Albany Western Australia Pelagic Trip Report Saturday 31st July 2010
Trip report by Alan Collins

Participants (18) :

Alan Collins (organiser), Ben Allen, Claire Bartron, David Bennett, James Bennett, John Graff, Duncan Himes (USA), Wayne Merritt, Frank O’Connor, Sally O’Loughlin, Grant Penrhyn (South Australia), Warwick Pickwell (Queensland), Mark Stanley, Andrew Sutherland, Peter Taylor, Hank Vanderpol (Canada), Maree Weerheim, Gail White

Conditions :

Departed Emu Point Boat Harbour at 7.00am. returned at 4.50pm.  The forecast was for a fine but partially cloudy day, with 20-25 knots W/SW winds easing to 10-15 knots during the morning.  Seas were 1-2m with a swell of 4m. Conditions were lumpy at first with numerous white caps but gradually calmed during the day.

Description :

Hopes were high for an exciting trip, as a cold front had passed over the area a couple of days before and the winds were strong southerlies, ideal conditions for a winter pelagic. The highlight was undoubtedly the sighting of two species of prion, the first prions we have seen off Albany. Perhaps surprisingly, this was also the first trip on which no Wandering Albatross were seen.

As we headed out from the harbour, a Pacific Gull watched us from the rocks and good numbers of Australasian Gannets were seen in King George Sound. As we headed out past The Heads into the ocean proper, the first Brown Skua was sighted and sea spray became a problem, but luckily a Hutton’s Shearwater made a close pass of the boat and then a Little Shearwater took off from the sea and flew alongside the boat giving excellent views so that the closely related Subantarctic Little Shearwater could be ruled out. As we moved into deeper water, the first of the prions was seen but its extremely erratic flight and the rough conditions meant it couldn’t be pinned down to species. We stopped the boat at 1000m depth and put out the chum/burley mix from the back of the boat. Very quickly Great-winged Petrels began to gather as well as a number of Soft-plumaged Petrels.  The first of the albatross species flew in - Black-browed Albatross - and we soon had 3 adults sitting on the water as well as a couple of adult Yellow-nosed Albatross.  A Brown Skua was also alert to the feeding opportunity and flew in.  The only Salvin’s Albatross of the trip, landed briefly at the front of the boat but, as is often the case with this species, it didn’t linger.

We stayed for just over an hour before moving on.  We stopped the boat when 2 prions appeared in the wake (depth 500m) and started to put out an oil and burley trail and the prions could be seen flying across the slick. They occasionally came closer and were identified as Antarctic Prions. Later, another two prions joined the melee and these proved to be Slender-billed Prions. Other birds attracted to our offerings included two adult Shy Albatross as well as more Black-browed Albatross and Yellow-nosed Albatross. An inquisitive Cape Petrel arrived and made a few passes of the boat before deciding to land on the ocean.  As we were about to set off for home, a Northern Giant-Petrel flew around. As we headed back to harbour we were surprised to see good numbers of both Great-winged Petrel and Soft-plumaged Petrels in relatively shallow water (70m).  We passed Breaksea Island to look at a New Zealand Fur Seal colony.  In King George Sound a couple of Humpback Whales passed very close to the boat.

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

Black-browed Albatross 4 (4) (adults, 1 immature)
Shy Albatross 6 (2) (adult, sub adult)
Shy Albatross 1 (1) (immature) race salvini
Yellow-nosed Albatross 30 (8) race bassi

Northern Giant-Petrel 1(1)
Cape Petrel 1 (1)

Antarctic Prion 2 (2)

Slender-billed Prion 2 (2)

prion sp. 3 (2)

Hutton's Shearwater 4 (2)
Little Shearwater 1 (1
)

Soft-plumaged Petrel 25 (8)
Great-winged Petrel 100 (20)
Australasian Gannet  35 (16)
Brown Skua 4 (1)

Mammal List :

New Zealand Fur Seal (Arctocephalus forsteri) 12 (12)
Humpback Whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) 4 (2
)

Next Trip :

We are considering a weekend of trips in May 2011.  For details contact Frank O'Connor on 08 9386 5694 or email foconnor@iinet.net.au

© Copyright Frank O'Connor 1997-2010 Visits Last Modified 16th August 2010