Sydney Pelagic Trip Report - Saturday 11 July 2015

To: "birding-aus " <>
Subject: Sydney Pelagic Trip Report - Saturday 11 July 2015
From: Roger McGovern <>
Date: Tue, 14 Jul 2015 05:40:50 +0000

Once again, this trip had been booked out with a waiting list for more than
two weeks beforehand and we were again very fortunate to have a brilliant
sunny Sydney winter's day for the trip. After several days of settled
weather, conditions on the water were ideal with light winds and just enough
of a chop to keep the birds on the move. A strong southerly was forecast to
arrive in the late afternoon and so we were delighted to get back to the
harbour before this transpired. After a great start to the day with some
excellent birds right outside the Heads, the day did not reach my
expectation levels in terms of species diversity and rarities but, for most
people on board, the albatrosses, prions, skuas and petrels provided great
entertainment throughout the trip. Highlights of the trip were small numbers
of Antarctic Prions, a group of six White-fronted Terns and our first Cape
Petrel off Sydney since November 2012.

After delays due to fog in the harbour, we departed the Heads at about
8.00am in bright sunshine, water temperatures around 18.0degC, seas of about
1.0 to 1.5m and light northerly breezes. After a stop near the cliffs of
Watson's Bay/Vaucluse, we motored out to the continental shelf drop off at
Brown's Mountain some 22.5NM ESE of the Heads, arriving there at around
10.30am. We drifted there setting up a berley trail for about an hour and a
half and then motored into deeper water to the north east where we did
another berley drift. We set off back at about 12.30pm and, after a stop to
watch a pair of Humpback Whales, arrived back at Rose Bay at 3.45pm.

Heavy fog in the upper regions of the harbour made it slow going for the MV
Avalon to reach Mosman and Rose Bay in the usual time and we departed from
Rose Bay at about 7.40am with a full boat comprising birders from Sweden,
the USA, the UK, France and a good core of local pelagic enthusiasts. As we
came out of the Heads, we saw a group of recreational fishing boats close to
the cliffs with good numbers of birds around and decided to head over and
check out what was there. On the way, a group of six White-fronted Terns
were sighted fishing near the cliffs and, unfortunately, some people on the
boat did not get on to them. When we reached the fishing boats, we stopped
to throw fish scraps to an obliging Northern Giant Petrel and were joined by
two Little Penguins, a Black-browed Albatross, a juvenile Shy Albatross (in
fresh plumage very similar to the one that we saw last month and considered
to be a nominate cauta), several Fairy Prions and a single Fluttering
Shearwater swimming around next to the boat. After then sighting a Humpback
Whale on its way north and a pod of Oceanic Bottlenose Dolphins, someone
suggested that we had seen almost everything and could go home!

The Silver Gulls, Black-browed Albatross and Shy Albatross followed our
berley trail as we headed eastwards with occasional Fairy Prions and a few
Australasian Gannets in evidence. A little later, we were joined by our
first Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross and then the first of several Brown
Skuas which caused great consternation amongst the Silver Gulls, most of
which went up very high above the water to avoid any dive bomb attack. After
arriving at Brown's Mountain, we set up a berley trail but had little in the
way of new species except for a few Providence Petrels and a brief visit
from a Campbell Albatross. We set off on a slow motor into deep water to the
north west and shortly afterwards came across our first Antarctic Prions of
the day (we were to see at least three in all) and then, with some
excitement, our first Cape Petrel since 2012. We stopped the boat and began
another berley drift and the Cape Petrel (which interestingly was of the
race australe which breeds in the Antarctic islands of New Zealand and is
the less common form off our east coast) obligingly came in and fed
voraciously close to the boat.

Although the birds tracked us all the way back, we saw nothing new although
the large rafts of Australasian Gannets sitting on the water were unusual.
After tracking a pair of north bound Humpbacks for 20 minutes or so, it
became apparent that they were not in the mood to put on a display, so we
left them and headed home. With sixteen bird species recorded for the trip
(an average sort of winter trip) all on board enjoyed a very pleasant and
absorbing day on the water.

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

Little Penguin                 2  (2)
Black-browed Albatross         24 (12)
Campbell Albatross             1  (1)
Shy Albatross                  6  (2)
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross  22 (10)
Northern Giant Petrel          1  (1)
Cape Petrel                    1  (1)  race australe
Antarctic Prion                3  (2)
Fairy Prion                    32 (6)
Providence Petrel              5  (2)
Fluttering Shearwater          1  (1)
Australasian Gannet            75 (30)
Silver Gull                    120(70)
Greater Crested Tern           8  (3)
White-fronted Tern             6  (6)
Brown Skua                     7  (2)

Humpback Whale                 3
Oceanic Bottlenose Dolphin     20

The next Sydney trip is scheduled for Saturday 8 August 2015 and, at the
time of writing this, there is only one spot left. There are currently seven
spots remaining for the Saturday 12 September 2015 trip, so be sure to book
soon if you want to go out.

All details of our trips and contact details are in the website at and you can also find us on Facebook and post
photos at

Roger McGovern

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