The trip started off with a roost of about 50 Welcome Swallows at the wharf in Double Bay where we joined the Halicat. Not much of note in Sydney Harbour itself, apart from a resting Australasian Gannet, but just outside the Heads, we caught up with a few Fluttering Shearwaters - the first lifer of the trip. It wasn’t much further on that we started picking up Black-browed Albatrosses, more gannets and Greater Crested Terns. As the albatross numbers built up, Indian Yellow-nosed Albatrosses arrived, followed after a while by a juvenile Wandering Albatross. Soon after, a pod of Short-beaked Common Dolphins swan alongside, jumping out of the waves.
Adult Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross
Short-beaked Common Dolphin
We found a slick and stopped for a while to shovel out some fish bits and a few smaller birds came by – a New Zealand race Cape Petrel and a few Providence Petrels. Shy Albatrosses came in in increasing numbers until there was a good mix of the Thalassarche albatrosses wheeling round and sitting on the water near the boat. A Northern Giant Petrel also came in, although keeping a bit more of a distance at first than the albatrosses. White-faced Storm Petrels flitted alongside at a distance. Later a Southern Giant Petrel was also around and also a juvenile White-capped Albatross, which is a subspecies of the Shy Albatross.
Awful, awful record shot a of New Zealand race Cape Petrel.
Juvenile White-capped (Shy) Albatross
A Brown Skua was next, squabbling with the albatrosses for food. We moved on to find another area and hopefully some more of the smaller birds. The skua, albatrosses and giant petrels followed while more Providence Petrels swooped around in the distance. After a while, we stopped and a Fairy Prion was seen. A few others had been seen on the way, but I hadn’t got a decent look at any. Prions are hard to identify, so I was grateful that some of the more experienced birders were able to identify the species.
Southern Giant Petrel – greenish bill tip
Northern Giant Petrel – red bill tip
We had just started on the way back when the boat was stopped for a Buller’s Albatross - the fifth species of albatross for the day. This bird must have followed us for several kilometers, dropping back and then reappearing. Later, it was joined by another. At this point, the boat came to a stop – plumes of water were spouting upwards. A few minutes later, a few more and then they broke surface: two Humpback Whales. We stayed around for a while, during which they showed a bit more, but then submerged, only to appear right next to the boat a few minutes later.
Humpback Whale tail
As we got going again, the numbers of albatross dropped off, although the Buller’s stayed for a long time and another Brown Skua put in an appearance. The boat slowed again and a pod of dolphins was seen a little way behind. One or two came a bit closer and jumped, showing that they were Oceanic Bottlenose Dolphins - the third species of mammal I’d seen that day (I missed the fur seal earlier). By now, the majority of birds were the terns and Fluttering Shearwaters and the Heads were in clear sight.
Oceanic Bottlenose Dolphin
During the day, ten lifers were seen and three new mammals.
Many thanks to Nikolas Haass for help with a few IDs and taxonomic pointers!
Pages on birds seen and photographed on this trip