Sydney Pelagic Trip Report - Saturday 14 November 2015

To: "birding-aus " <>
Subject: Sydney Pelagic Trip Report - Saturday 14 November 2015
From: Roger McGovern <>
Date: Sun, 15 Nov 2015 05:09:40 +0000


This was a very disappointing pelagic trip being the first one in several
years that we had to abandon early due to deteriorating wind, wave and rain
conditions. The weather pattern had changed overnight Friday (as had been
forecast) with the northerlies of the past couple of days replaced after an
overnight southerly change to produce a 15 - 20 knot south-easterly on
Saturday. This change in wind direction produced a very sloppy and
uncomfortable sea up to around two metres. We had no problem coping with
these conditions although the journey to the shelf break was significantly
slower than usual motoring at only 7 knots. However, at about 2NM short of
Brown's Mountain, we found ourselves heading into a quite severe storm front
with very black skies. Within five minutes or so, the sloppy 2 meter seas
had been replaced by high steep-sided breaking waves up to about 5 metres in
height and we immediately stopped our eastward progress to take stock. After
a few minutes of berleying and setting out a slick, it became apparent that
the conditions were highly marginal and unlikely to improve and, with heavy
rain and very poor visibility as well, I took the reluctant step of
conceding to the elements and asking the skipper to head back towards

Needless to say, having not reached the shelf break and with the poor
visibility and heavy seas, our species count was not large. However, there
were a good number of overseas visitors and first-time pelagic trippers for
whom the day was still considered a success with three albatross species and
good numbers of birds following the boat all the way out from the heads.


We set off from Rose Bay at 7.30am with 23 passengers on the MV Avalon
comprising quite a few overseas visitors from the UK, Canada, China and
France, a keen first-timer from Tamworth for who this trip was a bit of a
baptism of fire, and the usual contingent of local supporters. The weather
was dark and threatening and conditions were not great for seeing birds or
cetaceans. I started the berley trail going before leaving the heads but
nothing approached the boat for a while which concerned me a little - only
small groups of late-migrating Short-tailed Shearwaters were seen at first
and they rarely come to the boat unless they are very hungry. When we were
about a mile or so off the heads, the first couple of Wedge-tailed
Shearwaters came into the berley trail and were joined immediately by our
first Flesh-footed Shearwater of the day. A couple of Australasian Gannets
passed by and the odd Fluttering Shearwater provided less than satisfactory
views in the gloomy conditions. The number of birds in our berley trail
steadily increased and the first of several Pomarine Jaegers joined us and
at least four individuals stayed with us all the way out - it was
interesting to all on board to see these birds at very close range and to
see the variations between very dark morph birds to quite a strikingly pale
individual. Two immature Black-browed Albatrosses joined our trail and
remained for the duration and a very obliging Hutton's Shearwater passed
close to the boat. A little later, a Shy Albatross joined the throng of
birds behind the boat and this was the only new species until we reached the
eastern-most extent of our trip.

Having decided to stop short of Brown's Mountain due to the storm front, we
carried out a short period of berleying producing a reasonable slick and
were rewarded with the appearance of a wandering-type albatross (an
Antipodean Albatross ssp gibsoni under the IOC taxonomy) and, just as we
departed, a Wilson's Strom Petrel came to the slick close to the boat
providing good views for all. The journey back to Sydney was uneventful in
improving sea conditions and we arrived at Rose Bay at 1.45pm. It was a
disappointing finish to our 2015 pelagic season but I think that everyone
was happy that we made the correct decision to abandon the trip rather than
take any unreasonable risks.


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

Wilson's Storm Petrel          1 (1)

Antipodean Albatross           1  (1) ssp gibsoni

Black-browed Albatross         3  (2)

Shy Albatross                  1  (1)

Wedge-tailed Shearwater        60 (40)

Short-tailed Shearwater        100(15)

Flesh-footed Shearwater        10 (6)

Fluttering Shearwater          4  (1)

Hutton's Shearwater            1  (1)

Australasian Gannet            5  (1)

Silver Gull                    40 (15)

Greater Crested Tern           9  (5)

Pomarine Jaeger                6  (5)

The next Sydney trip is scheduled for Saturday 13 February 2016 and 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  <>

Thank you to everyone for your support in 2015 and we look forward to
catching up with all our old friends (and some new ones) in 2016


Roger McGovern

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