Report prepared by: Paul Walbridge.
Skipper: Craig Newton.
Leader & Organiser: Paul Walbridge
Pax: Paul Walbridge (organizer & leader), Rob Morris, Chris Attewell, Rod Gardner, Larry Dunis, Stuart Warren, Kevin Delahoy, Jim Sneddon, Andy Jensen, Brian Tynan, Owen Prowse, Andrew Stafford, Judy Leitch, Robert Meagher, Carl Billingham.
Weather Conditions: With a high over the Tasman and a ridge extending up the Queensland coast, light S-ESE winds to less than 10 knots prevalent throughout the day. Some light cloud present most of the day with the occasional scudding squall passing by. Visibility, generally very good, maximum air temp. 29° C. Barometer 1020 hPa
Sea Conditions: Calm seas on less than 1 metre swell for most of the day with at times, mirror like conditions. Sea-surface temps. 25.3° C at the Seaway, rising to 26.4° C halfway across the Shelf and 27.4° C out wide. EAC at widest point running 2.7 knots N to S
Left the Southport Seaway at 0635 hrs and headed ENE to the area of ridges and canyons known as Jims Mountain approx. 26 nm from the Seaway. Reached the final drift point at 1015 hrs where we drifted south approx. 7 nm until it was time to head back at 1250 hrs. Arrived back at the Seaway at 1530 hours, total duration of trip 8 hrs 57 mins.
On leaving the Seaway there was a fair bit of boating (fishing activity) but few trawlers and only a few Silver Gulls, Crested Terns and Wedge-tailed Shearwaters present. After a few miles of travel the skipper loaded up a berley bag to be dragged behind. Unlike the previous month however and probably due to the lack of wind, very little appeared behind the vessel, just the occasional Wedge-tailed Shearwater. One or two Fluttering Shearwaters passed astern plus a lone Arctic Jaeger but the first surprise of the day was the appearance of the first Tahiti Petrel at 0833 hrs, still well on the Shelf at roughly the 50 fathom mark.
On reaching Jim’s Mountain at 1015 hrs started the drift and on throwing berley over the first Wilson’s Storm Petrel appeared in the slick. There was several game boats after marlin present and near one of them large numbers of cetaceans were sighted along with large tuna. We headed over to this area but whatever baitfish were being worked must have been down deep and just one or two Wedge-tailed Shearwaters present. Continued the drift from this location and very gradually birds started to appear but not in any great variety, just Tahiti Petrels a Flesh-footed Shearwater and another Wilson’s Storm Petrel, when the surprise bird of the day appeared in the shape of an immature Masked Booby. This bird made several passes around the vessel, diving for baitfish, not a species we see every year. Photographs were examined later and showed the pale irises of a bird probably from the Coral Sea Territory to the north.
Over the next two hours or so more birds continued to appear from downwind, such as it was and the dominant species by far was Tahiti Petrel, followed by Wilson’s Storm Petrel. A lone Pomarine Jaeger appeared in the slick harassing the shearwaters and just about in full plumage with near full ‘spoons’. The wind by now was near non-existent with the water looking quite ‘glassy’ and many of the birds being more content to rest on the water than feeding.
Steamed back for home at 1250 hrs and after just a few minutes a lone juvenile Common Noddy crossed astern, then nothing for several minutes until almost back onto the Shelf when the second Masked Booby of the day appeared. This bird showed several plumage differences to the first bird and it too made several passes around the now stationary vessel, diving for surface fish, the last Tahiti Petrel of the day appeared with this bird. The remainder of the trip was mainly uneventful and the only new species being added were a lone Hutton’s Shearwater and a fishing party of Little Terns just before the Seaway.
Wilson’s Storm Petrel – 15 (6)
Wedge-tailed Shearwater – 34 (5)
Flesh-footed Shearwater – 9 (3)
Fluttering Shearwater – 5 (1)
Hutton’s Shearwater – 1
Tahiti Petrel – 35 (10)
Masked Booby - 2
Pied Cormorant – 1
Pomarine Jaeger – 1
Arctic Jaeger – 1
Common Noddy -1
Little Tern – 8
Common Tern – 7 (5)
Crested Tern – 51 (20)
Silver Gull – 110 (60)