Perth Western Australia Pelagic Trip Report Sunday 17th June 2001

Participants (20) :

Frank O'Connor (organiser), Des Agnew, Pam Agnew, John Bailey, James Bennett, Kevin Coate, Hazel Darnell, John Darnell, Tom Delaney, Iain Henderson, Mel Lintern, Susan Margaret, Bill McRoberts, David Newsome, Easy Patterson, Pieter Poot, Chris Reidy, Dianne Reidy, David Secomb, Bev Theile

Conditions :

Departed Hillarys Boat Harbour at 7.15am. Returned at 3.35pm.  The forecast was for isolated showers with a 1.5 metre sea easing on a 2.5 metre swell easing after a small front passed through overnight.  The winds were forecast to be light to moderate W to SW.  The day was fine and sunny with a large uncomfortable 3 metre swell close to Rottnest Island, but excellent conditions past Rottnest and for the rest of the day.

Description :

An outstanding trip for seabirds with an excellent range of species including two not seen on previous trips and two seen only once before, but almost no cetaceans for the day in complete contrast to the corresponding weekend in June 2000.  There were 7 pelagic species plus Great Skua, Arctic Tern, Lesser Noddy and Australasian Gannet.  There were more Great Skuas and Wilson's Storm-Petrels seen than on any previous trip, but there were very low numbers of albatross and petrels.  Despite extensive burleying it was very difficult to bring birds in very close to the boat and most sightings were less than ideal with very few photographic opportunities.  It was a slow start as expected until past Rottnest Island, and the final return to Hillarys was very also quiet except for Great Skuas which were common throughout the day.

The swell made conditions very difficult as we passed Rottnest Island but it began to ease as we approached 100 metres depth and the call went out for prion and stop the boat!!  The prion stayed around for a while but never came close enough to get good confident views.  The tentative identification was Slender-billed Prion.  We started burleying with suet, pilchards, bread, pollard and fish oil.  One Cape Petrel and the first few Wilson's Storm-Petrels were the best sightings.

We continued west at half speed slowly burleying as we travelled.  We approached a small group of Silver Gulls, Australasian Gannets and Yellow-nosed Albatross sitting on the water and we stopped for nearly an hour in 150 metres depth.   We burleyed and had a good slick of fish oil which attracted about 12 Wilson's Storm-Petrels.  The first Soft-plumaged Petrels were seen.  A noddy flew past fairly quickly about 50 metres or so from the boat.   Good views but only briefly.  The cap was noticeably white, the bird looked darkish overall and the bird was fluttering more like a prion than a Crested Tern.  General opinion was for a Lesser Noddy and this was still the opinion after the trip when references were further studied.  A large flock of 60 Silver Gulls approached the boat and as we were about to move on the shout went out again for prion.  This bird stayed around for more than 5 minutes.  It came fairly close and sat on the water in front of the boat for a while.  The black tail tip was well seen with a white supercilium and dark line through the eye, and a more distinct black M marking from the leading edge of the outer primaries and across the upper rump.   The brief good views of the head looked solid with a fairly solid bill.  Prions are notoriously difficult to identify at sea but the general opinion after initial thoughts and consulting references and expected distributions is that it was most likely an Antarctic Prion.  The other highlight here was the catch of a 1 metre Bronze Whaler Shark and the brief view of a large white flash close to the surface considered to be a 3 metre White Pointer Shark which made the Great Skuas take off.

We continued slowly west and stopped at 185 metres depth when we saw our first Great-winged Petrel. Another prion was briefly seen.  The highlight was the brief view of an Arctic Tern flying over the boat with a white rump and forked tail.

We headed west for deeper water but there was almost a lack of birds until we stopped in about 410 metres depth when some more Soft-plumaged Petrels were seen.  Another prion flew past giving reasonable views.   The M was much greyer and this was considered to be another Slender-billed Prion.

We headed NNE into shallower water but very little was seen except for Wilson's Storm-Petrels.  We stopped briefly in 160 metres depth for a final burley but we saw very little except a very blue flying fish.  John tested the water temperature and found that it was a warm 22C.

We headed back to Hillarys seeing another Slender-billed Prion which flew level with the boat for about 30 seconds giving quite good views.

We made a quick stop at Little Island near Hillarys to look unsuccessfully for Australian Sea-lions.

Thanks to the skipper Trevor and the deck hands Neil and Brett.  Thanks very much much to John Darnell for preparing the suet mixed with oil, pollard and some mince.

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

07:15 S31 49' 34", E115 44' 16", 6m, 0.0km, 0 (Hillarys Wharf)
08:40 S31 59' 05", E115 25' 44", 45m, 34.1km, 241 off West End Rottnest Island
09:05 S32 00' 23", E115 20' 22", 100m, 42.6km, 244 (stopped until 09:30) SB Prion, C Petrel
10:00 S32 00' 50", E115 15' 58", 150m, 49.1km, 247 (stopped until 10:50) A Prion, L Noddy
11:05 S32 00' 50", E115 13' 39", 185m, 52.4km, 249 (stopped until 11:30) SB Prion, A Tern
11:50 S32 01' 17", E115 10' 33", 410m, 57.2km, 250 (stopped until 12:30) SB Prion
13:20 S31 51' 31", E115 11' 26", 160m, 51.8km, 268 (stopped until 13:40)
13:00 S31 51' 16", E115 16' 37", ???m, 43.6km, 268 SB Prion

Bird List (Christidis & Boles order) Total Number (Maximum at Same Time) :

Cape Petrel 1 (1)
Great-winged Petrel 5 (2)
Soft-plumaged Petrel 11 (4)
Antarctic Prion 1 (1)
Slender-billed Prion 5 (2)
Yellow-nosed Albatross (race bassi) 25 (6)
Wilson's Storm-Petrel 35 (12)
Australasian Gannet 26 (17)
Pied Cormorant 3 (2)
Great Skua 36 (6)
Silver Gull 60 (60)
Caspian Tern 1 (1)
Crested Tern 9 (2)
Arctic Tern 1 (1)
Lesser Noddy 1 (1)

Darter (4) harbour
Pied Cormorant (~100) mostly Little Island
Silver Gull (20+) harbour & Little Island
Crested Tern (2) Little Island
Fairy Tern 1 (1) outside harbour

Mammal List :

Bottle-nose Dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) (1 plus 1 in harbour)

Fish List :

Bronze Whaler Shark (1) 1 metre
White Pointer Shark (1 possible) 3 metres

Next Trip :

The next trip will be on Sunday 5th August 2001.  For details contact Frank O'Connor on 08 9386 5694 or email foconnor@iinet.net.au

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