11 Feb 2012 Report


After a two month break since the last Sydney pelagic trip, we were treated to an archetype summer outing with some really excellent 'tropical' birds. The star bird of the day had to be the intermediate morph RED-FOOTED BOOBY which approached from behind the boat, flew past, and kept going quickly disappearing from sight. As a result, there were some observers on board who missed the bird , which was a great pity, but images of this bird and the other good birds of the trip can be seen on Raja Stephenson's website at http://www.adarman.com/Pelagics/2012-February-11-Sydney This is the first ever sighting of this species from the Halicat and, if accepted by NSW ORAC, will become only the 10th confirmed record for NSW. We also saw our first Streaked Shearwater from the Halicat for at least four years. Amazingly, the value of photographic evidence was again underlined when Raja later examined her photographs of this bird only to discover that there were two individuals - the very different underwing patterns can clearly be seen. At the time the birds were seen, they were mixing with large feeding flocks ofWedge-tailed and Flesh-footed Shearwaters and it was therefore very hard to pick up the fact that there were two individuals. A very obliging White-necked Petrel stayed around the boat for a while giving great views and three Sooty Terns rounded out a very nice selection of summer species. Surface water temperatures had been very high a couple of weeks ago but the really warm water had moved back to the north - temperatures were around 19.6 deg C as we departed the heads rising to 22.4 deg C at the continental shelf break. We departed from Rose Bay at 7.20am and returned at 3.20pm. Sea conditions moderated continuously during the day and it became a very pleasant day to be out on the water. Having said that, there were two or three cases of sea-sickness to report. In the morning, the wind was from the SSE at 10 - 13 knots and, by lunchtime, it had backed to the south and moderated to 5 - 10 knots.


We headed out of the harbour with a complement of 25 passengers on board, comprising a couple of overseas visitors, but mostly local and interstate birders. David started the berley trail before we left the harbour and the attendant Silver Gulls soon attracted a following of Wedge-tailed and a few Short-tailed Shearwaters as we headed out to sea. Several Pomarine Skuas joined the feeding shearwaters, the odd Flesh-footed Shearwater began to appear and we had our only Arctic Jaeger of the day fly past the boat. A Fluttering-type Shearwater was called at some distance and, a few minutes later, the only Fluttering Shearwater of the day gave good views. Around the ten-mile mark, a pod of 30 Short-beaked Common Dolphins joined us and rode on the bow for a while. As we began to approach the shelf break, a Streaked Shearwater flew in and spent some time with the large numbers of Wedge-tailed and Flesh-footed Shearwaters behind the boat giving everyone on board the opportunity to view the bird well. Although I did notice somebody watching the Streaked Shearwater in a different direction to the one that I was watching, the 'two bird' theory did not enter my brain until Raja examined her photographs and confirmed that we indeed had two individuals! Shortly afterwards, a distant Sooty Tern was seen by some on board, but we were to have two more sightings later which provided much closer views. A distant whale blow was seen by Steve and we were frustrated not to locate the animal as it could have been something interesting at this time of the year. We set up a berley trail at Brown's Mountain and eventually began to get a few Great-winged Petrels to the boat along with Wedge-tailed, Short-tailed and Flesh-footed Shearwaters. After some time with no new species, a White-necked Petrel approached the boat and delighted everyone by staying within a reasonable distance of the boat for several minutes. With nothing new coming to the berley, we set off for a cruise to the north and east of Brown's Mountain where the highlight was the brief but spectacular appearance of the RED-FOOTED BOOBY. The only other sighting of note during this period was a single Offshore Bottlenose Dolphin which came and rode on our bow wave for a short time.The journey back to Sydney was uneventful but, as we neared the heads, a group of three Hutton's Shearwaters flew across the bow giving good views and we saw a pair of Australasian Gannets, the only ones of the day. A spectacular rainstorm hit us as we passed through the heads and a fur seal which was seen was not investigated further due to the terrible weather conditions. All in all, it was as good a day of pelagic birding on a summer's day off Sydney as could reasonably be expected.


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

Great-winged Petrel 20 (4) all gouldi
White-necked Petrel 1 (1)
Short-tailed Shearwater 18 (2)
Wedge-tailed Shearwater 400 (150)
Flesh-footed Shearwater 60 (7)
Fluttering type shearwater 1 (1)
Fluttering Shearwater 1 (1)
Hutton's Shearwater 3 (3)
Australasian Gannet 2 (2)
Arctic Jaeger 1 (1)
Pomarine Skua 12 (3)
Silver Gull 20 (5)
Crested Tern 3 (2)
Sooty Tern 3 (1)


Short-beaked Common Dolphin 30
Oceanic Bottlenose Dolphin 1
Fur Seal (sp) 1