Albany Western Australia Pelagic Trip Report Sunday 2nd November 2003

Participants (8) :

Chris Lester (organiser Vic), Jan Mulholland (NSW), Ross Mulholland (NSW), Frank O'Connor (WA), Stuart Pell (NSW), Snow Perry (Qld), Fred Smith (Vic), Lorand Szucs (NSW)

Conditions :

Departed Emu Point Boat Harbour at 7.10am. Returned at 4.00pm.  The winds were about 10 knots NE in the morning strengthening to about 15 to 20 knots in the afternoon.  The sea conditions were good, although choppier on the return journey.

Description :

This is the first pelagic trip organised from Albany, and so it was difficult to know what to expect.  It turned out to be a sensational trip which exceeded everybody's expectations.  We booked the Chivers Regal, a 40ft boat operated by Spinners Charters.

It was to be a 2.5 hour journey to the shelf.  Things were quiet as it took nearly an hour just to clear the outer heads.  We saw the first few Flesh-footed Shearwaters at this point and their numbers slowly grew so that we had at least 30 in sight as we headed out deeper.  We kept looking for Great-winged Petrels but we couldn't be sure in the light as we were moving.  We saw a few Yellow-nosed Albatross and Shy Albatross on the way out.

Then I saw a large albatross with a white back.  I didn't see it well, but I felt sure it was a Wandering Albatross which was new for me in Western Australia.  This was just before we reached the shelf where the depth goes from about 100 metres to over 1000 metres in just one or two kilometres.  We stopped the boat for over two hours and we began to burley.

There were many Flesh-footed Shearwaters with numbers increasing as we stayed.  Several Shy Albatross landed on the water with a Yellow-nosed Albatross.  And then the first Wandering Albatross arrived and landed on the water about 50 metres from the boat.  It was a beautiful white 'Snowy Albatross'.  Two more younger Wandering Albatross arrived.  The difference in size made it apparent that there were two sub species with exulans and gibsoni.

I was trying to get photographs of the Wandering Albatross when the call went out for a Sooty Albatross.  I looked up to see this stunning bird flying towards the stern of the boat about 50 metres away.  It didn't stay long but our views were excellent to see the pale line on the bill, a white eye-ring (most apparent just above the eye) and an even sooty colour on the back.  A lifer, and already the trip had exceeded my expectations.

We finally confirmed some Great-winged Petrels, and we saw a number of White-headed Petrels.  The latter mostly stayed away from the boat but some flew close enough to give good views  The first White-faced Storm-Petrel also made an appearance.

The call went out for a Grey Petrel.  I picked it up off the starboard side and followed it as it came into the boat.  The Pizzey & Knight field guide does not do this bird justice as it illustrates it as much browner.  It was an even silver grey above and was easy to identify.  I even managed a photograph of another lifer for me.

The Wandering Albatross built up to as many as five at one time, all with different plumage.  A Wilson's Storm-Petrel and a couple of Soft-plumaged Petrels (including a dark morph) were the only other highlights.

Before noon we decided to move deeper but we saw nothing different.  Perhaps it would have been better to follow the shelf break.  At 13:30 we headed back.  We saw nothing unusual on the long journey home.

Thanks to the Chris Lester for organising the trip and to the skipper Evan and deck hand Phil.

Time/Latitude/Longitude/Depth/Distance from Emu Point of most stoppages:

09:45 S35 22' 11", E118 07' 56", 100m to 1000m, 52.2km (stopped until 11:40)

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

Great-winged Petrel 5 (2)
Soft-plumaged Petrel 2 (1)
White-headed Petrel 7 (2)
GREY PETREL 1 (1)
Flesh-footed Shearwater 1,000+ (400)
Wandering Albatross (race chionoptera) 2 (2)
Wandering Albatross (race gibsoni) 7 (3)
Shy Albatross (race cauta) 7 (3)
Yellow-nosed Albatross (race bassi) 12 (3)
SOOTY ALBATROSS 1 (1)
Wilson's Storm-Petrel 1 (1)
White-faced Storm-Petrel 3 (1)
Australasian Gannet 7 (2)
Crested Tern 10 (4)

Mammal List :

None

Next Trip :

I plan to organise further pelagic trips from Albany in April or May 2004 and October 2004.  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 13th November 2003