Albany Western Australia Pelagic Trip Report Saturday 1st May 2004

Participants (15) :

Frank O'Connor (organiser), Margaret Armstrong, David Bennett, Sally Bennett, Hilary Brooke, John Brooke, Michael Craig, Dave Crossley, Jan Crossley, Chas Hayward, Sonja Melgares, Luis Onate-Sanchez, Easy Patterson, Peter Wilkins, Wayne Zadow

Conditions :

Departed Torbay near West Cape Howe at 7.20am. Returned at 3.40pm.  The winds were forecast to be 15 to 20 knots S overnight, 13 to 18 knots SSE in the morning strengthening to 15 to 20 knots SE in the afternoon.  The sea conditions were forecast to be 1.5 metre seas on a 2 metre swell.  The forecast was very close, although the wind was probably more from the east.  The conditions were fair to good, although often it was hard to focus clearly because of the dull light due to the cloud cover.

Description :

This was the second pelagic trip organised from Albany, and the first at this time of year, so it was difficult to know what to expect.  It turned out to be a excellent trip.  We booked the Sail-A-Away, a 42ft catamaran operated by John Woodbury, and most people stayed at the Woodbury Boston Environmental School.

It was a 3 hour journey to the shelf.  We saw the first few Flesh-footed Shearwaters very early on.  There were also a few Hutton's Shearwaters and one confirmed Little Shearwater fairly early on.  We kept looking for Great-winged Petrels but mostly we couldn't be sure in the light as we were moving.  We saw a few Yellow-nosed Albatross and a Shy Albatross on the way out, as well as some very high flying Great Skuas.

We finally stopped at 10:10 when the depth went past about 300 metres and the depth sounder stopped working.  Just before we stopped we started seeing a number of Soft-plumaged Petrels and Great-winged Petrels.  We burleyed with pilchards and fish oil.  It was quite disappointing (at least for the more experienced people) until just after 11am.  There were Soft-plumaged Petrels, Great-winged Petrels, Flesh-footed Shearwaters, Yellow-nosed Albatross, Shy Albatross, White-faced Storm-Petrels and WIlson's Storm-Petrels.  An adult Black-browed Albatross was the main highlight.  Then Mike Craig shouted Black-bellied Storm-Petrel and things greatly improved for the next two hours.  Most people missed it, but after more burleying the bird returned a couple of times for reasonable views for most.  Soon after Mike picked out a Sooty Shearwater.  It stayed frustratingly on the water on the edge of a group of Flesh-footed Shearwaters away from the boat for quite some time, but eventually it came in fairly close for good views.  Then Mike called Kerguelen Petrel.  This stayed disappointingly away from the boat, so probably only people who knew what to look for saw it and another about 80 metres from the boat.

At noon we moved the boat back towards where we first stopped.  We had drifted 4.5 kilometres roughly north back to 130 metres depth.  We stopped the boat, burleyed with the last of the pilchards and fish oil, and had lunch.  Most of the birds returned, including a younger Sooty Shearwater and many more Wilson's Storm-Petrels.  At 1pm we had just started to head for home when a shout went out and a Wandering Albatross was seen.  Then another was seen very soon after.  And a third was seen as we had started for home again.  An excellent end to the day.

The trip home was fairly uneventful except for an Australian Sea-lion that popped it head up briefly for a look around.  Disappointingly, no cetaceans were seen during the day despite quite good seeing conditions.

Thanks to the skipper John and deck hand Trevor.

Time/Latitude/Longitude/Depth/Distance from Torbay 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) :

Kerguelen Petrel 2 (2)
Great-winged Petrel 50 (8)
Soft-plumaged Petrel 80 (12)
Flesh-footed Shearwater 400 (100)
Hutton's Shearwater 15 (3)
Little Shearwater 1 (1)
Wandering Albatross (race exulans?) 3 (3)
Black-browed Albatross (race melanophris) 3 (2)
Shy Albatross (race cauta) 5 (2)
Yellow-nosed Albatross (race bassi) 20 (5)
Wilson's Storm-Petrel 25 (6)
White-faced Storm-Petrel 20 (5)
Australasian Gannet 20 (3)
Great Skua 7 (3)
Silver Gull 3 (3)

Mammal List :

Australian Sea-lion (Neophoca cinerea) 1 (1)

Next Trip :

I plan to organise a further pelagic trip from Albany on Saturday 16th October 2004.  For details contact Frank O'Connor on 08 9386 5694 or email

Copyright Frank O'Connor 1997-2004 Visits Last Modified 1st May 2004