With the September pelagic trip being cancelled due to high seas, it was several months since this observer had been out on a regular monthly trip, and it was with great anticipation that an almost-full boat of 34 birders set off on a cloudy but benign late spring day. Conditions at sea were excellent with not one passenger suffering from sea-sickness and a good variety of late-winter/early-summer birds were seen. The highlight of the day was undoubtedly a lovely Salvin's Albatross which kept everyone enthralled by making close passes around the Halicat and landing in the water to feed at close range. Nineteen bird species were recorded and, along with a Minke Whale (thought to be a Common rather than Antarctic Minke), several Humpbacks, a Southern Ocean Sunfish (Mola ramsayi) and a New Zealand Fur Seal, there was plenty to maintain interest during the trip. We also had arguably the weirdest sighting of our many offshore trips when a micro bat flew low over the Halicat off the continental shelf and continued flying south!

Surface water temperatures were still very cold for the time of year being 15.8 deg C just outside Sydney Heads, rising to 18.5degC at 15 NM from the heads and dropping back to 17.7 deg C off the continental shelf break. We departed from Rose Bay ferry wharf at 7.15am and returned at 3.30pm. Sea conditions were slight with a southerly swell of less than a metre and hardly any chop on top of that. The wind started off very light at less than 5 knots from the south west and freshened a little during the day to 10-15 knots from the south. The weather was quite cloudy in the morning which gave quite a flat light and there was some sunshine later in the trip


We headed out of the harbour with a complement of 34 on board, comprising Jeri Langham's group from the USA, overseas visitors from Canada, the UK and Sweden and many local and interstate Australian birders. In my absence over the past few months, David James had taken on the role of burleyer-in-chief and, dressed in his very fetching pinny, he began to set a burley trail as soon as we left the heads. We immediately began to see Wedge-tailed Shearwaters (which began to follow the boat in good numbers), a few Fluttering Shearwaters, Australasian Gannets and small numbers of migrating Short-tailed Shearwaters. It was interesting that after seeing Fluttering Shearwaters inshore, virtually all of the small shearwaters seen further from shore were Hutton's Shearwaters. An early Arctic Jaeger flew past the boat but did not show any interest in our berleying, a juvenile Black-browed Albatross was the first albatross of the day and a sleeping New Zealand Fur Seal allowed quite a close approach before waking up and slipping away. A pod of three Humpbacks were seen but did not allow a close approach from the Halicat and, after waiting for a while hoping for better views of the whales, we continued on our way. Another juvenile Black-browed Albatross and the first Flesh-footed Shearwater of the spring were recorded and then, as we began to approach Brown's Mountain, the first Wandering Albatross of the day came in giving many people on board their first look at this species. There was brief excitement when Steve called a Minke Whale directly in front of the boat and several people saw it briefly before it immediately disappeared

When we were almost at Brown's Mountain, the call went up from Rob Hynson of "Salvin's Albatross" and, over the next 45 minutes or so, everyone was enthralled to see this bird at close quarters as it fed on our berley trail. Rob's photos can be seen on this link The action picked up at Brown's, with more Wandering Albatross coming in, two Cape Petrels, several Wilson's Storm-Petrels, a juvenile Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross and a very obliging Northern Giant-Petrel all showing well. After drifting down the berley slick a couple of times, we decided to motor out into deeper water to seek out new species and, possibly, some Sperm Whales. No Sperm Whales were seen but we did add a Sooty Shearwater, larger numbers of Great-winged Petrels than we had seen at Brown's, and an adult Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross to the tally along with the amazing micro bat that flew directly over the boat heading south. David was heard to say that he would bring a can of live mosquitoes on the next trip so that he could berley for bats! Well, it was that sort of day..

Nothing new was seen on the trip back. We did hook up with some more Humpbacks and had better views of them than previously. As we came back through the heads into dark cloud and rain, there was a general consensus that we had had an excellent day on the water


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

Northern Giant-Petrel 1 (1)
Cape Petrel 2 (1)
Great-winged Petrel 16 (4)
Providence Petrel 25 (5)
Sooty Shearwater 1 (1)
Short-tailed Shearwater 150 (40)
Wedge-tailed Shearwater 350 (80)
Flesh-footed Shearwater 18 (4)
Fluttering Shearwater 14 (5)
Hutton's Shearwater 16 (3)
Wandering Albatross 8 (4) all gibsoni
Black-browed Albatross 4 (2) all nominate race
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross 2 (1)
Wilson's Storm-Petrel 14 (4)
Australasian Gannet 12 (4)
Arctic Jaeger 1 (1)
Silver Gull 140 (30)
Crested Tern 3 (1)


Southern Ocean Sunfish 1
Humpback Whale 10
Common Minke Whale 1
New Zealand Fur Seal 1