Report prepared by: Paul Walbridge.
Skipper: Craig Newton.
Leader & Organiser: Paul Walbridge
Pax: Paul Walbridge (leader), Rob Morris,Brian Russel, Michael Mcnaghten, Vernon Kretschman, Dave Stewart, Rob Hynson, Nikolas Haass, Raja Stephenson, Greg Anderson, Rod Gardner, Smathi Chong, Richard Fuller, Alistair Stewart.
A high situated over the southern Tasman formed a ridge along the southern coast of Queensland extending northwards, bringing light northwest to northeast winds into south Queensland coastal waters. Light winds all day, mostly northerly, < 10 knots. Fine conditions, occasional light cloud, visibility excellent. Maximum air temp. 31° C, barometric pressure 1016 hPa
Calm seas all day with the swell to 1 metre maximum. Sea surface temps. 24.1° C on leaving the Seaway, rising to 27.7° C at the Shelf-break & 28.2°C at the widest point in Slope waters. N?S current at 3.5 knots out wide.
Set out from the Southport Seaway at 0625 hrs and headed ENE to a system of caverns & ridges called the ‘Rivieras’ approx. 26 nm from Southport. Crossed over the Shelf-break at 0900 hrs, reaching the final drift at the Rivieras at 1015 hrs. Headed slowly inshore at 1200 hrs, arriving back at the Seaway at 1610 hrs. Total duration of trip 9 hrs 45 mins.
On leaving the Seaway, several trawlers were returning home from a nights work, so we took a rather zigzag approach over the first few kilometres. Although quite a number of birds were following these boats, these comprised of just mainly Silver Gulls, Crested Terns and a few Pied Cormorants and Wedge-tailed Shearwaters. Heading out over the Shelf was pretty quiet with one or two Pomarine Jaegers, an Arctic Jaeger and occasional small rafts of Wedge-tailed Shearwaters.
At the 50 fathom mark we lowered the berley bag over the stern to put a slick behind us for the tubenoses to pick up, although the distinct lack of wind would not be a help. It wasn’t long however before the first Flesh-footed Shearwaters & Wedge-tailed Shearwaters appeared, a few kilometres before the Shelf-break. We had one brief stop for a few minutes where we attracted large numbers of Wedge-tailed Shearwaters and small numbers of Flesh-footed.
On approaching the main drift point the first Tahiti Petrel of the day appeared, along with a lone Common Noddy, followed by an immature White-tailed Tropicbird a few minutes later, which drifted off slowly to the north. Started the main drift at 1015 hrs and over the next hour or so mainly Wedge-tailed and Flesh-footed Shearwaters present but at 1030 hrs a ‘dragon from the heavens’ appeared, in the form of a female Lesser Frigatebird. She put on quite a show over the next 15-20 minutes, not particularly harassing the other birds but swooping low to pick up offal from the sea surface before slowly circling high and disappearing out of sight. The camera shutters were running hot!! An adult Sooty Tern accompanied by a juvenile were the only new arrivals before we headed slowly back to shore.
I’d like to thank a couple of pax on board for helping out on the passage back but particularly one of our southern visitors, Nikolas Haass (two lifers for the trip). Our skipper (Craig), who is minus a deckie at the present time was preoccupied via radio and mobile re; a rogue shark net off Main Beach, which we searched for to no avail, on approaching the Seaway. Nikolas kept the berley up to the birds for the duration of the trip back and made sure we had a constant flurry of birds behind us, mostly Wedge-tailed Shearwaters but also up to four Pomarine Jaegers.
White-tailed Tropicbird – 1 (imm)
Wilson’s Storm Petrel – 1
Wedge-tailed Shearwater – 377 (160)
Flesh-footed Shearwater – 15 (6)
Tahiti Petrel – 3 (2)
Lesser Frigatebird – 1
Pied Cormorant – 6
Pomarine Jaeger – 10 (4)
Arctic Jaeger – 2
Common Noddy – 1
Sooty Tern – 2
Crested Tern – 220 (150)
Silver Gull – 101 (100)