Perth Western Australia Pelagic Trip Report Sunday 3rd August 2008

Participants (20) :

Frank O'Connor, Sue Abbotts, Sam de Beer, Maureen Cawley, Ted Cawley, Alan Collins, Wes Cooper, Stewart Ford, Greg Howell, Pat Kelly, Heyn de Koek, Maris Lauva, John Lillywhite, Adrienne Markey, Paul Marty, Robyn Pickering, Mark Stanley, Peter Taylor, Mark Walker, Gavin White.

Conditions :

Departed Hillarys Boat Harbour at 7.20am.  Returned at 3.00pm.  A series of cold fronts had moved through the Perth area during the previous week. The forecast was for a fine day with a 1 metre sea and a 3.5 metre swell with a maximum of 17°C.  The winds were forecast to be 5 to 10 knots SW.  There was more cloud than had been forecast but no rain.  The internet indicated that the ocean surface temperatures would be about 20°C.

Description :

The highlights of the trip were an Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross, several Black-browed Albatross and an obliging Cape Petrel.  The chum and fish oil worked well at bringing the birds in close, giving excellent opportunities for photography.  The diversity was good, with 10 pelagic species seen.

From Hillarys we headed roughly WSW heading for the trench NW of Rottnest Island.  There were a few Australasian Gannets, Crested Terns, a number of Hutton’s Shearwaters were seen including a couple which make close passes of the boat.  The first of the Great-winged Petrels started to follow the boat, a White-faced Storm-Petrel was spotted and a few Yellow-nosed Albatross were also seen.

A concentration of Soft-plumaged Petrels made us slow down and we start to chum, laying out an oil slick and burley trail whilst motoring slowly at 5 knots.  The birds were attracted to the slick but dropped to the water some distance from the boat.  We decided to stop the boat and although the heavy swell made for rocky conditions, it was well worth it as the birds started to congregate around the boat.

The number of Yellow-nosed Albatross increased with up to 40 around the boat, Soft-plumaged Petrels increased and were joined by a few Great-winged Petrels and a Brown Skua.

A “grey headed” Yellow-nosed Albatross was seen amongst the throng and the possibility of an Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross was discussed (subsequent photos have proved this to be the case).  This is only the second record of this species on the Hillarys pelagic, the first being seen in July 1997.

A juvenile Black-browed Albatross came in to feed and was subsequently joined by 2 others.  A Flesh-footed Shearwater was a surprise as this species usually spends the winter in the Arabian Sea, returning later in the year.

As the number of birds attracted to the chum increased, a Cape Petrel came to join in and a number of White-faced Storm-Petrels gave fleeting views, often lost behind the swell.

As we were about to head back, a Southern Giant Petrel flew in and fed on the bag of chum. The return journey was quiet although we noted a few more Hutton’s Shearwaters and Brown Skuas and we stopped for close views of a pod of Bottlenose Dolphins.

In summary, we had a good selection of pelagic species with excellent views of a number of species including Southern Giant-Petrel, Cape Petrel and an Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross (possibly only the 4th recorded in Australian waters).

Thanks to John Darnell for mixing most of the chum prior to the trip.

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

White-faced Storm-Petrel 7 (2)
Black-browed Albatross  3 (3) (immatures)
Yellow-nosed Albatross (race chlororhynchos) 1 (1)
Yellow-nosed Albatross (race bassi) 60 (40)
Southern Giant-Petrel 1 (1)
Cape Petrel 1 (1)
Flesh-footed Shearwater 2 (1)
Hutton’s Shearwater 20 (8)
Soft-plumaged Petrel 50 (15)
Great-winged Petrel 15 (3)
Australasian Gannet 30 (8) (4 immatures)
Brown Skua 3 (2)

Crested Tern 4 (2)

Mammal List :

Humpback Whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) 2 (2)
Bottlenose Dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) 10 (10)

© Copyright Frank O'Connor 1997-2009 Visits Last Modified 4th August 2009