Perth Western Australia Pelagic Trip Report Sunday 27th August 2006

Participants (26) :

Frank O'Connor (organiser), Ben Allen, Marg Armstrong, Stephen Ball, David Beattie, Jean Beattie, John Brooke, Kate Brown, Alan Collins, David Crossley, Julia Gross, Michael Hancock, Merrian Kuerschner, Rob Lambert (UK), Ian Mayer, Paul Marty, Bill McRoberts, Dusty Millar, Bill Russell, Liz Sanderson, Patrick Schaub, Colin Shields (UK), Denise Shields (UK), Holly Smith, Debbie White, Gavin White, Wayne Zadow

Conditions :

Departed Hillarys Boat Harbour at 7.05am.  Returned at 3.30pm.  The forecast was for a fine warm day with a 1 metre sea and a 1.5 metre swell with a maximum of 21C.  The winds were forecast to be 10 to 15 knots E in the morning, swinging SE/SW in the afternoon at 8 to 13 knots.  There was no cloud making the sighting conditions excellent.  The internet indicated that the sea surface temperatures would be about 19C, and this promised a better day than the previous trip in late June when the surface temperature was about 23C.

Description :

The highlights of the trip were a Kerguelen Petrel, several Little Shearwaters and a dark morph Soft-plumaged Petrel.  There were several good opportunities for photographs and there were excellent numbers of Humpback Whales.  The diversity was good with ten pelagic species seen, but the numbers of many species were lower than expected.

From Hillarys we headed roughly WSW heading for the trench NW of Rottnest Island.  There were very few Australasian Gannets and the first Yellow-nosed Albatross seen before we made two stops for Humpback Whales.  A group of six shearwaters were initially misidentified, but finally were corrected to Little Shearwaters.  This species is usually only seen in ones or twos.  Two individual Little Shearwaters were seen further on passing the bow.  The Yellow-nosed Albatross numbers increased followed by a Shy Albatross, a Wedge-tailed Shearwater, a Great Skua, a Flesh-footed Shearwater and finally the first of the Soft-plumaged Petrels as we reached 150 metres.

We continued to the trench and stopped at 510 metres where we burleyed and drifted for 90 minutes, repositioning in the slick a couple of times.  The Yellow-nosed Albatross gradually built up to more than 30 and there were regular sightings of up to six Soft-plumaged Petrels.  A Kerguelen Petrel gave brief but close views, followed by a Great-winged Petrel and then an abnormal dark morph Soft-plumaged Petrel with a pale forehead.  Other birds included poor views of White-faced Storm-Petrel and another Flesh-footed Shearwater.

We slowly moved east into shallower waters and stopped again at 300 metres for an hour.  We saw nothing new but the Yellow-nosed Albatross numbers built up to 45 with great opportunities for photographs, along with two immature Shy Albatross.  A photograph by Alan Collins revealed that we had missed an immature Black-browed Albatross.

After lunch, we headed for home.  We stopped for a semi distant whale.  Initially we thought it was possibly another Humpback Whale, but after further consideration we concluded that it might have been a Pygmy Blue Whale, and I will regret not going closer.  On the return, we stopped again in shallow waters for some more Humpback Whales, a mid distant Wedge-tailed Shearwater and good views of a single Hutton's Shearwater that landed on the water.

In summary, we had a very good diversity of species for the time of year, but relatively low numbers.  The burley worked quite well, except that once the albatross had tasted a little shark liver, they weren't interested in anything else!

Thanks to the skipper/owner Steve and deck hand Callum.  Special thanks to John Darnell for mixing most of the suet, pollard and oil prior to the trip.

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)
07:40 S31 51' 11", E115 36' 15", 35m, 12.9km, 257 (Humpback Whales)
07:55 S31 51' 46", E115 32' 48", 36m, 18.5km, 257 (Humpback Whales)
08:25 S31 52' 40", E115 27' 31", 40m, 27.0km, 258 (distant Humpback Whale, Shy Albatross)
09:40 S31 56' 41", E115 10' 47", 510m, 54.3km, 256 (stopped until 11:30)
11:20 S31 59' 32", E115 09' 41", 750m, 57.4km, 251 (end of drift)
12:15 S32 00' 45", E115 11' 14", 300m, 55.9km, 248 (stopped until 13:10)
13:35 S32 00' 29", E115 13' 52", 180m, 51.9km, 247 (Unknown Whale)
14:05 S31 57' 10", E115 22' 22", 56m, 37.2km, 248 (Wedge-tailed Shearwater)
14:30 S31 54' 55", E115 27' 45", 42m, 27.8km, 249 (Humpback Whales)
15:05 S31 52' 39", E115 33' 40", 36m, 17.6km, 251 (Hutton's Shearwater)

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

Kerguelen Petrel 1 (1)
Great-winged Petrel 3 (1)
Soft-plumaged Petrel 35 (10)
Wedge-tailed Shearwater 2 (1)
Flesh-footed Shearwater 3 (1)
Hutton's Shearwater 1 (1)
Little Shearwater 9 (6)
Black-browed Albatross 1 immature (1)
Shy Albatross 5 immatures (2)
Yellow-nosed Albatross (race bassi) 100 (45) few adults / mostly immatures
White-faced Storm-Petrel 2 (1)
Australasian Gannet 20 (6) (4 immatures)
Great Skua 2 (1)
Crested Tern 5 (1)

Mammal List :

Humpback Whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) 15 (8)
Unknown whale (?Pygmy Blue Whale?) 1 (1)

Next Trip :

The next trip from Hillarys will be in late June or early July 2007.  For details of future trips contact Frank O'Connor on 08 9386 5694 or email foconnor@iinet.net.au

Copyright Frank O'Connor 1997-2006 Visits Last Modified 28th August 2006