Saturday 14 May 2011 REPORT

In the tail of the cold southerly fronts across south-eastern Australia over the preceding week, we were hoping to see good numbers of southern cold water species. Winds were 25-35 knots SW; swell 2-3 m S; seas 2-4 m, SW. The choppy conditions of late had likely mixed the surface waters and dropped the sea surface temperature well below 20 deg C. The Halicat handled the conditions very well and provided a remarkably stable and almost dry platform

The first Australasian Gannet and Black-browed Albatross of the day were encountered just inside Sydney Heads. Outside, the heavy conditions forced us to proceed at a moderate pace. Hal did an outstanding job with the berley in Roger’s absence and growing numbers of albatrosses and a few prions were soon following us. We dragged these out with us and numbers rapidly swelled to about 80 albatrosses by the time we reached the shelf break. Among them was an adult Buller’s Albatross that followed for half the day. Two Southern Giant Petrels in fresh juvenile plumage and an adult Brown Skua followed for much of the day, but the single adult Northern Giant Petrel lost interest quickly. Prions were around all day, but the big waves and rocking boat (one hand for the bins, one for the boat) meant that they were hard to see well. The Great-winged Petrels and shearwaters did not appear until we reached the shelf-break, although the sooties and short-taileds followed us back in a fair way. Two adult Wandering Albatrosses joined us on the way back. When we slowed about 5 km off the Heads for some Common Dolphins we found two more adult Buller’s Albatrosses sitting on the water with some gannets. All of the Buller’s were fairly pale-headed and white-capped, indicating the nominate subspecies, if indeed there is any real difference. The biggest surprises may have been the conspicuous absence of Providence Petrel and smaller forms of Wandering Albatross.

BIRDS LIST

Wandering Albatross (exulans) 2
Black-browed Albatross (melanophris) 40
Black-browed Albatross (impavida) 20
Buller’s Albatross 3 (2)
Shy Albatross (cauta) 10
Yellow-nosed Albatross (bassi) 25
Southern Giant Petrel 2
Northern Giant Petrel 1
Fairy Prion 10
Prion sp. 20
Great-winged Petrel (macroptera) 5 (3)
Sooty Shearwater 3 (2)
Wedge-tailed Shearwater 1
Shearwater sp. (fluttering type) 2 (1)
Wilson’s Storm-Petrel 3 (2)
Australasian Gannet 50 (20)
Brown Skua 1
Silver Gull 1 offshore Crested Tern 20 (10)

OTHER

Short-beaked Common Dolphin 10+
Inshore Bottlenose Dolphin 2 in Rose Bay