13 Oct 2012 Report


Following strong westerly winds and lashing rains in Sydney, and a massive snow-storm in the Blue Mountains the day before, we decided to head out a little later than usual, leaving Rose Bay at 9:15 (not 7:00) to avoid the worst of the wind and seas. The Halicat was full to the brim with 42 passengers and 4 crew. The berley trail struggled to pick up a following of birds initially and when we stopped for some cavorting Humpbacks Whales only 5 miles SE of Sydney Heads there were only half a dozen Black-Browed Albatross and a few Wedge-tailed Shearwaters in attendance. As we continued out the albatross numbers steadily rose to about 40, mostly Black-browed, with a single Wanderer and a few Shy/White-capped. Plankton patches (mostly krill but also ctenophores and whatever else) were frequent. We made a single berley stop close to Browns Mountain (34 deg 01 min S, 151 deg 39 min E) where we stayed for 1.5 hrs. This produced 17 seabird species including about 150 albatrosses of 6 taxa in 3 species groups, 3 species of Pterodroma petrels, some charismatic Cape Petrels, 2 storm-petrel species and 2 shearwater species. The highlight was a single Cook’s Petrel that appeared 3 times over an hour and approached to within 40 m, cutting back and forth along the beam repeatedly on each occasion, to provide great views of a species that is rarely seen close and well. In the end we saw 20 to 25 seabird species (depending on how you like to divide your albatrosses) and 3 cetacean species.


The water temperatures registered between 16-17 deg C but were probably a little higher. The winds were 10-20 knots W; swell 2-3 m S; seas 2-3 m, W-SW. The Halicat handled the sloppy conditions very well and provided a remarkably stable and almost dry platform, except for those riding the bow as we chased dolphins.


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

Wandering Albatross (gibsoni) 6
Wandering Albatross (antipodensis type) 1
Black-browed Albatross (melanophris) 150
Black-browed (Campbell) Albatross (impavida), adult 7+
Shy Albatross (cauta) 10
Shy (White-capped) Albatross (steadi), all juveniles 7+
Northern Giant Petrel, juvenile 1
Cape Petrel 2+
Prion 1
Great-winged Petrel (macroptera) 20
Providence Petrel 40
Sooty Shearwater 10
Short-tailed Shearwater 400
Wedge-tailed Shearwater 150
Flesh-footed Shearwater 1
Fluttering Shearwater 3
Wilson’s Storm Petrel 5+
White-faced Storm Petrel 5+
Australasian Gannet 2
Brown Skua 1
Pomarine Skua 1
Silver Gull (inshore) 50
Crested Tern 5
‘comic’ tern (White-fronted type) 1


Humpback Whale 25
Short-beaked Common Dolphin 10
Oceanic Bottlenose Dolphin 50

(Southern) Ocean Sunfish 3