Report prepared by: Paul Walbridge.
Skipper: Craig Newton.
Leader & organizer: Paul Walbridge.
Pax: Brian Russell, Steve Murray, Chris Clark, Jack Brandt, Stewart Pell, David Attrill, Frances Attrill, David Attrill (jun), Robert Attrill, Judith Hoyle, Peter OMeara, Kathy Wilk, Peter Wilk.
Weather conditions: A Ridge along the east coast of Queensland with a weak High in the west Tasman brought light east to southeast winds onto the SEQ coast, with the wind freshening to 15 knots from the northeast in the afternoon. A fine, sultry, December day, with just light, high cloud at times. Visibility, very good, max. air temperature 29°C. Barometer, 1016 hPa.
Sea conditions: Calm seas on probably less than a metre swell for most of the morning, increasing to about 1.5 metres by late morning, with seas rising slightly by mid afternoon. Sea surface temperatures; 24.2°C at the Seaway, 26.1°C at the Shelf-break with a max. of 27.3°C at the widest point. Surprisingly the current was running at only .5 of a knot.
Headed out of the Southport Seaway at 0630 hrs and proceeded ENE to a spot called the Rivieras a few kilometers south of the popular Jims Mountain, approx. 54 kilometres ENE of the Seaway. Arrived there at 1000 hrs and tried several drifts over the next three hours, heading back for home at approx. 1300 hrs, arriving back at the Seaway at 1533 hrs. Duration of trip about 9 hrs.
Heading out, a couple of trawlers were noted coming back in so a raft or two of shearwaters were a distinct possibility close in. Sure enough at 0650 hrs a large raft of shearwaters was located, consisting of mainly Wedge-tailed Shearwaters but also several Huttons Shearwaters and at least 30 resting, still migrating Short-tailed Shearwaters. Then, a shout went out, with two small, grey birds, first sitting on the water then flying close around the vessel for several minutes, only the second record for Southport of Grey Ternlet. The first record, in 1997 was also a pair.
Continued to head out to the Shelf-break with both Pomarine & Arctic Jaegers sighted and the occasional Wedge-tailed, Short-tailed & Huttons Shearwaters. Reached the Shelf-break at approx. 0845 hrs with the first Tahiti Petrel of the day appearing closely to port, immediately, joined by the first Goulds Petrel of the day. Reached the Rivieras at 1000 hrs where birds located immediately where huge numbers of pelagic fish such as Yellowfin Tuna to 1.5 metres and 10 kg+ Mahi Mahi were present & the next cookilaria in the form of a Black-winged Petrel circled the boat. The skipper couldn't help himself and we soon had 3 Mahi Mahi & a Yellowfin onboard. At one point I counted 8 Mahi Mahi (Dolphinfish) at the back of the vessel, on the surface, eating my shark liver. Bugger that, I told the skipper we were here for birding and we moved a couple of kilometres eastward & started a new drift.
This was to no avail as the Mahi Mahi merely followed us and the birds seemed to be more interested in the pelagic activity than our berley, that is until it was almost time to go. In the meantime, a good variety of species appeared around the vessel with several Sooty Terns another Goulds Petrel and the only Kermadec Petrel of the day, a dark bird, putting in an appearance. On the way back, a lone Long-tailed Jaeger, still in Slope Waters was the only new addition for the day.
Not a bad December day really, with a total of 16 species outside the Seaway, 8 of which were Procellariiformes and no albatross to bolster the numbers. By the way, the Mahi Mahi tasted delicious that night.
Tahiti Petrel - 11 (2)
Kermadec Petrel -1
Black-winged Petrel -1
Goulds Petrel -2 (1)
Wedge-tailed Shearwater -443 (300)
Flesh-footed Shearwater -4 (1)
Short-tailed Shearwater- 73 ( 30)
Huttons Shearwater -10 (6)
Pomarine Jaeger -3 (2)
Arctic Jaeger -1
Long-tailed Jaeger- 1
Silver Gull -2
Crested Tern -22 (6)
Sooty Tern -15 (8)
Common Noddy -1
Grey Ternlet - 2