9 Jun 2012 Report


Earlier this week, the coast of NSW had been hit by a major southerly storm generating waves up to 6 or 7 metres in height. Along with this event came reports of Southern Fulmar from the cliffs at Maroubra and beach cast specimens of Southern Fulmar and Light-mantled Albatross at Wreck Bay just to the south of Jervis Bay. Although the weather had calmed significantly in the ensuing days, there was a certain air of anticipation amongst the participants of the pelagic trip (this participant in particular) for whom these two species would have a profound effect upon their Australian lists. In the event, we had a superb day of winter birding with heaps of birds and a very good species count but, unfortunately, without the appearance of any rarities. There were good numbers of albatross with us all day along with the appearance of expected winter species such as Fairy Prions, Northern Giant Petrel and Cape Petrel. Surface water temperatures had cooled considerably since last month being 16.5 deg C at Sydney Heads and rising steadily to 17.5 deg C at the shelf break. We departed from Rose Bay at 7.20am and returned at 3.25pm. Seas conditions were surprisingly good after the big storm event with a southerly swell of about 2.0 meters and only a small chop on top of that. The winds were SSW atabout 10 - 12 knots in the morning and they dropped right away to almost calm conditions later in the day.


We headed out of the harbour with a complement of over 20 passengers onboard, comprising mostly local and interstate birders and including Lindsay Smith from SOSSA who it was good to see on the Halicat for his first trip. David James was back on berleying duties after his trip to Christmas Island and he started a berley trail as soon as we left Rose Bay wharf and he kept a great contingent of birds travelling with the boat throughout the trip -he must have learned this art from a good teacher! As we left the heads, we motored south to look for migrating humpbacks before heading off to Brown's Mountain. The accompanying Silver Gulls and Crested Terns were soon joined by Black-browed and Yellow-nosed Albatross with several Australasian Gannets and Fluttering Shearwaters soon putting in an appearance. We came across two Humpback Whales off Coogee Beach and, after everyone had had good looks and photo opportunities, we set course at ESE for Brown's Mountain. As we progressed into deeper water we were joined by Brown Skuas, Northern Giant Petrels, Sooty Shearwater, Shy Albatross and Buller's Albatross along with the lovely sight of Fairy Prions skimming along close to the boat. It was a truly great moment to look behind the boat and see a wheeling mass of birds with a Sydney skyline backdrop on a perfect winter's day - archetypepelagic birding!. As we reached the continental shelf drop off, we recorded the first Hutton's Shearwater of the day and our first Providence Petrels of the day began to appear. We commenced out first drift at 10.30am and we soon added Great-winged Petrels, Wilson's Storm Petrels and Cape Petrels to the day's tally. All the birds appeared to be hungry and made very close approaches to the boat providing excellent views and photo opportunities. Towards the end of this drift, the first of several Wandering Albatross put in an appearance- we had been commenting on the fact that they had been much less numerous this year than in recent years. At 12.00pm we motored further north of Brown's and had another long drift but, although there were always large numbers of birds with us, we did not add any new species to the day's count. The journey back to Sydney continued in the same vein with large numbers of birds following the boat but nothing new showing up. At about 3NM off the heads, we came across two Humpback Whales travelling north and had great views of them in the much calmer sea conditions which now prevailed. It was a marvellous day on the water with 18 species recorded but we will have to wait until next month for that Southern Fulmar!


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

Northern Giant Petrel 2 (2)
Cape Petrel 3 (2)
Great-winged Petrel 12 (3) some thought to be macroptera but will await photographic analysis
Providence Petrel 20 (4)
Fairy Prion 35 (6)
Sooty Shearwater 2 (1)
Fluttering Shearwater 24 (4)
Hutton's Shearwater 5 (3)
Wandering Albatross 4 (2) gibsoni and a possible exulans
Black-browed Albatross 45 (20) several impavida (CampbellIsland Albatross)
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross 28 (10)
Shy Albatross 3 (2)
Buller's Albatross 4 (3)
Wilson's Strom-Petrel 10 (3)
Australasian Gannet 40 (25)
Brown Skua 4 (3)
Silver Gull 60 (40)
Crested Tern 5 (2)


Humpback Whale 4