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Bremer Canyon Pelagic (Naturaliste Charters) – Saturday 9th December 2023

Orca spotted on a Killer Whale Watching Tour in Bremer Bay

Highlights: The birding highlights were provided by two White-chinned Petrels, a close pass by an Arctic Tern, a Long-tailed Jaeger kleptoparasitising a White-faced Storm-Petrel, and three Gibson’s (Wandering) Albatrosses.

We also had short views of a scattered pod of Orca, brief views of a Sunfish, and great interactions with a large pod of Common Bottlenose Dolphins.

Naturaliste Charters crew and photographers: Paul Cross (skipper), Craig Cotterill, Keith Lightbody, Kyle Sims, Machi Yoshida and Mark Jackman. 

Conditions: Moderate south-easterlies persisted for much of the morning and the ride out to the canyon was quite lumpy with regular sea spray drenching those at the rear of the main deck.

The winds and seas dropped mid-morning and the rest of the day was very comfortable with enough winds around to keep the birds flying all day. The swell was moderate throughout, between 2.5 and 3.5 metres.

Report: This trip was the first of four dedicated pelagics out to the Bremer Canyon and was our first look at the newly refurbished and extended MV Alison Maree.

The boat handled the choppy conditions on the way out easily and we made good time out to the Bremer Canyon ‘hotspot’. Shortly after passing Glasse Island, we encountered our first Flesh-footed Shearwaters; as expected these were common throughout the day.

Halfway across the shelf, the call of ‘jaeger’ went out and a fine Long-tailed Jaeger flew parallel to the boat for several minutes before briefly chasing a White-faced Storm-Petrel and forcing it to disgorge some morsels of food the jaeger then collected.

The first Shy Albatross and Bridled Terns of the day were also seen on the outward journey.

Petrels spotted resting over the waterWhite-chinned Petrels

Within minutes of arriving at the Bremer Canyon, we spotted a small mixed group of Grey-faced and Great-winged petrels sitting on the water feeding on squid scraps.

As we slowed to watch these birds, a single White-chinned Petrel was spotted feeding nearby.

This a very good bird for Western Australian day trips (only the second record from organised WA pelagics along with a few records from Bremer Orca trips) though surveys have shown they are common further offshore in summer.

We had now arrived at the famous ‘hotspot’ and within minutes the first Gibson’s (Wandering) Albatross of the day passed the stern…when suddenly the call of ‘blows’ went out and the unmistakable black-andwhite patterning of Orca was spotted.

A mature bull and several females made a few close-ish passes but most of the group were scattered over a large area so we continued on our way to slightly deeper waters. 

We soon stopped to start chumming around the 1200 m contour and it wasn’t long before good numbers of Flesh-footed Shearwaters were feeding behind the boat along with regular Great-winged Petrels and a few Grey-faced Petrels.

Small numbers of Shy/White-capped and Indian Yellow-nosed Albatrosses also stopped to feed on the fish scraps, whilst a few White-faced Storm-petrels fed further back down the oily slick.

Next up a dainty ‘commic’ tern was spotted approaching the boat.

It soon revealed itself to be a very fine Arctic Tern as it passed close to our stern giving everyone excellent views of this relatively scarce visitor from the northern high latitudes.

Bremer Bay Orca Watching ToursOrca

After drifting for a few hours with no new species appearing, we decided to move back out to slightly deeper waters.

During this short transit we passed close to a decent-sized Sunfish and the second Gibson’s Albatross for the day came into to check us out but was quickly on its way again.

Thankfully the third Gibson’s Albatross was sighted shortly after and it stayed with us for longer, giving everyone amazing views of this incredible seabird!

A quick fly-by Short-tailed Shearwater, at the western edge of their range here, was followed soon after by our second White-chinned Petrel of the day.

This time giving the photographers fly-by views in slightly better light.

Indian Yellow Nosed Albatross spotted on tour

The homeward journey was memorable for a large group of Common Bottlenose Dolphins that broke away from chasing baitfish to play around boat – surfing the bow waves and repeatedly jumping next to the boat and in our wake.

Final notable sightings were a brief view of an Arctic Jaeger as we approached the coast and a small group of Common Dolphins.

Thanks as always to the incredible job done by Naturaliste Charters.

Species list: total count (max. at one time) 

Bird List (pelagic counts beyond Glasse Island): 

Long-tailed Jaeger Stercorarius parasiticus 1 (1) 

Arctic Jaeger Stercorarius parasiticus 1 (1)

Bridled Tern Onychoprion anaethetus 5 (3) 

Arctic Tern Sterna paradisaea 1 (1) 

Great Crested Tern Thalasseus bergii 40 (6) 

Gibson’s Albatross Diomedea antipodensis gibsonii 3 (1) 

Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross Thalassarche carteri 5 (2) 

Shy/White-capped Albatross Thalassarche cauta/steadi 8 (2) 

Wilson’s Storm-Petrel Oceanites oceanicus 3 (1) 

White-faced Storm-Petrel Pelagodroma marina 20 (8) 

Great-winged Petrel Pterodroma macroptera 100 (10) 

Grey-faced Petrel Pterodroma gouldii 5 (2) 

White-chinned Petrel Procellaria aequinoctialis 2 (1) 

Flesh-footed Shearwater Ardenna carneipes 550 (240) 

Short-tailed Shearwater Ardenna tenuirostris 2 (1) 

Short-tailed/Sooty Shearwater Ardenna tenuirostris/grisea 2 (2)

Australasian Gannet Morus serrator 4 (2) 

Mammals: 

Orca Orca orcinus 6+ (6+) – Bremer Canyon hotspot 

Common Bottlenose Dolphin Tursiops truncatus 80+ (80+) – mid shelfal waters 

Common Dolphin Delphinus delphis 5+ (5+) – inner shelfal waters

 

common bottlenose dolphin spotted on whale watching tourCommon Bottlenose Dolphin (Plaxy Barratt)

Shy/White-capped Albatross

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