SYDNEY PELAGIC TRIP REPORT – SATURDAY 12 NOVEMBER 2016
from Roger McGovern
After a year of several pelagic trip cancellations due to high winds and rough seas, this trip once again looked to be in jeopardy from the weather based on the forecast that we had a few days before. Fortunately the forecast improved somewhat just prior to the trip and we made the decision to go ahead. The conditions on the day were more or less as forecast with fresh north westerly winds producing a choppy sea and quite uncomfortable conditions but
we expected these conditions to produce plenty of birds. In the event, all the birds that we encountered on the day appeared to be very well fed and none showed any great interest in our berley offerings. It was interesting that the Port Stephens pelagic the next day encountered exactly the same conditions with not even Silver Gulls coming to their berley leading us to believe that there was a very abundant food source available to the birds off NSW. Many of the various shearwater species that we found in rafts resting on the water were so heavy with food that they had difficulty flying! There were no major highlights for the day but we had a reasonable mix of bird species and some interesting sightings of Humpback Whales, a very ‘friendly’ Mako Shark and a Southern Ocean Sunfish.
The weather started off very dull with steady rain for the first couple of hours, and the 20 knot north easterly meant that we tracked out to the shelf on a far more northerly path than usual to avoid heading into a beam sea – even then it was quite uncomfortable with plenty of spray. The rain stopped and the day became quite bright and sunny but the wind did not moderate all day and we encountered 2 – 3 metre seas throughout the trip which caused a few cases of sea sickness unfortunately. We went out through the Heads at 7.35am and, since we could not motor quickly in the conditions, reached the continental shelf break at about 11.10am. We did one long drift at the shelf until 12.30pm as conditions were not conducive to moving around the area, and then had a fairly comfortable ride back to shore (with the following wind), arriving at Rose Bay at 3.15pm. Sea water temperature was around 20.0 C which is about the norm for this time of the year.
We set off from Rose Bay at 7.20am in very dismal and wet conditions but quite expectant in terms of getting good birds on such a windy day but were surprised when we were unable to attract a following of Silver Gulls to our berley trail as we were leaving the harbour. Even more surprising was that the usual large numbers of inshore Wedge-tailed Shearwaters and albatross failed to make an appearance and, in the first hour or so, we had seen only two birds, both Wedge-tailed Shearwaters! In fact at 8.10am, we encountered a group of four Humpback Whales (one of them breaching nicely for us) and the comment was made that we had seen more whales than birds at that stage.
We began to see a few more Wedge-tailed with the odd Short-tailed, Fluttering and Hutton’s Shearwaters, a very nice pale morph Pomarine Jaeger and the first of several Australasian Gannets. About halfway to the shelf, some 12 NM off the Heads, we suddenly found out where all the shearwaters had got to as we came across an enormous raft of Wedge-tailed Shearwaters estimated at around 2000 individuals resting on the water. We attempted to attract them to our berley but it was very obvious that they were not hungry and had no interest in our offerings, so we continued on our way.
As we approached the shelf break, the first Shy Albatross of the day made an appearance – it was a juvenile T.c. steadi or NZ White-capped Albatross and we saw several more juvenile and adult birds of this sub species while drifting at the shelf break. We started the drift with not many birds around but the smell of the berley and the oily slick soon attracted the attention of a number of birds but very few actually fed on the berley.
A Grey-faced Petrel passed close to the boat and a little later a couple of Providence Petrels were well seen.
Wilson’s Storm Petrels were frequent visitors.
A couple of Black-browed Albatross added to the mix as did two more Pomarine Jaegers. The best bird of the day was a briefly appearing Long-tailed Jaeger which was well seen by all. A ‘small’ Mako Shark appeared on our berley slick and stayed around the back of the boat for several minutes feeding on the fish scraps to everyone’s great interest and a Southern Ocean Sunfish came drifting by close to the boat also providing good views to all. Steve spotted a small cookilaria petrel at some distance and it continued on its way without an identification being possible – very frustrating!
On the way back to Sydney, we again encountered the huge numbers of shearwaters at the 12 mile mark and, this time, we were able to locate a single Flesh-footed Shearwater among the hordes of Wedge-taileds, our final new species for the day. More Humpbacks were seen about ten miles offshore but they were not very cooperative. It was not one of our better days in terms of rarities and species diversity but it was, as always, great to be out on the ocean!
(Note that the numbers in parentheses represent the approximate maximum number of that species in view at any one time)
Wilson’s Storm Petrel 10 (3)
Shy Albatross 10 (5) all of the New Zealand sub species steadi
Black-browed Albatross 2 (2)
Grey-faced Petrel 3 (1) (formerly the sub species gouldi of Great-winged Petrel)
Providence Petrel 2 (1)
Wedge-tailed Shearwater 2000+ (2000)
Short-tailed Shearwater 4 (1)
Flesh-footed Shearwater 1 (1)
Hutton’s Shearwater 11 (5)
Fluttering Shearwater 25 (6)
Fluttering-type shearwaters 30
Australasian Gannet 22 (8)
Pomarine Jaeger 5 (2)
Long-tailed Jaeger 1 (1)
Silver Gull 50 (30)
Humpback Whale 7
Southern Ocean Sunfish 1
Mako Shark 1
Thanks very much to Jodi Osgood for providing the photographs of Wilson’s Storm Petrel, Hutton’s Shearwater, Shy Albatross, Grey-faced Petrel and the Mako Shark which are attached to this report.
The next Sydney trip is scheduled for Saturday 10 December 2016 and all details of our trips and contact details are shown in the website at www.sydneypelagic.info and you can also find us on Facebook and post photos at https://www.facebook.com/sydneypelagics
SYDNEY PELAGIC TRIP REPORT – SATURDAY 13 AUGUST 2016
With last month’s regular trip being cancelled and rescheduled due to bad weather, it was good to resume normal operations on the second Saturday of the month in superb winter weather conditions. The weather had been reasonably settled during the past week and the forecast was for a day of slight seas and light winds. In the event, the seas were a bit choppier than expected and the wind did not drop off during the morning as had been forecast – however, nobody was sea sick and the weather stayed sunny throughout the trip. We had a good mix of winter birds with good numbers and diversity of albatross and, although there were no rarities, it was a very enjoyable and interesting day on the water. Notable events on the trip were two early returning Wedge-tailed Shearwaters (first record of spring for NSW), six species of albatross and a breaching Minke Whale which was a first sighting for many on board. We recorded five Wilson’s Storm Petrels and, after Greg McLachlan examined all the historical trip reports for Sydney, Wollongong and Port Stephens, we believe this to be the first record of this species in NSW in August, a statistic that completely surprised me. It would be interesting to know whether this is an indicator of the species movements in the winter months or is just a random quirk caused by the small amount of data gathered.
The weather was cool with bright sunshine and 10 -15 knot south westerlies for most of the day which gave quite benign sea conditions closer to shore but up to a 2 metre chop further out and the water temperature was around 19.5degC. We departed through the Heads at around 7.35am, motored out to Brown’s Mountain some 22.5NM ESE of the Heads arriving there at 10.20am, then drifted for two hours until it was time to head back to shore. We normally spend some time motoring into deeper water off the shelf but we deemed the choppy conditions would make things uncomfortable for the observers and stayed on the drift for the entire time on the shelf break. We arrived back at Rose Bay Wharf at 3.35pm.
We left the Rose Bay Wharf at 7.15am with 22 passengers on the MV Avalon IV with a mixture of regulars and first timers and an overseas birder from Poland. Before we reached the Heads, we had a following of Silver Gulls feeding on our fish offal and a single Little Penguin was seen distantly by Steve Anyon-Smith but we considered it too hard to find in the chop and did not stop to relocate it. Once through the Heads, we were quickly joined by a number of Black-browed Albatross and Greater Crested Terns and a number of Australasian Gannets came by to see what all the activity was about. A Hutton’s Shearwater was well seen followed by several Fluttering Shearwater and the first of several Brown Skuas joined the feeding throng. We were somewhat surprised when a early returning Wedge-tailed Shearwater came by the boat but it did not linger and must not have been hungry. At 12NM from the Heads, we had our first major excitement of the day when Steve spotted a whale blowing just ahead of the boat and it promptly breached showing itself to be a Minke Whale – it showed a few more times but was moving too quickly for us to follow it.
The first Shy Albatross of the day was a newly fledged NZ White-capped (ssp steadi) in fresh plumage and a lovely grey head and around the same time we began to see Fairy Prions at regular intervals – despite best efforts we could not pick any Antarctics or Slender-billeds which we had expected after last weekend’s Port Stephens trip. Our first Campbell Albatross of the day was an immature bird but old enough to have a distinctive pale eye and at around the same time the first and only Buller’s Albatross joined us followed by the first of many Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross.
As we arrived at the shelf break at Brown’s Mountain, the first Providence Petrel came past but it did not stay around the boat as was the case with all Providence Petrels on the day. A few minutes after starting the drift and setting out the oil slick, a White-faced Storm Petrel was well seen on the slick and stayed around for several minutes – this is a species that we seem to see much less often than in the past and was my first record since November 2014. The only wandering type albatross of the day joined the boat and stayed with us for over an hour – it was a gibsoni ssp of Antipodean Albatross under the IOC taxonomy, which is a label that I am not very happy with as it bears little resemblance to its nominate species form. Our final new avian species of the day was a Wilson’s Storm Petrel and we saw several more during the duration of the drift.
On the way back to shore, we spotted a large flock of feeding Australasian Gannets and motored over to see what else might be around. We were joined by a pod of Short-beaked Common Dolphins which swam with the boat and, swimming with them, was a brightly lit Striped Marlin spotted by Steve.
The gannets were catching small baitfish called Sauries and the water was heaving with the swirls of Yellowfin Tuna, which were also hunting the Sauries. This magical scene was capped off by seeing a group of four Humpback Whales travelling through the area of activity. We later sighted two fur seals in the water and most observers had good views of two Little Penguins as we came back in through the Heads which was a good end to an entertaining day on the water.
(Note that the numbers in parentheses represent the approximate maximum number of that species in view at any one time)
Little Penguin 3 (2)
Wilson’s Storm Petrel 5 (1)
White-faced Storm Petrel 1 (1)
Antipodean Albatross 1 (1) ssp gibsoni
Black-browed Albatross 45 (30)
Campbell Albatross 4 (2)
Shy Albatross 5 (1) one juvenile steadi (White-capped Albatross)
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross 38 (25)
Buller’s Albatross 1 (1)
Fairy Prion 14 (2)
Providence Petrel 8 (1)
Wedge-tailed Shearwater 2 (1)
Fluttering Shearwater 25 (15)
Hutton’s Shearwater 20 (12)
Fluttering-type Shearwaters 40
Australasian Gannet 110 (90)
Silver Gull 120 (70)
Greater Crested Tern 11 (6)
Brown Skua 6 (4)
Minke Whale 1
Humpback Whale 4
Short-beaked Common Dolphin 60
Striped Marlin 1
Fur Seal (sp) 2
Thanks very much to Nigel Miller for the photograph of the Common Dolphins and to Jodi Osgood for the photographs of the breaching Minke Whale, the White-faced Storm Petrel, the immature Campbell Albatross and the Buller’s Albatross.
All information on our trips including dates and contact details can be found in the website at www.sydneypelagic.info and you can also find us on Facebook and post photos at https://www.facebook.com/sydneypelagics
SYDNEY PELAGIC TRIP REPORT
24 July 2016
This pelagic trip was a reschedule of the 9 July trip, which was lost to a very large swell and poor conditions. We experienced fresh winds (15-20 knots) and a big swell (3m) but the latter was nicely spaced (about 14 seconds between tops according to the skipper Mark) so the boat rode up and down without too much discomfort for any on board (although losing birds behind the wave tops was a regular source of frustration). Unlike the May trip, several days of strong westerlies did not seem to reduce the number of birds this time around and we saw 15 species outside the heads, although several in ones or twos only. Black-browed Albatross were the dominant species by a long margin.
We departed Rose Bay Wharf at approximately 7:15 am with 21 passengers on board – with a few regulars but a large number of visitors and first time trippers as well. (One missing regular was Roger McGovern so I am filling in as pelagic correspondent for this trip). Although the berley trail was started as we left the harbour, we had managed to attract about a dozen Silver Gulls as we crossed from Mosman to Rose Bay. As we left the harbour, a White-bellied Sea-Eagle cruised past us at Watsons Bay (although when it crossed the harbour and flew over Clarke Island, the Raven attacks made its flight somewhat less serene). The berley attracted a good following of Silver Gulls which, in turn started to alert a following of other birds. Several Australasian Gannets came for a look, as well as some Greater Crested Terns and shortly after leaving the harbour we saw the first of many Black-browed Albatross. We also drew the attention of three Brown Skuas, a species which would be an almost permanent companion as we headed east and again on our way back in. A couple of small groups and some single Fluttering-type Shearwaters were seen, but none were close enough to the boat to allow a positive identification.
As we headed out towards Browns Mountain, the crowd of Black-broweds grew, as did Skuas, the latter numbering six at one point. They were joined by several Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross and a single Shy Albatross and sporadic Fairy Prions were also seen. Throughout the day the Black-broweds were checked to see if any were Campbell Albatross, but none of the adult birds showed the distinctive golden eye of the latter species. We encountered a small pod of Short-beaked Common Dolphins that came to the boat, but only for a short period and a single Shy Albatross crossed the wake. As we got further out, we continued to see sporadic single prions, a Shy Albatross put in a better appearance and the first Providence Petrel of the day was seen.
We reached our destination at about 10:30 am and (perhaps not surprisingly given the conditions) ours was the only vessel there. We started a berley drift for about an hour, motored back up the slick and did a second drift for a slightly shorter period. Just after starting the drift, a single Wilson’s Storm-Petrel was seen, but it did not stay and was not seen again. We had similar brief views of a Buller’s Albatross and an adult Wandering-type Albatross. (The shortage of experts on the boat meant it was not narrowed down to type.) More Providence Petrels came to the boat, as did up to three Great-winged Petrels. The crowd of Black-broweds had grown to nearly 50 by that time, with a range of plumages including some very nearly adult birds that showed some black smudging at the base of the bill but were otherwise in adult-looking plumage. As we commenced our shorter second drift a second Buller’s Albatross flew in – this one was more inclined to stay with the boat so much better views were obtained. Of interest was that six of the Silver Gulls that had joined the berley trail had followed us all the way to Browns Mountain – it is unusual to see them in very deep water.
As we motored back in, we were followed by several albatross (from four species) and at one point a single Cape Petrel followed the boat for two minutes, but it did not come close (and we had run out of berley by then). We came close to a pod of Oceanic Bottlenose Dolphin but they were busy hunting and not interested in the boat. We also saw the blows from some Humpback Whales but they were not seen well. Even close to shore the swell made following birds and whales far from straightforward, so looking for penguins outside the heads was a fruitless task. However, to conclude the trip list, a pair of Little Penguin were seen just inside the harbour before we got to Watsons Bay.
(Note that the number in parentheses represent the approximate maximum number of that species in view at any one time)
Black-browed Albatross 150 (50)
Shy Albatross 10 (3)
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross 40 (10)
Wandering Albatross (ssp not known) 1
Buller’s Albatross 2 (1)
Fairy Prion 40 (10)
Providence Petrel 20 (10)
Great-winged Petrel 5 (3)
Cape Petrel 1
Wilsons Storm-Petrel 1
Fluttering-type Shearwater 20 (6)
Australasian Gannet 50 (10)
Brown Skua 20 (6)
Silver Gull 100 (30)
Greater Crested Tern 8 (4)
White-bellied Sea-Eagle 1
Little Penguin 2
Australian Raven recorded
Short-beaked Common Dolphin 10
Oceanic Bottlenose Dolphin 10
Humpback Whale 2
For details of future Sydney pelagic trips, please visit the website at http://www.sydneypelagics.info which has details of all trips and contact details for making bookings.
Sydney pelagic trip on Sunday 26th June 2016
Roger McGovern reports
The following is the species list for the Sydney pelagic trip on Sunday 26th June 2016:
|Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross||20|
|Antipodean (Wandering) Albatross||2|
|Fluttering type Shearwater||4|
|Short-tailed Shearwater||1 (possibly more)|
More wonderful photos by Rob Hynson can be seen via the following link sydney_pelagic_26_april_2016 by Robert Hynson.
Sydney Pelagic Trip: Saturday 14 November 2015
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
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)
Thanks to Andy Woods for the two Pomarine Jaeger photographs and to Jodi
Osgood for the Flesh-footed Shearwater, Shy Albatross and the gathering
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
www.sydneypelagics.info and you can also find us on Facebook and post photos
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
SYDNEY PELAGIC TRIP REPORT – SATURDAY 12 SEPTEMBER 2015
After more than twenty years of going out on Sydney pelagic trips, I never cease to be amazed at what they can sometimes throw up in surprises. On Saturday, after being out for most of the day in gorgeous spring sunshine and benign conditions, everyone on board was resigned to the fact that this was one of our quietest days on the water with hardly any birds or cetaceans around. And then, as we were about to set course back to Sydney, we came across a group of eight SPERM WHALES, which remained on the surface and allowed excellent views and, shortly afterwards, we encountered a pod of about 40 STRIPED DOLPHINS, a very uncommon cetacean off Sydney and one, which we hadn’t seen for many years. Throw in an epic encounter with a Yellowfin Tuna (more of that later) and a forgettable day suddenly became a day which all the participants will remember.
Weather conditions had been quite settled for a couple of weeks prior to this trip and the birds had obviously had plenty of opportunity to feed because none of them showed the slightest interest in the boat or our berley, not even the Silver Gulls. Highlights of the trip were one Antarctic Prion, two White-fronted Terns and a single Antipodean Albatross (race gibsoni).We departed the Heads at about 7.50am in bright sunshine, very slight seas of less than a metre and water temperatures up to 19.8degC.Winds were very light and variable all day and sea conditions became even flatter around lunchtime. We motored out to the underwater sea mount known as Brown’s Mountain approximately 22.5NM ESE of the Heads, arriving there at about 10.30am and we then drifted and set up a berley trail and slick. With hardly any birds around, we headed eastwards into deeper water and, after extensive delays due to the hook up of a big Yellowfin Tuna and then encounters with the Sperm Whales and Striped dolphins, we headed back towards Sydney at about 1.45pm and arrived at Rose Bay at 4.40pm.
We set off from Rose Bay at 7.30am with 22 passengers on the MV Avalon comprising mostly local birders but also visitors from the USA and Switzerland. As we left the Heads in stunning weather conditions but with hardly a bird to be seen, I had a bad feeling about the day, particularly as not even the gulls would come near the boat for the berley on offer. In the first hour or so, the only birds seen were the occasional passing Wedge-tailed Shearwater, one or two Australasian Gannets and the odd Hutton’s Shearwater. Those sitting at the front of the boat saw a couple of groups of Fluttering-type shearwaters passing by distantly but too far to be called as to species. Even a Humpback Whale which was seen blowing not far away disappeared and failed to materialise when we drifted close to where it had been spotted. A pair of Little Penguins were seen by some on the boat and then, in a current line, we found two White-fronted Terns which did not give great views as they continued to move away from the approaching boat.
Some interest was stirred up by the discovery of an Australian Fur Seal which was tending a ball of redfish and allowed a close approach as he/she was absorbed by keeping the fish ball in place. A distant Shy Albatross was our first albatross of the day but continued on its way without approaching the boat and another Humpback was spotted which gave marginally better views than the one seen earlier. Around the fishing boats at the Twelve Mile we came across a Brown Skua sitting on the water and it allowed a close approach for the photographers on board.
When we arrived at Brown’s Mountain there was only the odd Providence Petrel occasionally in view and, after 30 minutes of berleying with nothing coming to the slick, we started the motors and headed off slowly into deeper water.
A prion put in a very brief and unsatisfactory appearance but photographs showed it to be an Antarctic Prion and shortly afterwards we saw our only wandering-type albatross off the day, an Antipodean Albatross (gibson’s ssp), but again, it did not approach the boat and continued on its way. We were visited by a large pod of maybe 200 Oceanic Bottlenose Dolphins, many of which came for a ride on our bow giving splendid views to all. As we continued eastwards and with nothing happening on the avian front, some tuna were spotted on the surface nearby and the crew decided to troll a couple of lures off the back of the boat. One of these was hit almost immediately and Eddy was fast into a very large Yellowfin Tuna which he proceeded to battle with for the best part of two hours. In the meantime, we continued to see the occasional Providence Petrel, a couple of Fairy Prions and our first Yellow-nosed and Black-browed Albatross of the day. At about 1.15pm and with no end in sight to the battle with the tuna, discussions were held as to what we do to get going back to Sydney in a reasonable time frame. George came up with a very innovative solution by calling a friend of his who was fishing nearby to come alongside and take the rod with fish attached and to continue to battle it on our behalf! As we came through the Heads later on at 4.30pm, the news came from the radio that the fish had been boated and weighed 40kg but there was an ongoing discussion about ownership of such a prize!
Having freed ourselves of the fish, we were about to set off home when some interesting whale blows were seen which, on approach, turned out to be a group of eight Sperm Whales resting on the surface. We had great views of these magnificent creatures which showed no interest or shyness of our presence and after many photographs, we reluctantly tore ourselves away to start the return journey to Sydney. Almost immediately afterwards, we encountered a pod of small beaked dolphins which we thought would be Short-beaked Common Dolphins but these animals behaved in a very unusual manner being very shy, even a little fearful, of the boat. Also, their markings did not look right for common dolphins and, after some photographs were examined, it became clear that they were in fact Striped Dolphins, a very rare visitor to waters off NSW. The rest of the trip back was very quiet with no new bird species and with the visit of two Short-beaked Common Dolphins becoming the fifth cetacean species of the day. With only 15 bird species for the day, many of them not well seen, it could have been quite disappointing, but the experiences with the Sperm Whales, Striped Dolphins and the saga of the tuna made it a day that will be talked about in future years. Thanks for the images attached go to Greg McLachlan (Striped Dolphin
2 and Brown Skua), Steve Hey (Australian Fur Seal and Sperm Whale 2), Jenny Stiles (Providence Petrel) and Nigel Miller (Striped Dolphin).
(Note that numbers in parentheses represent the approximate maximum number of that species in view at any one time)
Little Penguin 2 (2)
Antipodean Albatross 1 (1) ssp gibsoni
Black-browed Albatross 2 (1)
Shy Albatross 2 (1)
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross 3 (2)
Antarctic Prion 1 (1)
Fairy Prion 3 (2)
Providence Petrel 10 (4)
Wedge-tailed Shearwater 35 (6)
Fluttering-type shearwater 60 (30)
Hutton’s Shearwater 5 (2)
Australasian Gannet 16 (3)
Silver Gull 30 (10)
Greater Crested Tern 5 (2)
White-fronted Tern 2 (2)
Brown Skua 1 (1)
Humpback Whale 3
Oceanic Bottlenose Dolphin 200
Short-beaked Common Dolphin 2
SPERM WHALE 8
STRIPED DOLPHIN 40
Australian Fur Seal 1
The next Sydney trip is scheduled for Saturday 10 October 2015 and, at the time of writing this, the trip is full. Please let me know if you would like to go on the waiting list.
All details of our trips and contact details are in the website at http://www.sydneypelagics.info and you can also find us on Facebook and post photos at https://www.facebook.com/sydneypelagics
SYDNEY PELAGIC TRIP REPORT – SATURDAY 11 JULY 2015
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. There were some delays due to fog in the harbour but we departed the Heads at about 8.00am in bright sunshine, water temperatures around 18 deg C, 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. 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 expectations 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.
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 (OBD), 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. Thanks to the skipper George and deckhand Eddie for looking after us and thanks also to Steve Hey for the attached bird shots and to Jodi Osgood for the stunning OBD picture.
|SPECIES||No seen on the day||No. at any one time|
|Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross||22||10|
|Northern Giant Petrel||1||1|
|Cape Petrel (race australe)||1||1|
|Greater Crested Tern||8||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.