To: Sonja Ross <>, Mick Roderick <>
From: Nikolas Haass <>
Date: Sun, 10 Nov 2013 18:52:14 -0800 (PST)
Hi guys,

One interesting personal observation is that during our August/September 
Eaglehawk Neck pelagics (2011, 2012 & 2013) the vast majority of adult Shy 
Albatross had bright yellow bases of the culminicorn, suggesting that they all 
- not surprisingly - were cauta, which breeds 'just around the corner'. 
Interestingly, during our Wollongong and Sydney pelagics in the same season 
(i.e. just one or two weeks before or after the above-mentioned TAS pelagics), 
the majority of adult(ish) Shy-type Albatross did not show this field mark. 
This - together with the tracking data mentioned by Mick 
( - could indicate that most of the 
NSW birds in August/September are steadi. 
An alternative - less likely? - explanation is that only the sexually active 
(hormone levels) Shy Albatross return to TAS and hence are the brightest. So, 
we only get 'dull adult' cauta in NSW?
In favour of the first hypothesis is that from August we also get the 
pristine dark-headed juvenile steadi in NSW (as mentioned by Mick, too).

And yes, it would be great if the Sydney pelagic could continue! Fingers 


Nikolas Haass

Brisbane, QLD

From: Sonja Ross <>
To: Mick Roderick <> 
Cc: birding-aus <>; Roger McGovern 
Sent: Monday, November 11, 2013 12:20 PM

I'll be really interested in comments as well as I moderate the BirdLife
 Photography gallery for correct id so this will be an extra challenge!


On 11/11/2013, at 1:14 PM, Mick Roderick <> wrote:

> Hi Roger,
> Another great report. We were on the wrong side of the weather gods (again) 
> as the Port Stephens trip was planned for Sunday. Alas it became our 8th 
> cancellation for the year due to an unfavourable forecast. We hope that you 
> guys find a boat and that we have better luck with the weather!
> Your comment about the 'Shy-types' is very relevant because under BirdLife 
> Australia's Working List of Australian Birds (see 
> ), White-capped (T. 
> steadi) is split from Shy (T. cauta) as separate species. This is going to 
> make the recording of 'Shy-type Albatrosses' very tricky indeed. 
> There has been some discussion on the topic of 'Shy-type' ID on the SOSSA 
> forum (see 
> ) 
> but mostly the 'Shy-type' discussions there surround possible or purported 
> Salvin's Albatrosses as opposed to separating Shy and White-capped. 
> As far as I understand it (and to wrap it up in a tight nutshell), breeding 
> adult Shy's with yellow at the base of the bill are likely Shy's (i.e.
 T. cauta), but if an adult lacks the yellow at the base of the bill it could 
be either a Shy OR a White-capped. Juveniles are best identified by the time of 
year that the birds are seen, with White-capped fledging later than Shy's (i.e. 
in July/August).
> T. steadi wasn't even recognised at the time that HANZAB Vol 1 went to the 
> printers though there is some discussion of steadi in the Geographical 
> Variation section that is not surprisingly, inconclusive. Onley and Scofield 
> say "Non-breeding, immatures and juveniles of two (sub)species indeterminable 
> at sea."
> And we thought the Wandering and Black-browed types were hard!?! I agree that 
> the hypotheses need to be backed up by research as I've heard conflicting 
> stories on what is what and how to tell them apart. 
> From what I can tell from fisheries and
 radio-tracking data, White-capped is likely to be the more regular one found 
in waters off NSW (at least, north from Wollongong anyway).
> Comments this will be something very relevant when the BirdLife 
> Working List is adopted. 
> Mick 
> On Sunday, 10 November 2013 5:00 PM, Roger McGovern <> 
> wrote:
> The final Sydney pelagic trip of the 'Halicat Era' had extraordinarily
> fortune from the weather gods - had it been scheduled a day earlier or a day
> later, it would not have got out. After a few days of very strong north
> winds, the conditions calmed right down on Friday night and then, the
> southerly buster forecast to hit at lunchtime on Saturday did not arrive
> until we entered the Sydney Heads at about 3.30pm. The last couple of trips,
> and most recently the Sunbird/Wings trip ten days ago had been characterised
> by huge numbers of extremely hungry Short-tailed Shearwaters which were
> prepared to fight the albatrosses for food and, in conjunction, there were
> very few Wedge-tailed Shearwaters at a time when this species should be the
> most numerous off Sydney. Today, normal November service was resumed with
> very good numbers of Wedgies, fewer and less desperate Short-taileds and
> reasonable numbers of Flesh-footed Shearwaters, the latter being our first
> record of the summer. Good numbers of birds were present for the entire trip
> and the species count of 20 meant that a lot of our visitors added some
> species to their life lists. The only minor rarity of the day was Black
> Petrel, with two birds arriving together on our slick and staying to feed
> for quite a while and then another bird was seen about halfway back to
> Sydney.
> Incidentally, with regard to the Sunbird/Wings pelagic on December 1st,
> another era came to an end as it was David Fisher's last visit to Australia
> as the leader of this group since he will be
 retiring in March 2014. I
> mention this as a lot of birding-aus subscribers will know David - he is a
> fine field ornithologist and one of the nicest people you will meet.
> We left the heads in remarkably benign conditions with light winds and a
> swell of 1.0m to 1.5m and no sea on top of that. The conditions remained
> this way for the entire journey to the shelf break but, with the expectation
> of a strong southerly change at lunchtime we made our berley stop about 5NM
> short of Brown's Mountain in anticipation of an early return. As it turned
> out, the three hour trip back was equally comfortable and we were hit with
> very strong south winds just as we entered Sydney Harbour. Surface sea water
> temperatures were in the range of
 20.5degC to 21.0degC for the entire trip.
> We departed from Rose Bay at 7.20am and returned at 4.15pm.
> We left the harbour on the MV Lormar with a full complement of 24 passengers
> with several visiting from overseas and the remainder from around Sydney and
> the Central Coast. While still in the harbour, we encountered our first
> cetaceans of the day with views of the resident pod of Inshore Bottlenose
> Dolphins lounging around near Watson's Bay. David had the berley going
> straightaway and, although we saw a few moribund Short-tailed Shearwaters
> just inside the harbour, it was immediately obvious that the hoards of
> starving birds which descended on us in recent trips were no longer there.
> We
 quickly attracted a following of shearwaters but the Wedge-taileds easily
> outnumbered the Short-taileds. As is usually the case at this time of the
> year, there were fewer Australasian Gannets in evidence and we had a couple
> of Greater Crested Terns follow the boat and a few well seen Hutton's and
> Fluttering Shearwaters pass by. It was not long before we were joined by our
> first albatrosses, immature Black-browed and both juvenile and adult Shy.
> The usual discussions regarding the separation of the NZ White-capped from
> the Tasmanian nominate race took place and I always think that many of our
> hypotheses need to be backed up with a lot more research. A Pomarine Jaeger
> began to follow the boat as did an Arctic Jaeger shortly afterwards thereby
 allowing those on board to study the difference in structure between the two
> species. At about the 10 mile mark, we had a brief visit from a couple of
> Pantropical Spotted Dolphins and, then, a few minutes later a larger pod of
> these cetaceans came to the boat and rode on our bow for a while. Just
> before reaching our berley location, a Common Tern approached the boat for a
> close look at us and quickly disappeared and we then came across the only
> Southern Ocean Sunfish of the day.
> With our concerns for deteriorating weather, we decided to make our berley
> stop about 5NM short of Brown's Mountain, just over the beginning of the
> continental shelf break. With David laying down a good slick, new species
> began to appear on a regular
 basis. The first of these was a handsome adult
> Campbell Albatross which was joined later by two more. David and I were
> wondering why, at this time of the year, all the Black-browed Albatross are
> immature birds and the Campbells are all adults. A very late immature
> Yellow-nosed Albatross was the next new species to appear followed by the
> first of several Wilson's Storm Petrels, a couple of Providence and
> Great-winged Petrels, and the our only Wandering-type Albatross of the day,
> an Antipodean Albatross ssp gibsoni. The principal excitement of the day
> came with the arrival of two Black Petrels which came and fed on the berley
> close to the boat giving great views to everyone. The journey back to Sydney
> did not bring any new species, although a third
 Black Petrel was seen by
> some on board at about 8NM from the heads. We also had our third cetacean
> species of the day when a group of Short-beaked Common Dolphins came by
> close to the boat and kept on going. With the excellent weather conditions,
> the good numbers of birds present and the species count of 20, all on board
> had a great time and we finished off in the harbour with drinks and snacks
> to celebrate the end of an era.
> Although, I had said previously that Hal and I were retiring from organising
> pelagics, we have been re-thinking this position because there is a real
> danger that without the continuity from the Halicat period, it would be very
> difficult for a new organiser to start from scratch. We have tentatively
> identified a boat that might be suitable for pelagic work and we plan to
> meet with the owner in the next few weeks to see what sort of arrangement
> could be made. We are hopeful that we will be in a position to run the next
> pelagic in February 2014 so please put February 8th into your diary with a
> question mark.
> Note that the number in parentheses represents the maximum number of that
> species present at one time)
> Antipodean Albatross    1    (1)  adult gibsoni
> Black-browed Albatross    15    (7)
> Campbell Albatross    3    (3)
> Shy Albatross    10    (5)
 Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross 1    (1)
> Great-winged Petrel    4    (2)
> Providence Petrel    2    (1)
> Black Petrel    3    (2)
> Wedge-tailed Shearwater    360    (200)
> Short-tailed Shearwater    130    (100)
> Flesh-footed Shearwater    20    (10)
> Fluttering Shearwater    11    (2)
> Hutton's Shearwater    14    (3)
> Wilson's Storm Petrel    9    (6)
> Australasian Gannet    3    (1)
> Silver Gull    250    (200)
> Greater Crested Tern    8    (3)
 Common Tern    1    (1)
> Pomarine Skua    3    (2)
> Arctic Jaeger    2    (1)
> Inshore Bottlenose Dolphin    10
> Short-beaked Common Dolphin    25
> Pantropical Spotted Dolphin     20
> Southern Ocean Sunfish    1
> AS stated above, there are no firm plans at the moment for the next Sydney
> pelagic but, hopefully, there will be one scheduled for February 8, 2014.
> Please contact Hal at  or me at 
> if you have any questions.
> Cheers
> Roger McGovern
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