Sydney Pelagic Trip Report - February 13, 2016

To: "birding-aus " <>
Subject: Sydney Pelagic Trip Report - February 13, 2016
From: Roger McGovern <>
Date: Sat, 13 Feb 2016 21:30:17 +0000
The following is the trip report prepared by Steve Anyon-Smith as I was not
on the boat yesterday.


Roger McGovern



February can be a fluky month when we might see tropical vagrant birds and
sea monsters off Sydney. A full complement of local and Chinese birders left
Sydney Harbour just after 0730 on board the Avalon IV. Conditions were very
pleasant with light to moderate north to north-easterly winds and sunny
conditions. The day's highlights were multiple sightings of Gould's petrels
and some exceptional dolphin behaviour.

The sea conditions were benign, with less than one metre of swell and small
wind waves which for most of the day barely crested. Light northerly winds
in the morning strengthened to maybe 15 knots from the north east close in
shore after lunch. We arrived at Brown's Mountain before 1100,  berleyed for
45 minutes, cruised a few miles to the north east and into deeper water and
did the same, departing at 1245 and arriving in Rose Bay at 1630. Sea water
temperatures were between 24 and 25 degrees.


As we left the harbour, some Silver Gulls and a few Wedge-tailed Shearwaters
showed little interest in our trail of fish offal but three Pomarine Jaegers
had a bit of a look. There were very few birds of any description between
the three mile mark and Brown's Mountain save for a couple of Fluttering
Shearwaters and a few small groups of southbound Short-tailed Shearwaters.

At around the edge of the shelf break we crossed paths with a pod of a
couple of dozen Risso's Dolphins. These guys don't much like boats and the
views we had were typical, with the animals trying their best to avoid us.
We had a reasonable look, especially of a few extensively scarred "warrior
class" individuals. Two Oceanic Bottlenose Dolphins were keeping company and
came to the boat briefly but ultimately preferred to be with the Risso's
than us. A further pod of Risso's Dolphins was seen a few minutes later.
They behaved in exactly the same manner as their slightly inshore cousins.

At Brown's Mountain there were two boats. These outnumbered the birds that
could be seen by two. After much smelly fish and other tasty berley was
expertly tossed into the sea, a few Wedgies and a number of Great-Winged
Petrels graced us with their presence. The miracle of digital photography
allowed us to confirm a distant sighting of a Gould's Petrel. A single
Flesh-footed Shearwater came in close to boat allowing some on board to get
a "new" bird.

At the second, deeper water, berley site there were quite a few more birds.
Anyone that goes to sea off Sydney with even rude observational skill will
tell you that the further from land the better it is for birds (I am almost
certain Roger will edit this out). However the same mix of birds were
evident. Significantly five more Gould's Petrels were seen, with two of them
offering excellent and definitive views. This is surely a record for a
Sydney pelagic?

About seven miles from the heads a large number of shearwaters could be seen
to the south of us. We approached and soon noticed large numbers of
Short-beaked Common Dolphins porpoising at speed towards us. Unlike Risso's,
Commons rarely avoid boats and the sight of these guys travelling at 15
knots + in a tight formation gave the day its "David Attenborough" moment
(thanks Nigel). These guys are commonly seen, but all agreed that this pod
was something special as they leapt clear of the water, something in large
seemingly synchronised groups. Quite a few Flesh-footed Shearwaters were in
company with the Wedge-taileds.

The only other wildlife spotted were countless small flying fish, and
briefly, a marlin.

Overall it was a fairly slow summer's day on the water interspersed with a
few exciting and memorable moments.


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

Great-winged Petrel                     25                    (10)

Wedge-tailed Shearwater           180                  (50)

Short-tailed Shearwater              30                    (12)

Flesh-footed Shearwater            25                     (22)

Fluttering Shearwater                  2                       (1)

Silver Gull                                       120                  (40)

Pomarine Jaeger                           4                       (3)

Gould's Petrel                               6                        (2)  


Risso's Dolphin                                 25 + 12

Oceanic Bottlenosed Dolphin        2

Short-beaked Common Dolphin   150-200


Flying fish                                           >500

Marlin                                                    1

The next Sydney pelagic trip is scheduled for Saturday 12 March, 2016
departing from Mosman at 0645 and Rose Bay at 0700. Please book early so
that we have a good idea of numbers by contacting Hal or me at the numbers
and e-mail addresses shown in the Sydney Pelagic website

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