Perth Western Australia Pelagic Trip Report Sunday 30th June 2002

Participants (30) :

Frank O'Connor (organiser), John Bailey, Wes Bancroft, Mike Carter (Vic), Vicky Cartledge, Ross Damian, Hazel Darnell, John Darnell, Sean Dooley (Vic), Jane Emberson, Stewart Ford, Gael Grant, Iain Henderson, Rolf Jensen, Inger Komi (Finland), Jarmo Komi (Finland),  Mel Lintern, Wynton Maddeford, Susan Margaret, Clive Nealon, Easy Patterson, Robert Powell, Chris Reidy, Dianne Reidy, Jonny Schoenjahn, David Secomb, Roy Teale, Andrew Walter (Qld), Peter WIlkins, Alan Williams

Conditions :

Departed Hillarys Boat Harbour at 7.05am. Returned early at 2.50pm.  The forecast was for a fine morning with showers in the afternoon ahead of an approaching front in the evening, with a 1 metre sea rising to 2.5 metres, and a 2 metre swell rising to 3 metres.  The winds were forecast to be light to moderate NE in the morning swinging in the afternoon to strong NW.  The wind was calm as we left Hillarys but quickly built up to about 20 knots by the time we reached Rottnest which generated a lot of spray.  The sea and the swell were not large but with the wind it made the conditions lumpy and uncomfortable for much of the trip with the swell mostly coming from the north rather than the usual head on.  The wind lightened off briefly about lunch time and then quickly picked up again and we headed for home.

Description :

An outstanding trip for seabirds with an excellent range of species including one not seen on previous trips and two seen only a few times before.  The cetaceans were also a highlight for the day but their identities are unfortunately in doubt.  There were 12 pelagic species plus Great Skua, Fairy Tern and Australasian Gannet.  There were more prions and Southern Giant-Petrels seen than on any previous trip, but there were lower than expected numbers of storm-petrels and Great-winged Petrels.  Despite extensive burleying it was very difficult to bring birds in very close to the boat.  However most sightings were good and there were a few good 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 a few Great Skuas which were common throughout the day.

The side swell made conditions very difficult as we passed Rottnest Island.  A small flock of Fairy Terns flew past the front of the boat, followed by a Shy Albatross.  Three Humpback Whales were seen quite close and a Southern Giant-Petrel proved to be the first of many close sightings for the day.  We headed west for deeper water and saw the first Soft-plumaged Petrel and Great-winged Petrel while comparatively shallow.  Soft-plumaged Petrels continued to be seen for much of the trip, but the Great-winged Petrels were less common than usual.

We continued west at speed until we found some birds and then we set a burley and fish oil trail to the south which we retraced several times.  We saw an excellent range of species but nothing unusual.  Two Pantropical Spotted Dolphins leapt clear of the water off the port side, and shortly after a third larger plainer (Bottlenose?) dolphin was also seen off the port bow.

We moved further west into deeper water where we stopped and set up a good burley trail.  Again we saw a very good range of the more common species.  We stayed for nearly an hour before we moved on.

The shout went out for a prion and we stopped the boat.  The bird reappeared and with the help of Mike Carter we identified it as a Salvin's Prion which is a new species for the Hillarys pelagics.  Then two more prions were seen off the port stern which were identified as Slender-billed Prions.  Four more flew past the starboard side giving reasonable views.  Three more were seen a while later behind the stern and then forward past the starboard side.  As we were about to leave, a White-faced Storm-Petrel approached from the stern.  This is unusual for winter.

A large flock of birds could be seen in the distance and headed over to find a large flock of mostly Australasian Gannets and Yellow-nosed Albatross.  The highlight were the dolphins that stayed just off the bow.  The first few were tentatively identified as Common Dolphins.  Some later very clearly had white tips to their beaks.  There was some debate about whether they were more Pantropical Spotted Dolphins (although they had no spots), Common Dolphins or Striped Dolphins.  Some dorsal fins appeared to be quite rounded rather than pointed.  The final opinion is that there were probably two and maybe three species seen.  Some photographs were taken which may shed some more light of their identification.

The wind had dropped but it quickly began to pick up again and we headed for home.  There was very little seen on the way home which conditions uncomfortable due to a lot of spray.

Thanks to the skipper Trevor and deck hand Justin.  Thanks very much much to John Darnell for preparing the suet mixed with oil and pollard.

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

07:05 S31 49' 34", E115 44' 16", 5m, 0.0km, 0 (Hillarys Wharf)
08:15 S31 59' 25", E115 28' 44", 25m, 30.9km, 233 off Rottnest Island
08:30 S32 00' 28", E115 25' 19", 45m, 36.0km, 236 Shy Albatross, HB Whales
08:55 S32 00' 17", E115 21' 35", 92m, 40.8km, 241 petrels
09:25 S32 00' 12", E115 16' 03", 140m, 48.5km, 246 first prion
09:50 S32 00' 53", E115 14' 21", 165m, 51.5km, 246 dolphins
10:25 S32 01' 42", E115 10' 53", 320m, 57.1km, 247 (stopped until 11:20)
11:50 S32 02' 36", E115 10' 53", 300m, 57.8km, 245 (stopped until 12:40) prions
12:55 S32 04' 59", E115 12' 39", 175m, 57.3km, 240 gannets, dolphins

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

Southern Giant- Petrel 10 (3)
Cape Petrel 12 (5)
Kerguelen Petrel 2 (2)
Great-winged Petrel 11 (5)
Soft-plumaged Petrel 50+ (10)
Salvin's Prion 1 (1)
Slender-billed Prion 9 (6)
Black-browed Albatross 5 (3)
Shy Albatross 2 (1)
Yellow-nosed Albatross (race bassi) 150+ (40)
Wilson's Storm-Petrel 5 (2)
White-faced Storm-Petrel 2 (1)
Australasian Gannet 200+ (150)
Pied Cormorant 1 (1)
Great Skua 10 (2)
Silver Gull 1 (1)
Caspian Tern 1 (1)
Crested Tern 18 (6)
Fairy Tern 10 (10)

Mammal List :

Humpback Whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) 3 (3)
Pantropical Spotted Dolphin (Stenella attenuata) 2 (2)
Striped Dolphin (Stenella coeruleoalba) 30 (30)
Common Dolphin (Delphinus delphis) 10 (10)
Bottlenose Dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) 1 (1)

Next Trip :

The next trip will be on Sunday 11th 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 9th January 2003