10 August 2014 Report


Today's pelagic trip was a very typical winter trip out of Sydney and, with most of those on a full boat being non-regulars, the good mix of albatross species made for a very interesting day on the water. Although there were no rarities seen on the trip, six albatross species, both giant petrels, good numbers of Brown Skuas and early returning Wedge-tailed Shearwaters and Short-tailed Shearwaters provided plenty of action on the day. Notable absentees on the day were Cape Petrels (not seen off Sydney since 2013), prions of any description and storm petrels.

Weather conditions for the previous few days had been good and the big swells that had been around up until the day before had largely subsided. We left the heads in good sea conditions of a metre or less at 7.55am and arrived at the shelf break at 11.25am. Winds were very light from the north west on the way out but picked up to 15 - 20 knots from the west while we were doing the berley drift at Brown's Mountain. Sea water temperature throughout the day was a fairly constant 17.8 deg C. We departed the shelf at 12.20pm in quite a stiff westerly but, as we made our way shoreward, the wind dropped off once again making for a comfortable homeward ride. We arrived back at Rose Bay at 4.10pm.


We departed the heads with a full complement of enthusiastic birders and immediately encountered a distant small pod of Inshore Bottlenose Dolphins (seen only by a couple of observers) and an immature Black-browed Albatross before we had even left the heads. We were berleying with fish offal all the way out and we soon had a following of Silver Gulls, Greater Crested Terns and the occasional Australasian Gannet following the vessel. More albatrosses joined the following throng as we got a little further out with about equal numbers of Black-browed and Indian Yellow-nosed and a little later, out first Campbell Albatross of the day. We were soon joined by a small number of Brown Skuas which seemed particularly hungry and they stayed with us, on and off, for most of the trip. A couple of groups of fluttering-type shearwaters were seen by those at the front of the boat (I was on the berley table at the back and could not assist with the specific id) and then two Hutton's Shearwaters passed across the back of the boat and were well seen by most. A couple of immature Shy Albatross added to the species count, a pod of about 20 Short-beaked Common Dolphins came to join the boat for a few minutes and a large lounging fur seal was seen at close quarters although the head was seen only fleetingly indicating a probable New Zealand Fur Seal based on its quite pointed snout and dark coloration.

As we approached the shelf, we saw our first 'wandering type' albatross, the gibsoni race of Antipodean Albatross (based on IOC taxonomy) and our first giant petrel of the day which was positively identified as a Northern Giant Petrel confirmed by examination of photographs taken. I also picked up a slightly dark headed and dark eyed Yellow-nosed Albatross just before arriving at the shelf and we will examine the photographs of this individual to determine whether it may be an Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross. In increasingly windy conditions, we started a berley drift and always had plenty of activity on the slick and around the boat. Several Providence Petrels were seen although none seemed hungry enough to feed on the berley and a lovely adult Wandering Albatross (D. exulans) came to feed within touching distance of the boat providing great photo opportunities. A single Short-tailed Shearwater was a very unexpected early August visitor and some observers saw a smallish mako shark close to the boat in our berley trail. With the wind getting stronger from the west, we set course back towards Sydney and, although there were always plenty of birds around, we didn't add to the species list until we entered the harbour. Another pod of Short-beaked Common Dolphins came to ride on our bow, two or possible three Humpback whales were seen as we neared the heads (although not closely) and a second fur seal was also seen just outside the heads. The last sighting of the day was of a single Little Penguin just inside the heads which made only the briefest of pauses on the surface and some people did not manage to get a look at it. Most of those on board had not previously seen many of the day's bird species and the good numbers and the variety of closely seen albatross made it a memorable winter pelagic journey.


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

Little Penguin 1 (1)
Wandering Albatross 1 (1)
Antipodean Albatross 4 (3) all gibsoni
Black-browed Albatross 25 (18)
Campbell Albatross 3 (2)
Shy Albatross 5 (2)
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross 30 (20)
Southern Giant Petrel 1 (1)
Northern Giant Petrel 2 (1)
Providence Petrel 10 (3)
Wedge-tailed Shearwater 4 (3)
Short-tailed Shearwater 1 (1)
fluttering-type shearwaters 20 (10)
Hutton's Shearwater 3 (2)
Australasian Gannet 17 (5)
Silver Gull 70 (50)
Greater Crested Tern 20 (6)
Brown Skua 6 (4)


Inshore Bottlenose Dolphin 2
Short-beaked Common Dolphin 25
Humpback Whale 2
Fur Seal 2
Mako Shark 1