Perth Western Australia Pelagic Trip Report Sunday 18th August 1996

Participants (19) :

Frank O'Connor (organiser), Sue Abbotts, James Bennett, Liz Bowles, Hillary & Josie Brooke, Helen Clark, Michael Craig, John & Hazel Darnell, Tom Delaney, Richard King, Kim (KC) Lim, Glenn Moore, Mark Nairn, Brenda Newbey, Cameron Platell, Dee Smith, Ian Standring

Thanks to Michael and John for their identification skills.

Conditions :

Departed Hillarys Boat Harbour at 7.25am - returned at 4.30pm, 1 to 2 metre swell, 1 metre seas, fresh 18 knots E to NE winds moderating to about 12 knots after midday, and moving to NW late afternoon.  A fine day of about 18C maximum.  After the continuous storms of June and July this was excellent conditions.  The fresh breeze made it a bit lumpy.

Description :

This was the first trip of what will hopefully be four per year.  The day started out fairly slowly with plenty of Australasian Gannets and a distant Great Skua.  A Humpback Whale briefly surfaced allowing a few people a quick sight.  We went out the back of Rottnest Island where we saw our first Yellow-nosed Albatross which proved to be very common for the rest of the day.  We made for West End and checked the fishing boats, where a couple of Great Skuas were of interest.  The depth here was about 30 metres and we then headed for deeper water.  At over 150 metres we started to throw out fish scraps, etc.  The depth went to 180 metres in a trench before rising to 160 metres and then quickly deepening to about 260 metres where we stopped the boat and let it drift for 90 minutes.  A couple of Little Shearwaters were seen before this, plus some distant petrels.

The Yellow-nosed Albatross quickly came in behind the boat.  The first excitement was the first of what proved to be a few Great-winged Petrels, although only a couple came quite close to the boat.  The Soft-plumaged Petrels with their distinct 'collars' came in also and tended to hang around for a while, coming close to the boat on a few occasions.  My favourite were the White-faced Storm-Petrels that came in very close to the boat skipping over the surface.  As we moved on shortly before midday I checked the GPS location as S32:05,950 E115:09.214 with a depth of 264 metres and we had been drifting roughly SW.  Another point of interest were the scattering of Crested Terns that were a long way from land.

Shortly after, we stopped for a few dark birds that were a mixture of more Great-winged Petrels and a couple of Wedge-tailed Shearwaters, which breed on Rottnest Island in summer but are usually absent in winter.  A flock of about 20 shearwaters flew past fast about 200 metres from the boat heading south.

We headed for a FAD (fish attracting device) where Bill Mills (the skipper) said usually had a lot of shearwaters.  Unfortunately the strong winter storms had moved it.  The expected location was S32:00.540 and E115:15.580 with a depth of about 200 metres.

We next headed at full speed towards another FAD, but it also had gone.  Just as we got near the expected location of S31:53.970 and E115:10.860, we saw more several more groups of shearwaters fly past.  They clearly were white underneath with some (but not all) white under the wings.  They were Hutton's Shearwaters.  About 100 others flew past in the distance near where Bill said there was a trench.  We moved over and stopped again for about 15 minutes where a few more Hutton's Shearwaters flew past.  This location was S31:54.000 and E115:11.850 with a depth of about 165 metres.  This is about 24nm from Hillarys.

Soon after we moved off, we yelled for the boat to stop as a Shy Albatross flew close to the boat.  We chased it for a while and stopped, but it never came very close.  A school of Bottle-nose Dolphins also provided a good deal of interest.

It was a good day with 8 pelagic species and 2 others plus the normal coastal species in or near the harbour.

Many thanks to the owner skipper Bill Mills and his deck hand Craig who regularly chopped up the fish scraps without many thanks.

Bird List (Christidis & Boles order) :

Great-winged Petrel (11)
Soft-plumaged Petrel (15)
Wedge-tailed Shearwater (2)
Hutton's Shearwater (35+)
Little Shearwater (2)
shearwater sp. (probably Hutton's) (120)
Shy Albatross (1)
Yellow-nosed Albatross (90+)
White-faced Storm-Petrel (20+)
Australasian Gannet (25+)
Darter (1)
Pied Cormorant (10+)
Great Skua (3)
Silver Gull (20+)
Caspian Tern (1)
Crested Tern (35)

Mammal List :

Humpback Whale (2 briefly)
Bottle-nose Dolphin (15+)

Copyright Frank O'Connor 1997-2004 Visits Last Modified 31st January 2002