Vessell: 37ft “Grinner” Steber,Monohull.
Skipper: Craig Newton
Pax: Paul Walbridge (leader & organizer) plus 14 (capacity).
A high in the Tasman Sea maintained a ridge over the Queensland coast bringing light to moderate NE-N winds to south east Queensland. Light northerly winds on leaving the Seaway gradually building as the day wore on with gusts to 20 knots in the afternoon. Slightly hazy conditions with only slight cover at times and visibility generally good. Maximum air temperature approx 30° C, barometer 1016 hPa.
Light seas on a light swell on the way out slowly building to moderate sea on a swell 1.5-1.7 metre swell as the day progressed. A northerly current of 1.5 knots with a northerly swell and wind from the north made for fairly pleasant conditions overall. Sea surface temps. 23.7° C at the Seaway, dropping for a while to 22.4° C then gradually rising again to a maximum 25.7° C at the widest point in Continental Slope waters.
Left the Southport Seaway at 0600 hours and travelled out over the Continental Shelf, heading for an area called ‘Jim’s Mountain’ a noted Marlin area 34 nautical miles ENE of Southport. On reaching there at 1025 hrs drifted slowly south at 1.5 knots until 1315 hrs before heading for home. Arrived back at the Seaway at 1700 hours. Total duration of trip, 11 hrs.
On leaving the Seaway, encountered a few returning trawlers for little return, just a few Crested Terns and Wedge-tailed Shearwaters. One solitary Wedge-tail sitting on the water however didn’t appear quite right and made no attempt to fly when we approached close. I netted this bird and on close inspection it appeared to be fairly robust but weakened, so judged to be in exhaustive state. If left to its own devices could well have been picked off by a Sea-eagle, Kite or Jaeger so a box was quickly found and it spent the rest of the day quietly, with us.
The trip out over the Shelf was very quiet, particularly with these infernally persistent northerly winds which blow us no good, just the occasional Wedge-tailed Shearwater heading out and a few Short-tailed Shearwaters cruising quickly south. Just after crossing the Shelfbreak we saw a few shearwaters milling around and tried a short chumming drift but to no avail, so on to Jim’s Mountain’. Reached the final drift point and started chumming, almost immediately the first Tahiti Petrel appeared along with a few Wedge-tailed Shearwaters.
Over the next three hours, although species diversity was down numbers weren’t and a steady procession of Tahiti Petrels, Wedge-tailed Shearwaters and even Short-tailed Shearwaters arrived to feed close to the rear of the vessel, along with a few late Wilson’s Storm Petrels and a couple of Sooty Terns. Probably the surprise bird of the cruise was a Sooty Shearwater which loafed in to briefly visit the slick before heading south, a bird rarely seen in these waters. On heading back home several birds continued to follow in the wake, including at least two Tahiti Petrels which followed us closely for over an hour. Approaching the coast we encountered our first Pomarine Jaegers and just before the Seaway a few Little & Common Terns feeding in the tidal surf. About 20 minutes before the Seaway, the skipper phoned ahead to an old friend of ours, Trevor Long, of Sea World, would he please come and pick up a seabird from us? Not a problem, Trevor directed us to one of the many Sea World jetties and I handed over the by now, rejuvenated Wedge-tailed Shearwater, a couple of days should see it right.
Highlight of the day, in particular for many, was the quality, close-up vision of Tahiti Petrels down to about three metres, in flight and on the water. One of the reasons we remained out beyond the Shelf for so long was for the photographers onboard to get the best possible shots of this hard to photograph species. The photographs I have seen thus far of this species, from this trip are EASILY the best I have ever seen & I have actually seen a few. Anyone wishing to view a couple of images just throw me an e-mail and I’ll send you some,
Wilson’s Storm Petrel – 8 (3)
Wedge-tailed Shearwater – 170 (60)
Sooty Shearwater – 1
Short-tailed Shearwater – 87 (41)
Tahiti Petrel – 42 (20)
Pied Cormorant – 3
Pomarine Jaeger – 3
Sooty Tern – 2
Little Tern – 6
Common Tern – 2
Crested Tern – 45 (30)
Silver Gull – 6
Offshore Bottlenosed Dolphin - 1
Loggerhead Turtle – 1