My first pelagic!

Sydney Pelagic ~ 17th August 2019 ~

Well, it seems to have been an absolute age since I last updated my blog, for which I apologise - as usual, life got in the way! As some of you already know, I've been in Australia for the last 1.5 months & will be here for a further 10 months as I undertake an exchange year through my undergrad degree. As a (very) brief summary of the last month and a bit: I've attended a conference in Darwin & spent 10 days birding in the Northern Territory (mainly Kakadu & Litchfield NP - blog to come at some point), visited relatives on the Gold Coast, started Uni in Newcastle, gone on a whale-watching trip, bought a car, attended a Natural History Illustration Camp, experienced the Newy nightlife & visited some of Australia's stunning beaches.

Left: Burleigh Heads beach, QLD & Right: Rock pool at Merewether Rock Platform, NSW

That nicely brings us to this past weekend, when I drove down to Sydney on Friday evening (10/10 would not recommend!) before staying at the Bondi Beachouse YHA. Unfortunately I arrived after it got dark and so I didn't really fancy walking to the beach. Luckily there was a Thai restaurant nearby so that satiated my hunger & I got an early night. On Saturday morning I woke up before my 6am alarm, full of excitement for what lay ahead. I remembered to take my travel sickness tablet at 6.30am and then checked out of the YHA and drove to Rose Bay Wharf where the boat picked us up at 7am.

Great views of Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge as we headed out to sea

For the next 3 hours we made our way out to sea, and it didn't take long for the birds to be attracted to the smell of chum. As we made our way out of Sydney Harbour, Silver Gulls Larus novaehollandiae and Great Crested Terns Thalasseus bergii loitered around the boat, hopeful of some fishy matter being tossed their way. Before too long, the first 'proper' seabirds put in an appearance. First up was a Wedge-tailed Shearwater Ardenna pacifica, swiftly followed by a Black-browed Albatross Thalassarche melanophris and Brown Skua Catharacta antarctica.

Wedge-tailed Shearwater Ardenna pacifica
Black-browed Albatross Thalassarche melanophris
Brown Skua Stercorarius antarcticus

As we got further out, the gulls and terns stopped pursuing us, but the albatrosses and skuas continued to follow and increase in number. A bit further out, a White-capped (Shy) Albatross Thalassarche steadi joined the throng of birds following the boat's wake in a fierce battle to get the fish scraps being thrown out. We also bumped into a few Humpback Whales Megaptera novaeangliae which put on a fantastic display for us and stayed pretty close to the boat for about 15 minutes!
White-capped (Shy) Albatross Thalassarche steadi
White-capped (Shy) Albatross Thalassarche steadi
Humpback Whale Megaptera novaeangliae
Humpback Whale Megaptera novaeangliae

Once we got out to sea, the boat stopped and put out the slick. Over the time that we were stopped, we were treated to views of Fairy Prion Pachyptila turtur, White-faced Storm-petrel Pelagodroma marina and Providence Petrel Pterodroma solandri in addition to the constant presence of Brown Skuas and four species of Albatross (Black-browed, White-capped, Indian Yellow-nosed Thalassarche chlororhynchos and Campbell's Thalassarche impavida).
Fairy Prion Pachyptila turtur
Providence Petrel Pterodroma solandri
Brown Skua Stercorarius antarcticus
Black-browed Albatross Thalassarche melanophris
Black-browed Albatross Thalasarche melanophris
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross Thalassarche chlororhynchos
Campbell's Albatross Thalassarche impavida
On our way back, we came across a large feeding flock of Wedge-tailed and Hutton's/Fluttering Shearwaters, though they were pretty distant and by this point I was feeling a little worse for wear so I didn't manage any photos. In all, we spent around 9 hours at sea, saw 14 species and I realised that albatrosses are even bigger than I imagined them to be!! It's safe to say that the experience left me buzzing for days afterwards and I can't wait for my next pelagic!
Wedge-tailed Shearwater Ardenna pacifica

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