Conditions: Conditions on the day were relatively calm, with winds less than 10knts all day. Seas were forecast to be less than 1m and swell was forecast to be 1.5-2m. Overhead conditions were mostly overcast, with significant shower (occasionally heavy) activity offshore in the morning
Overall this was an average Albany trip, with 11 pelagic species recorded, and most of the expected species making an appearance. However, no Wandering Albatross were seen for the second Albany pelagic weekend running, and there were no unusual sightings. The highlight of the trip was a group of Orcas (Killer Whales), which showed quite well at our second stop – these represent the first record for WA pelagics.
|'Type A' Orcas off Albany- note the shape of eyepatch for type identification. Photo courtesy Dan Mantle.|
We departed Emu Point Boat Harbour a little after 0700 in clear conditions. As usual, it was quiet as we crossed King George Sound, though a number of Humpback Whales were seen, mostly in the distance. As we cleared the heads, the first Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross appeared. As we moved a little deeper, we added an adult Shy Albatross and the occasional Hutton's Shearwater, but overall diversity was low. The first few Great-winged Petrels also began to appear, before we stopped in 400m of water.
After deploying the chum, more Great-winged Petrels appeared, and were rapidly joined by Cape and Soft-plumaged Petrels (photos indicate one was a pale intermediate morph), and not long afterwards, the first Black-browed Albatross arrived - an adult bird which settled in the slick away from the boat. After a while though, it came into the back of the boat to join the more numerous Indian Yellow-nosed Albatrosses – interestingly, all albatross we saw in the deeper water were adult birds, something of a surprise. A couple of Shy Albatross also made passes, and one settled at the back of the boat, and a Wilson's Storm-Petrel made a couple of passes and fed briefly in the slick. A pair of Hutton's Shearwater rounded out the seabird selection for the stop.
|Adult Black-browed Albatross in flight off Albany.|
|Adult Shy Albatross at the back of the boat.|
|Soft-plumaged Petrel off Albany. Photo courtesy Dan Mantle.|
After about 1.5hrs, we moved deeper, stopping in about 1000m of water and putting out more chum. Most of the species from the first stop were also present at this stop (with the notable exception of Soft-plumaged Petrel), but a single Flesh-footed Shearwater was also added to the list, and several people had brief views of the first Little Shearwaters of the trip. However, the highlight of the stop was a pod of Orcas, which stayed in the area long enough for most on board to get a decent look – even swimming under the boat at one point! The shape of the 'eye-patches' and location suggests these were most likely 'Type A' animals, which prey mainly on whales.
|Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross at the back of the boat.|
After 1hr or so, the Killers had moved on, and we moved back into shallower water, making a final stop in about 250m of water, in an area of upwelling. Once again, the regular species appeared, but unfortunately we had no chum to use, and struggled to attract birds to the boat. However, a Northern Giant-Petrel made a pass, as did another Little Shearwater, before we had to head for home.
|Northern Giant-Petrel making a pass of the boat.|
We didn't add anything new on the return journey, though a few young Shy Albatross were seen, along with more Little and Hutton's Shearwaters. We stopped briefly for some closer Humpback Whales near the heads, and added a Brown Skua well inshore attending a small fishing boat close to the entrance to Oyster Harbour, before docking at around 1615.
|Little Shearwater, a difficult to photograph species that rarely comes into the boat.|
Thanks as always to all the participants, and to the skipper Tony and deckhand Fred (Spinners Charters), who were friendly and helpful as always.
Species List [Total Count (Maximum no. seen at one time)]
Wilson's Storm-Petrel 1 (1)
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross 60+ (16)
Black-browed Albatross 3 (1)
Shy Albatross 10 (2)
Northern Giant-Petrel 1 (1)
Cape Petrel 4 (2)
Great-winged Petrel 50+ (17)
Soft-plumaged Petrel 6 (3) – 1 pale intermediate (see below)
Flesh-footed Shearwater 1 (1)
Hutton's Shearwater 10 (3)
Little Shearwater 8 (1)
Brown Skua 2 (1)
Australasian Gannet 35 (20)
Humpback Whale 16 (5)
ORCA (KILLER WHALE) ['Type A'] 7+ (7)
|Track of outbound journey for this trip (unfortunately the GPS died for the return journey!)|
|Soft-plumaged Petrel, with light streaking on the flanks, suggesting a very pale intermediate bird.|