Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Hillarys Pelagic Trip Report - 1 April 2012

Participants (21)
Alan Collins (organiser), Ben Allen, Dimitris Bertzeletos, Steve Burns, Martin Cake, Cheryl Davis, John Graff, Mike Green, Greg Howell, Liz King, Richard King, Louise Little, Wayne Merritt, Clive Nealon, Jenny Preston, Jon Pridham, Mark Stanley, John Vogel, Nathan Waugh, Bruce Wedderburn, Pete White

Departed Hillarys Boat Harbour at 7.20am. Returned at 3.45pm.  The forecast was for a partially cloudy day with showers and 10/15 knots W/SW winds increasing to 18/23 knots by early afternoon. Seas were 2m with a swell of 2m.

The highlight of the trip was the large numbers of Streaked Shearwater seen. At least 40 birds were seen very close to the northern shore of Rottnest Island; this species has never been seen in the SW of Western Australia, before this trip the furthest south they had been recorded at sea in WA was just north of Geraldton. Other highlights included prolonged and close views of Wilson’s Storm-Petrels and a couple of very obliging Hutton’s Shearwater.

Streaked Shearwater, Hillarys Pelagic Trip April 2012.

As the boat departed from Hillarys, we headed WSW towards the trench NW of Rottnest Island. As we passed Rottnest Island we started to see a number of large pale shearwaters, at least two of which were clearly Streaked Shearwaters, so we stopped the boat to try to get better views. Some chum and fish oil was thrown out the back of the boat and although this did bring in a couple of Brown Skuas, it didn’t bring the shearwaters any closer.

As we headed into deeper water, a couple of Hutton’s Shearwater were seen including one very obliging bird which flew close alongside the boat for quite some time, giving everyone the opportunity to get excellent views. The only Arctic Jaeger of the trip was also seen as we headed SW toward the Rottnest trench. A Soft-plumaged Petrel was also seen by one observer.

Hutton's Shearwater, Hillarys Pelagic Trip April 2012.

We stopped at a depth of 350m and almost as soon as the fish oil and chum were deployed Great-winged Petrels and Flesh-footed Shearwater appeared around the boat, both giving very close views. These birds were joined by Wilson’s Storm-Petrels and again they could be seen flying along the line of the oil. Normally this species doesn’t come very close to the boat but at times the birds were only a couple of metres off the stern. A couple of Hutton’s Shearwaters also passed in the distance, but with no new species coming in, we decided to try closer to Rottnest.

Wilson's Storm-Petrel, Hillarys Pelagic Trip April 2012.

We stopped NW of Rottnest, in about 30m of water. Several Flesh-footed Shearwaters arrived, as did a couple of Great-winged Petrels (a little surprising in such shallow water). These were also joined by a couple of Bridled Terns, and an immaculately plumaged adult Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross, which stayed around the boat for most of the stop.

Adult Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross. Hillarys Pelagic Trip April 2012.

We then decided to head closer to Rottnest, looking for more of the pale shearwaters. We motored back, passing just north of Rottnest and sure enough we quickly picked up more of the shearwaters flying close in to the northern shore of the island. A reasonable number of pale birds appeared to be hanging around a little closer to the island, so we moved to that area and were rewarded when several of the birds passed close to the boat. The views this time were much better and all the pale shearwaters seen were Streaked Shearwaters. Subsequent checking of photos also indicates that all large pale shearwaters seen on the trip were Streaked.

We then began our journey back to the Hillarys Boat Harbour adding a Brown Skua and a couple more Hutton’s Shearwater on the way, and docked at 3:45pm.

Martin Cake has produced a log showing the locations of most sightings on the trip – see below.

View Hillarys Pelagic 1 April 2012 in a larger map

Bird List [Total Number (Maximum at Same Time)]
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross 1 (1)
Great-winged Petrel 15 (5)
Soft-plumaged Petrel 1 (1)

Streaked Shearwater 40+ (10)
Wedge-tailed Shearwater 10 (2)
Flesh-footed Shearwater 50+ (10)
Hutton’s Shearwater 12 (3)
Wilson’s Storm-petrel 12 (7) 

Australasian Gannet  4 (1)
Brown Skua 4 (2)
Arctic Skua 1 (1)

Crested Tern 9 (4)
Bridled Tern 5 (2)

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