(belated) November 2010 Pelagic Report

16 12 2010

After putting it off for a long time, I managed to pop my pelagic cherry back in July, and had such a fun time, I basically started planning my next trip straight away – looking at my assessment schedule, to see when I was free. I wasn’t free much, so planned it as an end of degree pelagic instead, which meant November. This time round, I went out with Mr Bernhard, who unfortunately didn’t quite get on with the conditions as well as he’d like.

Conditions were fairly brutal. 2-3 meter swell with 1-2 meter waves, with a NE wind providing some nice chop and sideways roll on top of that. Significantly different conditions from the July trip, which had a bit of bounce, but nothing too much. Again, I didn’t get sick, so I’ll start planning that Antarctic trip soon 😉 haha!

Anyway – I met Bernhard at Rose Bay Wharf, and shortly after boarding, Hal gave us the “it’s going to be rough out there, so hold on to something whenever you move anywhere” talk. And as soon as we got in the open water, we started to bounce around. A lot.

First couple of birds seen were some shearwaters, and a couple of Jaegars, but nothing particularly close to the boat, so we powered out to 12 Mile Reef (I think). We actually stopped for a fur seal, but in the bouncy conditions, i didn’t really get any good photos of it – got some great shots of waves and general sea shots. In the conditions, there were no recreational fisher-people out, so we kept heading out to Brown’s Mountain without stopping. It was a rough, bouncy, fairly unpleasant trip out, with the first couple of people succumbing to sea sickness. When we got to Brown’s, the engines were cut, and the drift was started, all we needed now were the birds.

2nd year juvenile Black-browed Albatross

and none came. Well, not “none”, but not many.

We bounced, and rose, and fell, and rocked, and rose, and bounced, and tilted, and fell, etc etc, but hardly anything came in. Didn’t look like a good day out. bugger. On the corresponding trip last year, they found a Sperm Whale a few more km out past the shelf, so we decided to head out there to see if that could be repeated.

I’m writing this over a month after the event, so I might have my timing incorrect, but I’m pretty sure I’m right. As we were heading out to the site, we came across something I never thought I’d see – a huuuuge sunfish – I’d never heard of sunfish before, but this was a monster. Basically it’s a huge fin on a huge fish that basks just below the surface. A super cool thing to see!

A Great-winged Petrel flying in for some chum

Anyway – back to the birds. At the Sperm Whale site, we continued to bounce about, and a second drift was started – this time, with much better results. Great-winged Petrels by the bucket load (TICK), a Black Noddy, some Storm-petrels, shearwaters, jaegars, everything I came out for. Top shelf birding, in rough bastard seas. I realised then why I went out again.

Unfortunately we had to head back, and for most of the return trip, we had a handful of Great-winged Petrels flying in the wake of the boat providing some more photo opportunities. Once in the harbour, there was some regatta action going on, so we had to detour via Manly to get back to Rose Bay, where as we approached the wharf, we had a Little Penguin pop up. A year tick for me, and most welcomed.

Shooting horizontally from the boat - this is how big the waves were

Anyway – we got off the boat, and I journeyed home to have a well-earned beer. Great day out, and I’ll definitely be back. Of the nearly 1000 photos I took in the 9-10 hours we were at sea, after an initial cull of getting rid of sea and part wing shots, and out of focus shots, I was down to around 200 shots, and of them, only 14 made the cut, and 3 of those were record shots! Good thing I’m first and fore-most a birder and not a photographer, or I’d be pretty not happy with the days proceedings.

Sorry about the belated report, but better late than never.

You can also read Roger McGovern’s report here. That’s got  species list, and more details. I’d probably read that one now if I was you.

Until next time.