To: "birding-aus " <>
From: "Roger McGovern" <>
Date: Sun, 12 Apr 2015 16:41:33 +1000

After last month?s trip when we had a record breaking 42 passengers on
board, this month was very different with only a disappointing number of 13
enthusiastic birders heading out on the MV Avalon. However, all those who
were on the boat today agreed that it was one of the best Sydney pelagics in
a long time. This was not only because of the number of rarities (although
there were a couple of good ones) but also because we had good numbers of
birds around the boat for the entire trip and the weather conditions were
absolutely perfect. There had been very strong southerlies blowing for the
past few day with seas up to 5 or 6 metres but it settled down during the
course of Friday and we went out in light winds to encounter a lot of very
hungry birds. There were many highlights on the day and the main rarities
seen were a beautiful GREY TERNLET which flew around the boat at very close
quarters for several minutes and a WHITE-CHINNED PETREL which came in and
fed on our berley right next to the boat. The diversity (six species) and
number of albatross was notable particularly for an April trip, good numbers
of Wilson?s Storm Petrel was also a feature of the day and the overall
species count of 20 was very good. To finish off the trip in grand style,
the South Island Pied Oystercatcher which has been in Sydney Harbour for
several weeks was rediscovered on the rocks of Shark Island and was
photographed together with a Pied Oystercatcher and a Sooty Oystercatcher in
the same shot ? with only eleven oystercatcher species in the world, it is
likely that this was the first ever photograph of three oystercatcher
species together.

We departed Sydney Heads in misty rain at 7.25am and headed out towards
Brown?s Mountain in seas of 0.5m on top of a 1.5 to 2.0m swell ? very
comfortable conditions for the Avalon which is an excellent sea keeping
boat. There were light winds of less than 10 knots from the south and,
within about 30 minutes or so, the rain stopped and the skies cleared to a
lovely sunny autumn day. We arrived at Brown?s Mountain at around 9.45am and
drifted for some time with a good berley slick and then did a slow motor
into deeper water to the east, stopping again for another drift. We departed
the shelf at around 12.45pm and arrived back at Rose Bay at 3.30pm after an
extended look at the oystercatchers on Shark Island. Water temperature
during the trip was around 21.5degC and with the benign sea conditions there
were no cases of sea sickness on board.

We departed from Rose Bay at 7.10am and spent a few minutes searching
unsuccessfully for the South Island Pied Oystercatcher on the shores of
Shark Island. The weather was dull and drizzly as we went out through the
Heads and the following Silver Gulls were soon joined behind our berley
trail by several Wedge-tailed Shearwaters, and the odd juvenile and mature
Australasian Gannet and Greater Crested Tern flew past. The weather quickly
improved to a pleasant sunny day and two Pomarine Jaegers were seen before
the first of many Black-browed Albatross and Shy Albatross (all of the NZ
ssp steadi) joined the feeding flock behind the boat. Surprisingly, there
were no Hutton?s or Fluttering Shearwaters in their usual inshore habitat
but Flesh-footed Shearwaters put in an early appearance and albatross
numbers continued to increase. There were brief views of Short-tailed
Shearwaters passing by, and then the first Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross of
the day joined our berley trail followed shortly by a beautiful Buller?s
Albatross. All the birds appeared extremely hungry and, once they had joined
the berley trail, they generally stayed with the boat for a long time. Our
only cetaceans of the day were a pod of about 30 Pantropical Spotted
Dolphins which were too busy hunting to come and ride on our bow wave. As we
began to get closer to Brown?s Mountain, the first of many Wilson?s Storm
Petrels put in an appearance and a lovely adult Campbell Albatross, which
stayed with the boat until we were well on our way back to Sydney, was a
lifer for several people on board. We started our berley drift at Brown?s
Mountain and were soon seeing a few Providence Petrels, two more Buller?s
Albatross, and an Antipodean Albatross (ssp gibsoni) along with a large
throng of Black-browed, Shy, Yellow-nosed Albatross and the lone Campbell
Albatross. A distant prion had been seen earlier ? too far away to identify,
but another (or perhaps the same?) bird appeared at closer range and was
identified as a Fairy Prion.

With no new species appearing for a while, we decided to take a slow motor
eastwards into deeper water and, as we went up our slick, we came across a
flock of around 30 Wilson?s Storm Petrels, one of the larger aggregations
that we have seen for a while. After travelling about 4NM there was great
excitement as a GREY TERNLET  was sighted coming close to the boat. All of
my Grey Ternlet sightings off Sydney previously (perhaps six in the last 20
years) have involved fairly distant birds and brief sights but this bird
delighted everyone by flying around the boat several times at close range
giving magnificent views and photographic opportunities. While we watching
the Grey Ternlet, a Procellaria flew in which was soon revealed to be a
WHITE-CHINNED PETREL when the bill structure and colour was clearly seen.
This bird was also very obliging in that it settled on the water next to the
boat to feed which gave everyone the chance to examine its structural
details. Although no Great ?winged Petrels had been seen at Brown?s, several
came in to the boat and fed at this deeper water location, a phenomenon that
we have noted on some previous trips.

The trip back to Sydney was marked with flocks of birds following the boat
but with no new species appearing until, about 5NM off the heads, a dark
morph Arctic Jaeger was seen at some height harassing some Silver Gulls
becoming our 20th species for the day. Only one fluttering-type shearwater
was seen on the way in but was too distant to call as to species. For some
on board, the real highlight of the day occurred as we again motored slowly
past Shark Island looking for the elusive SIPO. As we approached the
southern tip of the island, three oystercatchers were seen on the rocks and,
as we got closer they revealed themselves to be the South Island Pied
Oystercatcher, a Pied Oystercatcher and a Sooty Oystercatcher all close
enough to each other to be captured in a single photograph! There was great
jubilation amongst the group particularly by some who had previously
searched unsuccessfully for the SIPO and for whom it was a life bird! It was
a great finish to a terrific day on the water and it was a pity that more
birders were not there for the experience!

Our thanks to the crew of the Avalon (George and Eddie) for their help and
interest during the trip ? we will be using this boat for our trips this
year until at least October. 

(note that the numbers in parentheses represent the approximate number of
that species in view at any one time)

Antipodean Albatross            1       (1) subspecies gibsoni
Black-browed Albatross          38      (28)
Campbell Albatross              1       (1)
Shy Albatross                   11    (4) all ssp steadi or ?White-capped
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross 10        (4)
Buller?s Albatross              3       (2)
Fairy Prion                     1       (1)
Great-winged Petrel             6       (2) all ssp gouldi
Providence Petrel               8       (2)
WHITE-CHINNED PETREL            1       (1)
Wedge-tailed Shearwater         50      (35)
Short-tailed Shearwater         2       (1)
Flesh-footed Shearwater         20    (8)
Wilson?s Storm Petrel           40    (30) 
Australasian Gannet             9       (3)
GREY TERNLET (aka Grey Noddy)   1       (1)
Silver Gull                     120     (70)
Greater Crested Tern            20    (7)
Pomarine Jaeger                 4       (2)
Arctic (Parasitic) Jaeger       1       (1)

Pantropical Spotted Dolphin   30
Southern Eagle Ray
Southern Ocean Sunfish                           
Flying fish 
Marlin sp
White-faced Heron about 6NM off the heads flying south

The next Sydney pelagic trip is scheduled for Saturday 9 May, 2015 departing
from Mosman at 6.45am and from Rose Bay at 7.00am. Please book early to
assist our planning and to avoid missing a spot ? the MV Avalon carries a
maximum number of 23 so places are a little limited. All details of our
trips and contact details are in the website at  and you can also find us on Facebook as
well as post photos: 

Roger McGovern

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