Perth Western Australia Pelagic Trip Report Sunday 5th August 2001

Participants (24) :

Frank O'Connor (organiser), Carol Andersson, David Annandale, David Baird, David Beaumont, Hazel Darnell, John Darnell, Patrick Elton, Klaus Gessner, Iain Henderson, Chris Lester (Vic), Susan Margaret, Stefan Markwitz, Sonja Melgares, Kathleen O'Callaghan, Luis Onate, Easy Patterson, Pieter Poot, Shane Raidal, Danielle Ryder, Karen Smart, Marion Wittstock (South Africa), Linda Wotherspoon, Phillip Wotherspoon

Conditions :

Departed Hillarys Boat Harbour at 7.10am. Returned at 3.20pm.  The forecast was fine but with a 3.0 metre swell easing on a 1.0 metre sea rising to 1.5 metres.  A moderate front had passed through on Friday morning and a small front passed through on Friday night.  A strong front was forecast to come in on the Sunday evening.  The winds were forecast to be light NW in the morning strengthening to NW/W in the afternoon.  The day was cloudy but fine with a light easterly breeze as we left Hillarys, which swung around to northerly and strengthened in the afternoon.  The seas and swells were not as bad as forecast and we stopped the boat when anything of interest was seen.

Description :

An excellent trip for seabirds with a very good range of species including two sub species not seen on previous trips and rare in WA.  These were the 'salvini' race of the Shy Albatross with a distinct grey hood extending further back and black underwing tips and the 'gouldi' race of the Great-winged Petrel with the white face .  The former is very rare in WA waters and the latter is uncommon and rare as far north as Perth.  There were 10 pelagic species plus Great Skua and Australasian Gannet.  There were more Yellow-nosed Albatross, Great Skuas and White-faced Storm-Petrels seen than on any previous trip, and good numbers and views of nearly all species.  The other main points of interest were the many sightings of small numbers of Hutton's Shearwaters heading south, and a couple of Flesh-footed Shearwaters seen much earlier than usual.  The extensive burleying worked well this trip and some good photos were taken of several species.  There were no cetaceans for the day despite good sighting conditions for most of the trip and recent reports in the press.  A couple of shark fins were briefly seen but they could not be identified.

We left roughly on time and fairly soon saw our first Great Skua, Yellow-nosed Albatross and a string of eight Hutton's Shearwaters which we saw regularly during the day.  Because of the forecast sea conditions we passed a fair way to the north of Rottnest Island to avoid the larger swells experienced on the previous trip.  This gave us brief views of two Southern Giant-Petrels but there were generally very few birds to be seen.  We headed west and as we approached 200 metres depth we had another pleasant surprise with the first three White-faced Storm-Petrels.  These are generally seen later in the year.  We made our first serious stop and saw Cape Petrels, a Shy Albatross and another surprise was a Flesh-footed Shearwater which was also very early in the season.

We continued west but fairly soon we stopped again briefly for the first Soft-plumaged Petrel.  I was surprised by the general lack of petrels.  We stopped again at about 250 metres depth and saw very good numbers of White-faced Storm-Petrels and our first Wilson's Storm-Petrel.  But still almost no petrels.

As we continued west at half speed slowly burleying we saw a sizeable flock of birds ahead.  Our luck had changed and we had one of the best stops of any Hillarys pelagic.  We had found a large flock of at least 50 Great-winged Petrels, with some Soft-plumaged Petrels, Cape Petrels and another Shy Albatross.  One of the Great-winged Petrels had a clear white face of the race 'gouldi' which is uncommon in WA and possibly not recorded as far north as Perth.  It breeds in NZ.  We moved a short distance north and again saw good numbers of petrels, large numbers of Yellow-nosed Albatross and 9 Great Skuas together on the water.  One of the Great Skuas had a metal band on the lower left leg, but as no one on board had a licence we resisted the temptation to catch it.

We continued north and stopped with the depth just below 200 metres.  We saw a good range of species and then we saw the main highlight of the trip.  A Shy Albatross (race salvini) flew past a couple of times.  Hopefully a few good photos were taken as this is very rare in WA with maybe only one or two previous reports of sightings of this sub species in WA.  It had a distinct grey hood extending further back, with a bone (?) coloured bill with a dark tip, and solid black underwing tips.

We headed back to Hillarys at full speed seeing several more White-faced Storm-Petrels and Hutton's Shearwaters.

Thanks to the skipper Trevor and the deck hand Justin.  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:

07:10 S31 49' 34", E115 44' 16", 6m, 0.0km, 0 (Hillarys Wharf)
07:25 S31 50' 48", E115 39' 57", 28m, 7.2km, 254 (1st Hutton's Shearwaters)
08:00 S31 54' 15", E115 30' 47", 36m, 22.9km, 250 (1st Southern Giant-Petrel)
08:20 S31 56' 17", E115 24' 28", 50m, 33.5km, 251 (2nd Southern Giant-Petrel)
08:45 S31 58' 30", E115 19' 01", 105m, 43.0km, 250
09:20 S32 00' 31", E115 13' 47", 184m, 52.0km, 249 (stopped until 09:40) (1st WF Storm-Petrels, Shy Alb)
09:50 S32 01' 32", E115 12' 41", 210m, 54.4km, 248 (1st Soft-plumaged Petrel)
10:00 S32 01' 53", E115 11' 28", 252m, 56.4km, 248 (stopped until 10:30) (1st Wilson's SP)
10:45 S32 02' 57", E115 09' 32", 470m, 59.9km, 248 (stopped until 11:15) (petrels)
11:30 S32 04' 50", E115 09' 06", 282m, 62.1km, 245 (stopped until 12:30)
12:50 S32 03' 48", E115 12' 59", 180m, 55.8km, 244 (stopped until 13:20) (Salvin's Albatross)
13:35 S32 02' 51", E115 19' 02", ???m, 48.0km, 242

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

Southern Giant-Petrel 2 (1)
Cape Petrel 12 (4)
Great-winged Petrel 100+ (60)
Great-winged Petrel (race gouldi) 1 (1)
Soft-plumaged Petrel 38 (20)
Shy Albatross (race cauta) 2 (1)
Shy Albatross (race salvini) 1 (1)
Yellow-nosed Albatross (race bassi) 280 (70)
Flesh-footed Shearwater 2 (1)
Hutton's Shearwater 45 (10)
Wilson's Storm-Petrel 5 (2)
White-faced Storm-Petrel 22 (10)
Australasian Gannet 40 (8)
Pied Cormorant 1 (1)
Great Skua 36 (9)
Silver Gull 1 (1)
Crested Tern 16 (3)

Darter (3) harbour
Pied Cormorant (10+) harbour
Silver Gull (30+) harbour
Crested Tern (5) Little Island

Mammal List :

none

Fish List :

shark sp. 2
flying fish sp.

Next Trip :

The next trips are expected to be in June and August 2002.  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