Trip Report: Mallacoota Pelagic 14 May 2019
An exploratory first trip out to the shelf on a small Mallacoota-based charter boat. [Some extra information included here for any birders planning to organise a similar trip themselves, which I recommend].
Observers: Rohan Clarke, Roger Smith, Janine Duffy (organiser/report writer).
Boat: Gabo Island Escapes 28 foot boat with twin 225 hp outboard motors and small cabin. Boat licensed for 7+2, skipper happy to take 6 passengers on a trip like this. Skipper: Kevin Lott; Deckhand: also a Kevin. Outfit were very professional and safe, and are fully licensed for trips to the shelf.
https://www.gaboislandescapes.com/ Phone: 0437221694
Cost: $770 total for charter. Berley included. May vary in high season or with higher numbers – I didn’t ask.
Weather: Clear, bright and sunny. Primary swell from south west to 2m. Wind from west at around 10 knots (at Gabo). Skipper was unconcerned and confident in these conditions, and boat could handle worse.
Activity: Departed Bastion Point boat ramp at 07.30. Headed southeast at a good speed. First stop at 09.15 at depth 207m. Moved on southeast after 45 minutes. Stopped again at 10.35 at 518m depth. Stayed about an hour, drifted to 570m depth. Started return journey at +/-11.30, headed for Tullaberga Island. Circumnavigated Tullaberga from 13.10-13.15, then headed back, arriving Bastion Point at 13.30.
Route: Southeast from Mallacoota to first stop: 37°44’51.3″S 150°05’39.4″E, second stop: 37°49’16.1″S 150°06’31.1″E
Returned via Tullaberga Island (did not land).
[note: location of Merimbula – Mallacoota Pelagic March 2018 shown – that trip had slightly higher bird diversity, a great albatross, one more storm-petrel, a pterodroma and a procellaria petrel. See eBird checklist: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S46867738]
Birds: 21 species, thanks mostly to Rohan. Many were distant and quick.
Arctic Jaeger: 1 flew past at distance.
Sooty Oystercatcher: 2 on Tullaberga Island
Silver Gull: 8 at sea, another 7 Tullaberga Island
Crested Tern: 10, seen throughout.
Little Penguin: 5, close to shore.
Yellow-nosed Albatross: 16, first few albatross we saw closest to shore.
Shy Albatross: 60, seen throughout trip.
Black-browed Albatross: 2, on way back in.
Bullers Albatross: 2, quick flybys
Wilson’s Storm-petrel: 12, several stayed near boat for extended periods.
Fairy Prion: 90
Antarctic Prion: 1
Sooty Shearwater: 1 on way back in
Short-tailed Shearwater: 1 on way back in.
Fluttering Shearwater: 1 pelagic at 2nd stop
Australian Gannet: 65 at sea, another 6 near Tullaberga Island. Several juveniles.
Black-faced Cormorant: 2 at sea, another 130 off Tullaberga Island
Great Cormorant: 1 at sea, another 8 Tullaberga Island
Little Pied Cormorant: 3 at Tullaberga Island
White-bellied Sea-Eagle: 1 immature at Tullaberga Island
Australian Fur-seals: 2, cavorted in berley slick for a bit.
Comfort: trip was very comfortable on way out, but quite rough and wet on way back in. If full (6+2) the cabin would have been cramped and some passengers might have got quite wet. Bring wet weather gear.
Berley: supplied by boat operator and distributed by deckhand. They had a range of frozen fish and tuna oil. Rohan gave them a few tips for future: small pieces, less often. Chicken skin may be good to include.
Conclusion: It was a quiet day for birding but species richness was not bad. Trip is worth repeating a few times in different seasons to see if birding improves. Considering that the location was just 5-15km south of location reached on March 2018 Merimbula-Mallacoota Pelagic, and at similar depth, and bird diversity on that trip was a bit higher, this trip may reflect a slow time of year.
Rohan recommended we try again, and December-January may be a good time.
Please feel welcome to contact me if you need more information: email@example.com