After the two previous exceptional trips in February and March, this day didn't quite reach the same levels of excitement. However, having said that, it was an absorbing day on the ocean and, as ever, we saw things that were new to all of us. The weather and sea conditions were absolutely ideal and we all set off with the intention of scouring the ocean for a possible New Zealand Storm-Petrel after the recent sightings off Ulladulla and Port Stephens. In the event it was indeed storm-petrels that were the highlight of the day but they were Wilson's rather than New Zealand! At about 15 NM off Sydney Heads, we came across a band of Wilson's Storm-Petrels that stretched for as far as the eye could see. Obviously very difficult to count but the consensus was that in this group, plus those we saw at the shelf and another group on the return trip, we had seen at least 250 Wilson's Storm-Petrels and quite possibly a lot more. For the experienced observers on board, this was a unique experience with perhaps 50 having been the biggest aggregation previously seen off Sydney. Other avian highlights were our first Buller's Albatross of the year (does anyone have a theory as to why this once rare bird off NSW is now almost commonplace?) and a very early returning Brown Skua. It was a good day too for cetaceans with two groups of Risso's Dolphins and two groups of Pantropical Spotted Dolphins well observed - interesting too that there were no Bottlenose or Common Dolphins seen on the trip

The weather for the day was excellent with a mixture of sun and some overcast and air temperatures in the low 20's Celsius. Surprisingly, sea water temperatures were about 1 deg C higher than on the February trip ranging from 20.4 deg C at the heads up to 22.3 deg C beyond the shelf break. The assumption was that the warm east coast current spiral had swung closer to shore recently which could also account for the lack of Wandering and Shy Albatross on today's trip. We left Rose Bay at 7.10am and returned at 3.30pm with sea conditions being quite benign, a 1.5m swell early but settling down to almost a flat sea by the early afternoon. Despite the calm conditions there were a couple of mild cases of sea-sickness perhaps due to lack of preparation by inexperienced sea goers!


A single Little Penguin was seen as we passed through the heads and then for about fifteen minutes, there were no birds to be seen except for the ubiquitous Silver Gulls. We commenced laying a berley trail behind the Halicat with the very smelly fish scraps from the Fish Markets and we quite quickly attracted a following of Silver Gulls, Wedge-tailed Shearwaters, Crested Terns and the occasional inquisitive Australasian Gannet. Additional species put in brief appearances as we motored eastwards including a few Short-tailed Shearwaters, Sooty Shearwaters, a couple of Fluttering Shearwaters and a Hutton's Shearwater. A small shearwater that was called as a Fluttering did raise possibilities that it may have been a Little Shearwater but it was seen too briefly and at too great a distance to call. A Black-browed Albatross (race impavida) joined us for a while, as did a very early returning Brown Skua. At about the 15 mile mark, we encountered the agglomeration of Wilson's Storm-Petrels referred to earlier in this report and we drifted the boat and berleyed with all manner of oils and fishy materials to attract these birds closer to the boat but they remained steadfastly at some distance down our slick. So, after satisfying ourselves that there was not a New Zealand Storm-Petrel lurking amongst the mass of Wilson's, we continued on our way to Brown's Mountain

As we approached the deeper water at the shelf break, Flesh-footed Shearwaters became more numerous and a few pterodromas began to show, primarily Providence Petrels and a few Great-winged Petrels (all gouldi). A group of three Risso's Dolphins were seen and allowed a fairly close approach and then as we approached Brown's Mountain, we were joined by a lovely adult Buller's Albatross which stayed around for quite a while. Our berley session did not produce large numbers of customers with just two Black-browed Albatross coming in to the back of the boat and good numbers of Wilson's Storm-Petrels dancing down the slick. We decided to motor into deeper water to see what we could find and travelled slowly about 5NM further east from Brown's Mountain. We found another, larger group of Risso's Dolphins which entertained us for some time. One individual swam straight towards the bow of the Halicat to have a look at us and then went into a fast vertical dive right in front of us - even Steve had not seen this behaviour from a Risso's before! While we were watching the Risso's, a small group of three Pantropical Spotted Dolphins joined us looking for a bow wave ride. No new birds were added to the day's tally during this period but there were a couple of frustrating long-range sightings including a possible Kermadec Petrel (white primary shafts were thought to be seen at great distance) and a distant petrel with very white underparts that could have been a White-necked Petrel. However, neither was seen well enough to include on the bird list for the day

The trip back to Sydney was fairly uneventful although another group of Pantropical Spotted Dolphins came to ride on our bow wave for a few minutes, and we came across good numbers of Wilson's Storm-Petrels in the same area where we had seen them on the way out. So, despite the lack of any major rarities, I think that everyone on board really enjoyed the day, even those who suffered from sea-sickness!


(Note that the number in parentheses represent the maximum number seen at one time)

Little Penguin 1 (1)
Great-winged Petrel 6 (1) all gouldi Providence Petrel 20 (3)
Wedge-tailed Shearwater 80 (25)
Sooty Shearwater 3 (1)
Short-tailed Shearwater 5 (1)
Flesh-footed Shearwater 36 (6)
Fluttering Shearwater 2 (1)
Hutton's Shearwater 1 (1)
Black-browed Albatross 5 (2) three impavida
Buller's Albatross 1 (1)
Wilson's Storm-Petrel 250 (80)
Australasian Gannet 34 (9)
Brown Skua 1 (1)
Silver Gull 45 (15)
Crested Tern 9 (4)


Risso's Dolphin 33
Pantropical Spotted Dolphin 18