12 Mar 2011 Report


With recent reports of Great Shearwater from Eden and European Storm-Petrel from Tasmania, there was a lot of conjecture as we set out on this trip as to whether such rarities might be possible. However, with very benign weather and light winds for the previous few days coupled with the 'in between' water temperatures, it did not bode well for rarities or for tropical vagrants. However, it was an absolutely stunning late summer day on the water with probably the highlight being provided by cetaceans rather than birds - most certainly for the 'dolphin lady' from Adelaide

Surface water temperatures were fairly constant during the entire trip being slightly cooler inshore at 21.3degC and up to 22.0degC beyond the shelf break. We departed from Rose Bay ferry wharf at 7.05am and returned at 3.45pm. Sea conditions were reasonably benign with a north easterly swell of less than a metre and hardly any chop on top of that. The wind started off quite light at 5 knots from the north to north east and freshened a little during the return journey to perhaps 10 knots or so. The weather was mostly sunny and warm and, despite the flat sea conditions, there was one mild case of sea-sickness which dissipated as soon as the cetaceans appeared


We headed out of the harbour with a complement of 14 on board, most of them local and interstate birders. The inshore zone was fairly quiet with numbers of Wedge-tailed Shearwaters, Crested Terns, Australasian Gannets, the odd Pomarine Jaeger and a few Flesh-footed Shearwaters in evidence. We stopped to observe a feeding area of birds about 3NM short of Brown's Mountain and spent some time berleying to see whether anything new might come in to join us. Other than a few Great-winged Petrels, the only excitement came from a brief fly by from a Wandering Albatross considered to be of the nominate race exulans

We moved on to Brown's Mountain where the berleying operation initially attracted good numbers of Wedge-tailed Shearwaters, Flesh-footed Shearwaters and Great-winged Petrels. A distant Shy Albatross was seen by all but did not approach the boat. When the attendant birds around the boat had had their fill of beef fat, they then just retreated and rested on the water and were not replaced by anything new, and so we decided to head off eastwards into deeper water. Again, the birds were few and far between, but a fresh plumaged Providence Petrel was a delight to see and we also had unsatisfactory views of another pterodroma which some observers thought might be a Kermadec Petrel - but photographs proved inconclusive. As we motored north-westwards back off the shelf break, another Shy Albatross and a Hutton's Shearwater were seen along with our only sunfish of the day which dived upon our approach and was not well seen

After passing through a huge area of bait fish which had no attendant predators in the form of fish or cetaceans, we began to wonder if we would see any cetaceans at all today. However, as we passed the shelf break heading inshore, we came upon a pod of about 30 Oceanic Bottlenose Dolphins which rode on our bow for a while and then, shortly after, a pod of 15 Risso's Dolphins which allowed an unusually close approach and which showed very well by spy-hopping and with synchronised breaching of up to six individuals at a time. Great views and photographs were obtained and Raja Stephenson's gallery can be viewed at www.adarman.com/Trips . During the trip back, a large pod of 200 Short-beaked Common dolphins joined us for a few minutes again giving great views and much enjoyment to all on board. A lone Fluttering Shearwater was seen by some observers and a dark morph Arctic Jaeger was also seen as we approached Sydney Heads. It was not a spectacular day on the water with a fairly low species count and no rarities but it was highly enjoyable none the less


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

Great-winged Petrel 30 (12)
Providence Petrel 2 (1)
Wedge-tailed Shearwater 150 (40)
Flesh-footed Shearwater 120 (15)
Fluttering Shearwater 1 (1)
Hutton's Shearwater 2 (1)
Wandering Albatross 1 (1) exulans Shy Albatross 2 (1)
Australasian Gannet 8 (3)
Arctic Jaeger 1 (1)
Pomerine Jaeger 11 (2)
Silver Gull 240 (80)
Crested Tern 14 (4)


Southern Ocean Sunfish 1
Oceanic Bottlenose Dolphin 30
Risso's Dolphin 15
Short-beaked Common Dolphin 200