Perth Western Australia Pelagic Trip Report Sunday 20th September 1998

Participants (19) :

Frank O'Connor (organiser), Marjory Clegg, Doug Cowton (UK), Keith Cowton (UK), Michael Craig, John Darnell, Keith Fisher (Qld), Lindsay Fisher (Qld), Graham Little, Glenn Moore, Eric Pyatt, Shane Raidal, Sharanne Raidal, Greville Reidy (NSW), Margaret Reidy (NSW), David Siems (NSW), Nigel Sutherland, Shige Uematsu, Yasuko Uematsu

Conditions :

Departed Hillarys Boat Harbour at 7.10am - returned at 3.15pm. The forecast was for a front in the late afternoon leading to 2.0 metre sea on a 2.5 metre swell, but we set out with about 1.0 metre sea and an occasional 2.0 metre swell. There was a north east breeze of 12-15 knots when we left, which swung to the west and strengthened to 15-20 knots at about 11am. The day was fine with a maximum of 19 degrees. The wind increased and cloud started to build during the afternoon. The previous Thursday had seen a front pass through with 3 metre swells, which promised a good day for seabirding.

Description :

A good trip with 7 pelagic species plus Great Skua, Australasian Gannet and Bridled Tern. However, it was a very slow start and the shearwaters were in surprisingly low numbers. The number of Great-winged Petrels were surprisingly high. The eastern states visitors all wanted to see a Soft-plumaged Petrel which wasn't sighted on the trip in September 1997.

The day started out with hardly a bird seen before we reached Rottnest Island. Several Humpback Whales were seen but we failed to get close to one pair. As we passed Rottnest Island a Wedge-tailed Shearwater flew past quickly. Near the West End we saw our first Yellow-nosed Albatross and looked for the usual flocks of Wedge-tailed and Flesh-footed Shearwaters but failed to find any. There were 1000s of cuttlefish skeletons just west of Rottnest Island.

We headed west for deeper water passing some Australasian Gannets and a few Yellow-nosed Albatross, and we also saw a few dolphins. As we passed 200 metres depth, we started burleying but without much success. Our first Great-winged Petrels were seen which proved to be very common in the deeper water. We kept heading west without seeing anything else different until we started burleying with the depth about 350 metres.

A few birds started to follow the boat and we stopped at 490 metres. The Great-winged Petrels and Yellow-nosed Albatross slowly came in followed by a group of 13 Silver Gulls that followed us for the next few hours. The people from the eastern states were starting to get anxious about the lack of Soft-plumaged Petrels!

We headed further west and stopped again at 690 metres which is deeper than we have gone on previous trips. We stopped as we passed a group of Great-winged Petrels with a Flesh-footed Shearwater. But still no Soft-plumaged Petrel!

We headed even further west and passed the 115 longitude and the depth sounder went off the scales at over 800 metres. The Great-winged Petrels were again common and then finally a Soft-plumaged Petrel came in, and sighs of relief were nearly heard. Two distant Bridled Terns were an unusual sight at this time of year, and we also saw our first White-faced Storm-Petrel for the day.

We then headed north east stopping for lunch at 720 metres. We then travelled quickly back towards Hillarys planning to slow at 400 metres. The Great-winged Petrels were even more common with more than 20 seen in less than 30 minutes. The depth went from over 400 to 270 metres in a very short distance as we crossed the trench. We moved further out and stopped at 390 metres. A second Soft-plumaged Petrel was welcome, and there was a big school of about 40 dolphins.

We then headed back to Hillarys. The highlights were nearly 20 White-faced Storm-Petrels within sight of Rottnest Island, followed by a few Wedge-tailed Shearwaters and a single Hutton's Shearwater in the distance. Three Great Skuas were seen just outside the reef at Hillarys.

As we passed through the reef at Hillarys we had a brief detour to Little Island. There were eight Australian Sea-lions, plus many Pied Cormorants, a few gulls and terns. We docked at about 15:15.

Thanks to the skipper Andrew and the deck hand Dan.

Time/Latitude/Longitude/Depth/Distance/Bearing of most stoppages:

07:10 S31 49.6, E115 43.6, 6m, 0.0km, 0 (Hillarys)
08:20 S31 59.6, E115 27.4, 25m, 32.3km, 237 (off West End)
09:10 S32 04.9, E115 13.5, 160m, 55.9km, 242
09:30 S32 04.7, E115 07.8, 350m, 63.6km, 246
09:55 S32 04.4, E115 04.8, 490m, 67.6km, 248 (first stop until 10:30)
10:45 S32 04.0, E115 02.1, 690m, 71.2km, 250 (stopped until 11:00)
11:15 S32 04.0, E114 59.9, 800m, 74.5km, 251 (stopped until 11:40)
12:05 S32 01.1, E115 04.4, 720m, 66.0km, 253 (stopped until 12:30)
13:00 S31 57.9, E115 13.0, 390m, 51.3km, 255 (stopped until 13:35)

Bird List (Christidis & Boles order) :

Great-winged Petrel (80)
Soft-plumaged Petrel (2)
Wedge-tailed Shearwater (15)
Flesh-footed Shearwater (1)
Hutton's Shearwater (1)
Yellow-nosed Albatross (race bassi) (40)
White-faced Storm-Petrel (20)
Australasian Gannet (60)
Great Skua (4)
Silver Gull (13)
Crested Tern (5)
Bridled Tern (2)

Darter (1) harbour & Little island
Little Pied Cormorant (20) harbour & Little island
Pied Cormorant (100+) harbour & Little Island
Silver Gull (20+) harbour & Little Island
Caspian Tern (3) Little Island
Crested Tern (50+) Little Island
Welcome Swallow (2) harbour

Mammal List :

Humpback Whale (7)
Bottle-nose Dolphin (5)
Bridled Dolphin (~40)
Striped (?) Dolphin (6)
Australian Sea-lion (8) Little Island

Next Trip :

The next trip is expected to be mid to late May 1999, then early July 1999 and late August 1999. For details contact Frank O'Connor on 08 9386 5694 or email

Copyright Frank O'Connor 1998-2004 Visits Last Modified 22nd July 2001