Hillarys (Perth) Pelagic Trip Report - 4th August 2013

To: "" <>, Birding-Aus <>, "" <>
Subject: Hillarys (Perth) Pelagic Trip Report - 4th August 2013
From: John Graff <>
Date: Wed, 7 Aug 2013 22:14:15 +0800
Hi all,
See below for the trip report from last Sunday's Hillarys pelagic. Most notable 
sighting was the high number of Soft-plumaged Petrels, including a dark bird. A 
characteristic Snares Cape Petrel was also of interest.
The full report with some photos is also available online at
Participants: Alan Collins (Organiser), John Graff (Organiser), Sue Abbotts, 
Ben Allen, Steve Burns, Wes Cooper, Cheryl Davis, Alison Gye, William Gye, 
Murray Hennessy, Mark Henryon, John Litherland, Josan Moss, Clive Nealon, Simon 
Nevill, Diego Pitzalis, Jill Rowbottom, Georgina Steytler 
Conditions: Winds were forecast to be north-westerly at less than 10knts during 
the morning increasing to 15-20knt as the day progressed. Seas were forecast up 
to 2m, with a swell of 1m. Conditions on the day were roughly as forecast. Sea 
temperatures were in the range of 20-21oC
Report: This trip produced a fairly standard variety of species, however 
overall numbers were low, with the notable exception of Soft-plumaged Petrels. 
The low numbers of Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross was a surprise for this time 
of year, and the complete absence of Hutton’s Shearwater even more so as August 
is generally the peak passage time for the species off the south-west coasts 
(they had been recorded on all ten previous Hillarys Pelagics in August).
There were early issues when the deckhand failed to turn up, and it wasn’t 
until 0800 that we were able to board the boat and set off. A couple of Pacific 
Gulls were seen around the harbour during the wait. Conditions were calm 
inshore and apart from a few coastal species near the harbour, things were 
extremely quiet until we passed west of the west end of Rottnest. The only 
birds seen on the way out up until that point were an Australasian Gannet and a 
group of Crested Terns (all at the same time). As we continued west of 
Rottnest, a Little Shearwater off the port side, followed a short while later 
by a second, more distant individual. Unfortunately as usual, they quickly 
continued on their way and only a few people saw either bird. Shortly 
afterwards, the first White-faced Storm-Petrel was seen, followed by several 
Soft-plumaged Petrels. We finally saw a single Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross – 
their absence until that point was surprising as the first birds are usually 
seen as we reach the Rottnest line along. More Soft-plumaged Petrels and a 
second Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross were the only further birds seen before we 
stopped the boat in 400m of water and deployed the chum mix, though two 
Humpback Whales were seen relatively close off the stern.
A few Soft-plumaged Petrels arrived shortly after the chum hit the water, 
followed by a single Wilson’s Storm-Petrel, then a White-faced Storm-Petrel. 
However, overall activity was low and bird numbers built very slowly. The first 
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross arrived, with numbers subsequently building to 
five – a particularly low number for this time of year – and was followed by 
the first Great-winged Petrel. We had drifted east a little, and repositioned 
near the start of the slick. The same species remained in attendance, but were 
joined by a Cape Petrel. This bird was an interesting individual as the 
relatively limited amount of white in the upperwing strongly indicated this 
bird represented the subspecies australe (Snares Cape Petrel), which breeds on 
New Zealand subantarctic islands. This subspecies is substantially less common 
than the nominate capense, estimated to make up less than 5% of the overall 
Cape Petrel population (see Shirihai The Complete Guide to Antarctic Wildlife). 
Indeed, it is reportedly often less common than the nominate race even in 
coastal New Zealand waters in the breeding season (see Onley & Scofield 
Albatrosses, Petrels & Shearwaters of the World). 
The same species remained around the boat, with all being present in low 
numbers except for Soft-plumaged Petrel which continued to be the most common 
species in evidence. As a result, it was no surprise when a dark morph 
Soft-plumaged Petrel (or dark intermediate morph, depending on your definition 
of the morphs in Soft-plumaged Petrel!) appeared. Intermediate and dark morph 
individuals are rarely seen in general (extremely rarely in the case of true 
intermediate birds), however they appear to be more common in the eastern 
Indian Ocean, including off the WA coast. Next up was a distant giant-petrel 
which was called off the starboard side. Fortunately it was drawn to the chum 
and approached the boat, landing in the slick near the boat. This allowed us to 
confirm its identity as a Southern Giant-Petrel – a very young bird only just 
beginning to show the diagnostic green bill tip.
Shortly afterwards, we moved south along the 400m contour for 20 minutes 
searching for more birds. However, the bird action remained quiet – similar 
species were recorded at this new stop, with Soft-plumaged Petrels again the 
most common species. Another Cape Petrel appeared, this one with more 
intermediate amount of white in the upperwing. However, nothing new appeared 
and we had to turn for home. Shortly after we started moving, a Brown Skua 
appeared in the wake, the first for the day. Aside from that, the return 
journey produced nothing new, though another Brown Skua was seen closer to 
shore, and Soft-plumaged Petrels continued to be the most common species until 
we passed Rottnest. More Australasian Gannets were also in evidence on the 
return, and a few people saw a couple of distant Little Shearwater. The 
highlight was probably a mother and calf Humpback Whale seen tail-slapping 
north of Rottnest – several other Humpbacks were also seen distantly during the 
return journey. We docked at around 1615, picking up another Pacific Gull as we 
entered the harbour.
Many thanks, as always, to all the participants who make these trips possible. 
Thanks also go to the skipper for his efforts throughout the trip. No thanks 
though to the unknown deckhand who failed to show!
Species List [Total Count (Maximum no. seen at one time)] 
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross 12 (5)
Southern Giant-Petrel 1 (1)
Cape Petrel 2 (1) – 1 probable race australe (NZ subspecies)
Great-winged Petrel 7 (1)
Soft-plumaged Petrel 70 (12) – 1 dark (or dark intermediate) morph
Little Shearwater 4 (1)
Wilson's Storm Petrel 4 (1)
White-faced Storm Petrel 9 (3)
Brown Skua 2 (1)
Australasian Gannet 15 (6) 
Crested Tern 16 (8)

Humpback Whale 9 (2)
In harbour (not complete list!)
Pacific Gull 3 (1) 


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