted back inside the shelf, so we changed
our position back over the edge and it wasn’t long before we once again had a
Slender-billed Prion at the boat. This was followed by a Cape Petrel and the
first of two Great-winged Petrels. This Cape Petrel was ravenous and from
communications with others is likely to be the only Cape Petrel seen on a NSW 
so far this year. 
the day belonged to the albatross and for the entire journey back to port we
were accompanied by a throng of these magnificent birds. A second Northern
Giant-Petrel was seen briefly about 2/3 of the way back in and the
now-customary welcoming committee of Sea-eagles came to greet us near Tomaree
(but did not pick on anything on this occasion). We were surprised to have not 
even a hint of a whale all day and the only Cetaceans were two fleeting
glimpses of an unidentified dolphin at the shelf. 
absolutely cracking winter’s pelagic with a constant attendance of albatrosses
and 3 prion species to keep us on our toes.
Total (maximum number visible from the boat at one time)
Storm-Petrel: 15 (6)
Storm-Petrel: 1
Albatross: 50 (30) - at least 5x impavida
Albatross: 11 (3)
Albatross: 9 (3)
Albatross: 3 (2)
Albatross: 1 
Giant-Petrel: 2 (1)
Petrel: 1
Prion: 150 (25)
Prion: 1 (poss. 2?)
Prion: 1 
Shearwater: 4 (1)
Shearwater: 2 (1)
Petrel: 2 (1) - at least one gouldi
Petrel: 2 (1) 
Gannet: 200 (70)
Skua: 1
Tern: 12 (8)
Gull: 40 (30)
Sea-Eagle: 3 (2)
Oystercatcher: 1
Cormorant: 1
dolphin sp: 2 

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