With a combination of good weather conditions after strong southerlies during the previous days, the falling water temperatures and the good birds seen from shore and offshore in the past month, I had a sneaky feeling that it would be a big day on the water. Once again I was wrong, but it was a very good typical winter birding day off Sydney and only those hoping for spectacular rarities were disappointed. We recorded seventeen species for the day with the highlights being a briefly-seen (but well photographed - thanks Raja!), young immature GREY-HEADED ALBATROSS and an even briefer fly pass by an Antarctic Prion seen by only a few people on board

Surface water temperatures during the day were very steady ranging from 16.8 deg C at Sydney Heads to 17.1 deg C at the shelf break. We departed Rose Bay a little late at 7.35am and returned at 4.00pm travelling in sea conditions of 1.0m on a small swell. Winds were from the south east at 5 to 8 knots in the morning and backed around to the north east in the afternoon. In these benign conditions, there was only one case of sea sickness during the trip


We had a very good complement of 27 passengers on board, the majority being local and interstate birders together with a few overseas visitors. As we passed through Sydney Heads, we set a course southwards parallel to the coast to look out for migrating Humpback Whales and we immediately began to see a few Black-browed, Shy and then Yellow-nosed Albatross. We then began to see small groups of Fluttering Shearwaters heading past us in a southerly direction but it took a while before we finally found a group of three Humpbacks. Unfortunately, the whales did not cooperate with us (as is sometimes the case) and after sounding a second time without giving us satisfactory views, we gave up and set course for Brown's Mountain. We added a Crested Tern and more groups of Fluttering Shearwaters to the tally and then, at The Peak where there were several recreational fishing boats, we found six Brown Skuas swimming around the boats

As we got into deeper water, we began to see some prions, all of which were examined very carefully but none of which could be identified as other than Fairy Prion. Our first Wandering Albatross of the day brought great joy to a couple of visitors for whom Wanderers were at the top of their wish list. When we reached the recreational fishing fleet at Brown's Mountain, we immediately saw a giant petrel in the water and motored over to identify it as a Southern Giant-Petrel. We began a drift and set out a good berley trail which quickly brought in more albatross including a lovely adult exulans, or 'Snowy Albatross' the nominate race of Wandering Albatross. Several Cape Petrels came in to the slick and, surprisingly, all appeared to be of the subspecies australe which I would not have expected in July. A number of Providence Petrels put in an appearance and Fairy Prions continued to examine the slick with some interest. We also had the visit of a shark which appeared to be a large Blue Shark but it did not show itself well

After a fairly lengthy time drifting it was apparent that we were not seeing anything new and so we started the motors and drove slowly eastwards into deeper water. We continued to see many of the species already recorded but then a prion was seen which appeared larger than a Fairy Prion, had a fast arcing pteradroma-like flight and which had dark breast patches. Although we did not get a photograph of the bird, the consensus was that it was our first Antarctic Prion of the day. Shortly afterwards, some of us had very brief views of a medium size whale which surfaced briefly behind the boat before disappearing into the depths - its size and coloration seemed to indicate that it was probably a Minke Whale. As we came back past Brown's Mountain another giant petrel was seen in the water which turned out this time to be a Northern Giant-Petrel. We also found a very cooperative pair of Australian Fur Seals which swam around the boat for a while giving everybody great views

As we headed back towards Sydney, we saw our first Australasian Gannets and one of the groups of small shearwaters was seen to have at least two Hutton's Shearwaters contained within the more numerous Fluttering Shearwaters. About five miles off the heads came the most exciting moment of the day when an albatross with a dark head and apparently dark underwings was picked up, with subsequent analysis of the photographs showing that it was indeed a young immature Grey-headed Albatross. We spent some time detouring to try and find the bird again but to no avail


(Note that the number in parentheses represents the maximum number within sight at one time) Southern Giant-Petrel 1 (1)
Northern Giant-Petrel 1 (1)
Cape Petrel 8 (5) all australe Providence Petrel 15 (2)
Antarctic Prion 1 (1)
Fairy Prion 85 (4)
Fluttering Shearwater 140 (25)
Hutton's Shearwater 2 (2)
Wandering Albatross 8 (3) all gibsoni except for one exulans
Black-browed Albatross 18 (4) 2 or 3 Campbell Island race
Yellow-nosed Albatross 15 (2)
Shy Albatross 8 (1)
Grey-headed Albatross 1 (1)
Australasian Gannet 7 (3)
Brown Skua 8 (6)
Silver Gull 45 (10)
Crested Tern 3 (1)


Blue Shark 1
Humpback Whale 3
Minke Whale 1
Australian Fur Seal 2
Flying fish 1