Location: Southport, Queensland

    Date: 17/9/2011
    Vessel: 37 ft Steber monohull
    Crew: Craig Newton (skipper)

    Weather conditions: A large high pressure system over southern Queensland brought stable conditions with generally light winds to the SEQ coastline. Light SW winds on leaving the Seaway turning to NW-NE to 7-8 knots. Generally cloud free day, visibility overall good but horizon hazy due to smoke. Maximum air temperature 27* C, barometric pressure 1022. Sea conditions: Calm seas on a light swell on leaving the Seaway with the swell rising to approx. 1.5 metres by late morning, out wide.

    Sea surface temps. 19.4*C just outside of the Seaway, 21.3* C at the Shelf-break and 23.1* C at the widest drift point. EAC out wide running at 3+ knots.

    Summary: Left the Seaway at 0605 hrs and headed directly out to the area knownas Jim's Mountain, approx. 30 nm ENE of the Seaway. Crossed the shelf-break at about 0810 hrs, reaching the final drift point at 0845hrs. Drifted south for approx. 10 nm over the next 3 * hours before heading for home at 1220 hrs. Arrived back at the Seaway at 1520 hrs,total duration of trip 9 hrs 15 mins. On leaving the Seaway no trawlers noted with just a solitary Crested Tern and Silver Gull present and one or two Australasian Gannets soon after. Very quiet crossing the Shelf in the relatively flat conditions with just one or two Wedge-tailed Shearwaters and Australasian Gannets present. On reaching Jim's Mountain, the vessel was immediately joined by a Wedge-tailed Shearwater, Providence Petrel and Crested Tern and there was little change over the next hour. At 0935 hrs the first Black-bellied Storm-Petrel arrived at the stern and with the numbers arriving over the next 3 hours it would appear they were in passage mode. They all seemed to be ravenous and put on quite a display for the punters cameras for the rest of the morning, at times approaching to within 2 metres. The sight of these storm-petrels hovering at eye level, eyeing off the burley on the cutting board was quite something, problem was they were often too close for the lenses to focus on! Also, their mode of flight makes them particularly hard to lock onto. Given the time of year and Southports relative proximity to Lord Howe Island, all Fregetta Storm-Petrels are scrutinised to check for the much scarcer White-bellied Storm-Petrel. There was a huge variation inthe plumage of Saturdays birds and one or two looked particularly clean cut in the underparts but closer scrutiny revealed obvious feet projection (in level flight) and at least some speckling down the centre of the belly. If Tahiti Petrel is Southports iconic Summer species then surely Black-bellied Storm-Petrel is our iconic Winter species. No other venue in Australia sees them in the numbers or with the regularity that we do here from Southport. September is the month when Flesh-footed Shearwater usually reappears but were a no-show and it also marks the peak southerly movement of Wilson's Storm-Petrel. It wasn't toward the end of the drift at 1212hrs that the first one of two Wilson's Storm-Petrels turned up. The journey back was pretty uneventful with just the occasional Wedge-tailedShearwater sighted.


    Wilson's Storm-Petrel * 2
    Black-bellied Storm-Petrel * 19 (3)
    Wedge-tailed Shearwater * 32 (10)
    Providence Petrel * 18 (4)
    Australasian Gannet * 5 (3)
    Crested Tern * 9 (2)
    Silver Gull * 1

    Cheers - Paul W.
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