Sydney Pelagic Trip Report - September 14, 2013

To: "birding-aus" <>
Subject: Sydney Pelagic Trip Report - September 14, 2013
From: "Roger McGovern" <>
Date: Mon, 16 Sep 2013 13:17:21 +1000


After a mixed bag of weather over the past few days, sea conditions were
quite stirred up for our monthly trip and were not helped by wind conditions
that started as a light to moderate northeaster and which became a strong
southwester by lunchtime. However, we decided to head out despite the
uncomfortable conditions and were rewarded by some magnificent spectacles of
large flocks of shearwaters and albatross along with humpback whales, common
and bottlenose dolphin and even a fur seal. The only rarity of the day was a
SALVIN'S ALBATROSS which was spotted by David James as we laboured out to
the shelf and which then disappeared for a while. It was seen again just
before we left the shelf for home and showed to be a young bird, possibly
second cycle, with a very dark bill and quite smudgy leading edges to the
underwings. David is collecting photographs from participants for the
preparation of a submission to NSW ORAC.

We left the heads in quite lumpy conditions with a 1 metre sea on a 1-2
metre swell and a moderate north east breeze of 10 knots or so. The
conditions remained much the same until we finally reached the shelf break
where we stopped short of Brown's Mountain to berley. Not long after
arriving at the shelf, the wind direction backed to the west and then south
west increasing in strength and causing a deterioration in sea conditions
and we decided to call an early end to the day and head back to Sydney.
Surface sea water temperatures were in the range of 20.2degC inshore up to
20.8degC at the shelf break. We departed from Rose Bay at 7.15am and
returned at 1.15pm


We departed through the heads with 16 passengers on board, mostly locals but
with a couple of overseas visitors. David started the berleying before we
left the harbour and we immediately had throngs of Silver Gulls and a few
Greater Crested Terns following the boat. As soon as we reached open water,
Wedge-tailed Shearwaters joined the fray and, within 30 minutes or so, we
had an immense following of perhaps 1000 hungry wedgies behind the boat. A
few Australasian Gannets began to appear along with flocks of small
shearwaters passing by, mostly Fluttering but with a few Hutton's here and
there. Numbers of albatross following the boat slowly increased, mostly
Black-browed and some Shy (predominately juvenile White-capped form) and one
or two Campbell Albatross. Only a few miles from the heads, we encountered
our first two Humpback Whales of the day and, although the sea conditions
were not conducive to whale watching, most people on board had very good
views of them. A Southern Giant Petrel appeared and stayed with boat for
almost all of the journey out and back again. A group of three Brown Skuas
joined the mass of birds following the Halicat and the first of several
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross made an appearance. A small pod of
Short-beaked Common Dolphins rode on our bow for a while giving some good
photo opportunities and then David picked out a SALVIN'S ALBATROSS among the
large numbers of birds following the boat. It seemed to disappear shortly
after but was relocated just before we headed back to port.

As we approached the shelf break, the first of several Antipodean Albatross
was picked up by Steve's sharp eyes - all of these wandering-type albatross
were of the sub-species gibsoni. Pterodromas started to show in small
numbers, initially only Providence Petrels and then a few Great-winged
Petrels of the New Zealand race gouldi. The first of two Buller's Albatross
arrived and was a life bird for several on board. Just before our early
departure from the shelf after the first berley drift, the only Fairy Prion
of the day was seen - fortunately it approached quite closely giving
everyone a good look at its ID features.

The journey back to Sydney did not bring any more new bird species for the
day, but we saw more Humpback Whales and Short-beaked Common Dolphins along
with an Australian Fur Seal which was pretending to be a dolphin by swimming
with the boat for several minutes. A massive flock of Wedge-tailed
Shearwaters was seen some distance to the north as we approached the heads
and a brief view of a 'sea monster' which promptly disappeared was thought
to be an Oceanic Bottlenose Dolphin. Although the day was curtailed and
several people experienced an uncomfortable journey, it was a day memorable
for the constant throngs of birds around the boat for the entire trip. 


(Note that the numbers in parentheses represent the maximum number of that
species in view at one time)
Antipodean Albatross    7       (3) all gibsoni
Black-browed Albatross  80      (55)    
Campbell Albatross      4       (2)
Shy Albatross   20      (7) mostly juvenile White-capped
SALVIN'S ALBATROSS      1       (1) immature, maybe second cycle

Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross   9       (3)
Buller's Albatross      2       (1)
Southern Giant Petrel   1       (1)
Fairy Prion     1       (1)
Great-winged Petrel     5       (2) all gouldi
Providence Petrel       12      (3) 
Wedge-tailed Shearwater 1500    (1000)
Fluttering Shearwater   200     (40)    
Hutton's Shearwater     12      (2)
Australasian Gannet     55      (25)
Silver Gull     400     (300)   
Greater Crested Tern    28      (10)
Brown Skua      6       (3)


Oceanic Bottlenose Dolphin      1
Short-beaked Common Dolphin     25
Humpback Whale  6
Australian Fur Seal     1 

The next Sydney pelagic trip will be on Saturday 12 October, 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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