Sydney Pelagic Trip Report - August 10, 2014

To: "birding-aus " <>
Subject: Sydney Pelagic Trip Report - August 10, 2014
From: "Roger McGovern" <>
Date: Mon, 11 Aug 2014 14:43:01 +1000



Today's pelagic trip was a very typical winter trip out of Sydney and, with
most of those on a full boat being non-regulars, the good mix of albatross
species made for a very interesting day on the water. Although there were no
rarities seen on the trip, six albatross species, both giant petrels, good
numbers of Brown Skuas and early returning Wedge-tailed Shearwaters and
Short-tailed Shearwaters provided plenty of action on the day. Notable
absentees on the day were Cape Petrels (not seen off Sydney since 2013),
prions of any description and storm petrels.

Weather conditions for the previous few days had been good and the big
swells that had been around up until the day before had largely subsided. We
left the heads in good sea conditions of a metre or less at 7.55am and
arrived at the shelf break at 11.25am. Winds were very light from the north
west on the way out but picked up to 15 - 20 knots from the west while we
were doing the berley drift at Brown's Mountain. Sea water temperature
throughout the day was a fairly constant 17.8degC. We departed the shelf at
12.20pm in quite a stiff westerly but, as we made our way shoreward, the
wind dropped off once again making for a comfortable homeward ride. We
arrived back at Rose Bay at 4.10pm


We departed the heads with a full complement of enthusiastic birders and
immediately encountered a distant small pod of Inshore Bottlenose Dolphins
(seen only by a couple of observers) and an immature Black-browed Albatross
before we had even left the heads. We were berleying with fish offal all the
way out and we soon had a following of Silver Gulls, Greater Crested Terns
and the occasional Australasian Gannet following the vessel. More
albatrosses joined the following throng as we got a little further out with
about equal numbers of Black-browed and Indian Yellow-nosed and a little
later, out first Campbell Albatross of the day. We were soon joined by a
small number of Brown Skuas which seemed particularly hungry and they stayed
with us, on and off, for most of the trip. A couple of groups of
fluttering-type shearwaters were seen by those at the front of the boat (I
was on the berley table at the back and could not assist with the specific
id) and then two Hutton's Shearwaters passed across the back of the boat and
were well seen by most. A couple of immature Shy Albatross added to the
species count, a pod of about 20 Short-beaked Common Dolphins came to join
the boat for a few minutes and a large lounging fur seal was seen at close
quarters although the head was seen only fleetingly indicating a probable
New Zealand Fur Seal based on its quite pointed snout and dark coloration.
As we approached the shelf, we saw our first 'wandering type' albatross, the
gibsoni race of Antipodean Albatross (based on IOC taxonomy) and our first
giant petrel of the day which was positively identified as a Northern Giant
Petrel confirmed by examination of photographs taken. I also picked up a
slightly dark headed and dark eyed Yellow-nosed Albatross just before
arriving at the shelf and we will examine the photographs of this individual
to determine whether it may be an Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross.

In increasingly windy conditions, we started a berley drift and always had
plenty of activity on the slick and around the boat. Several Providence
Petrels were seen although none seemed hungry enough to feed on the berley
and a lovely adult Wandering Albatross (D. exulans) came to feed within
touching distance of the boat providing great photo opportunities. A single
Short-tailed Shearwater was a very unexpected early August visitor and some
observers saw a smallish mako shark close to the boat in our berley trail.
With the wind getting stronger from the west, we set course back towards
Sydney and, although there were always plenty of birds around, we didn't add
to the species list until we entered the harbour. Another pod of
Short-beaked Common Dolphins came to ride on our bow, two or possible three
Humpback whales were seen as we neared the heads (although not closely) and
a second fur seal was also seen just outside the heads. The last sighting of
the day was of a single Little Penguin just inside the heads which made only
the briefest of pauses on the surface and some people did not manage to get
a look at it. Most of those on board had not previously seen many of the
day's bird species and the good numbers and the variety of closely seen
albatross made it a memorable winter pelagic journey.     


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

Little Penguin  1       (1)
Wandering Albatross     1       (1)
Antipodean Albatross    4       (3)  all gibsoni
Black-browed Albatross  25      (18)
Campbell Albatross      3       (2)
Shy Albatross   5       (2)  
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross   30      (20)
Southern Giant Petrel   1       (1)
Northern Giant Petrel   2       (1)
Providence Petrel       10      (3)     
Wedge-tailed Shearwater 4       (3)     
Short-tailed Shearwater 1       (1)
fluttering-type shearwaters     20      (10)    
Hutton's Shearwater     3       (2)
Australasian Gannet     17      (5)
Silver Gull     70      (50)
Greater Crested Tern    20      (6)
Brown Skua      6       (4)


Inshore Bottlenose Dolphin      2
Short-beaked Common Dolphin     25
Humpback Whale  2       
Fur Seal        2
Mako Shark      1

The next Sydney pelagic trip is scheduled for Saturday 13 September
departing Cremorne Point Ferry Wharf at 6.45am and Rose Bay Public Wharf at
Call me at 02 9952 3484 to make a booking. Please try to book well ahead to
assist our planning.

Roger McGovern  

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