Vessel: M.V. Grinner
Crew: Craig Newton (skipper)
Pax: Paul Walbridge (leader, organizer) Richard Fuller, Steve Murray, Des Jackson, Gail Sherwin, Burnice Starkey, Mel Stewart, Brian Tynan, Chris Watson, John Watson, Paul Watson, Guy Lewington, Micah Oberon, Luca Oberon.
A trough with a strengthening ridge extending from the south brought slightly unsettled conditions to south east Queensland with some cloud and at times light showers. Mostly light, high cloud with the sun poking through late morning, visibility reasonable early and improving as day progressed. Wind S-SW, light early on, reaching a maximum of around 10 knots. Maximum air temp. 22°C, barometric pressure 1016 hPa.
Light seas early on equally light swell, gradually increasing to 1.5 metre swell out wide as wind increased. Sea surface temps. , 19.6° C at the Seaway, rising just slightly to 21.5° C and to 23.1° C at widest point.
Departed from the Southport Seaway at 0705 hrs, crossing the Shelf-break at 0945 hrs & reaching the first drift point at Jim’s Mountain at 1010 hrs and second drift point, Mick’s Mountain at 1130 hrs approx. 37 nm ENE of the Seaway. Started back for home at 1230 hrs, arriving back at the Seaway at 1615 hrs. Total duration of trip, 9 hrs 10 minutes.
On leaving the Seaway it soon became apparent the most numerous bird of the day was going to be Australasian Gannet and mostly adult birds. There were a few prawn trawlers returning and on approaching the first one at 0735 hrs we were stunned to find 8 Indian Yellow-nosed Albatrosses of varying ages following and feeding on the by-catch being tossed over. This is the 2nd highest concentration recorded up here of this species and a new bird for some so we stopped and tried to entice them over for photos. This was to no avail however as the birds kept following the trawler, the short distance back to the Seaway. There was little else following this trawler as with the next one a short time later so we continued on across the Shelf.
A few birds were encountered across the Shelf, mostly Gannets but also the first Fairy Prion and Providence Petrel of the day but little else until just after the Shelf-break where a large pod of Offshore Bottlenose Dolphins and the sounder indicated prolific baitfish. We continued on to our usual drift point at Jim’s mountain where a couple of Common Noddies and Providence Petrels were foraging and stopped to throw berley over. This proved rather fruitless however as we failed to attract anything but one or two more Providence Petrels and there was basically zero current and what little wind there was, didn’t help. Craig the skipper however had received info during the week of a water temp. spike, indicating current at Mick’s Mountain, 7 nm to the NE, a spot we hadn’t visited before. This is an area where the ‘Slope’ rises from about 630 fathoms to less than 400 fathoms so we proceeded on.
On arriving at’ Micks’ at 1130 hrs we noted a water temp. convergence, a sudden rise of nearly 2° C & the presence of birds changed dramatically. More Fairy Prions were present along with a lot more Providence Petrels and Common Noddies were seen to work the current, although as usual, paying no attention to the vessel. A White-faced Storm-Petrel suddenly appeared, the second sighting this year and not one I expected in winter. I encountered this species in July last year off Ulladulla and there appears to be a change in movements with this species on the east coast of Australia recently. Shortly after, the first Black-bellied Storm Petrel appeared, followed quickly by another. 1230 hrs and it was time to head home as we had travelled a long way out. A couple more Black-bellied Storm-Petrels were encountered whilst still in Slope waters, plus Providence Petrels and Fairy Prions occasionally, on the way back in. On approaching the Seaway, large numbers of Australasian Gannets were noted in several rafts but also amongst them one or two Indian Yellow-nosed Albatrosses, presumably the birds encountered earlier on, by now looking contented and well fed and in no particular mood to fly unless approached too close.
White-faced Storm-Petrel – 1
Black-bellied Storm-Petrel – 4 (2)
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross – 9 (8)
Fairy Prion – 8 (2)
Providence Petrel – 36 (10)
Australasian Gannet – 124 (50)
Common Noddy – 5 (2)
Crested Tern – 65 (60)
Silver Gull – 54 (40)
Humpback Whale – 4
Offshore Bottlenose Dolphin – 50+
Short-beaked Common Dolphin – 4+