Vessel: 37ft foam-filled fibreglass monohull.
Skipper: Leon “Paddy” Dimond.
Crew: John Neller.
Pax: Paul Walbridge (Leader & organizer), Brian Russell, Seb Pardo, Chris Barnes, Chris Sanderson & friend Danica, Tina Manners, Bill Manners, Norbert Roeder, Joachim, Kantelhart, Tony Scriven.
A High over the Tasman Sea extended a firm ridge along the east Queensland coast, with a weak frontal system traversing the southern parts of the state. The winds in the week leading up had been mainly SE-NE 10-20 knots. On the day, light variable winds, with a north-easterly onshore breeze to 15 knots in the afternoon. Little cloud cover with bright Spring conditions during the morning with excellent visibility, cloud increasing during the afternoon. Barometer 1020 hPa, air temp. to 25°C.
Fairly calm early on with .5 metre swell increasing to 1metre seas on 1.5 metre swell by mid-morning. Sea-surface temps. 21°C inshore rising to 23°C at the Shelf-break & 23.4°C out wide in ‘Slope’ waters. EAC running at about 1.5 knots at widest drift.
Left the Seaway at 0705 hrs & traveled out over the Shelf with the first drift still in Shelf waters at 0847 hrs in approx. 80 fathoms of water. Crossed the Shelf-break at about 0915 hrs and conducted several drifts over the next 3 hours or so before heading back to the Seaway at 1208 hrs. Total duration for the trip 7 hrs 55 mins.
On leaving the Seaway, noticed a distinct lack of Australasian Gannets and within a few minutes the first of many Wedge-tailed Shearwaters appeared, confirming that Winter had left us and Spring had sprung! Traversing the ‘Shelf’ showed little of note apart from increasing numbers of Wedge-tails until a large, dark petrel appeared astern at 0847 hrs. This was something different & I soon realised we had a Procellaria on our hands, any of which are extremely rare in Queensland waters. As it approached I dismissed Black Petrel, as this bird seemed huge ( there was a single Wedge-tail Shearwater on hand for comparison) and thought maybe our second record of White-chinned Petrel, for Southport.
Closer, closer, then Bingo! – black bill-tip – Queenslands first live sighting at sea of Westland Petrel. I quickly got the vessel to stop and barked out the order for chum over, by the time I’d ducked inside to get my camera gear the bird had settled close astern of the boat, gobbling up sharks liver. For the next 30 minutes we had great views and with all the digi-cams on board, lots of photos taken. The bird finally had enough and headed off south while we headed east to the Shelf-break. My submission for this bird has already been sent to BARC.
By now as we crossed into Slope waters a few Hutton’s Shearwaters zoomed past and the first Providence Petrels started to appear along with a few small feeding parties of Wedge-tailed Shearwaters. At 1035 hrs we came across a feeding party of Wedge-tails and upon pulling alongside a very pale petrel appeared amongst them, this proved to be the first Kermadec for the day, a pale phase bird. This bird was most accommodating and after a few minutes was joined by another, this one being an all dark bird, what a contrast! Kermadec Petrels are becoming very regular on Southport trips.
We moved a short distance to where another feeding flock of Wedge-tails & Sooty Terns could be seen and were joined at 1100 hrs by a young Wandering Albatross, a stage 3 bird and it quickly settled in for a feed. By now several Wedge-tailed Shearwaters, a few Providence Petrels, several Sooty Terns and a couple of Wilson’s Storm Petrels were around the slick with a few Hutton’s Shearwater flybys.
On the journey back, not much to report apart from a single Fluttering Shearwater and finally, small numbers of Australasian Gannets. Overall, the species diversity was down for August and certainly from the previous trip (July) when we had 4 species of albatross and 7 Black-bellied Storm Petrels but the Westland Petrel more than made up for that.
Providence Petrel – 14 (3)
Kermadec Petrel – 2 (2)
Westland Petrel – 1
Wedge-tailed Shearwater - 138 (30)
Fluttering Shearwater – 1
Hutton’s Shearwater -13 (5)
Wandering Albatross (exulans) – 1
Wilson’s Storm Petrel – 2 (1)
Australasian Gannet – 4 (2)
Pied Cormorant – 1
Silver Gull – 5
Crested Tern – 1
Sooty Tern – 23 (8)