• 15th September 2007, SOSSA Pelagic Trip, Southport, QLD, Australia

    Hi Folks, below is last saturdays Southport Pelagic report.

    Weather Conditions:
    A High over southern Australia combined with a weak ridge along the Queensland coastline produced mainly moderate NW-N winds over southeast Queensland. Generally clear skies, with good visibility. Air temp.to 28C, barometric pressure 1016 hPa.

    Sea conditions:
    Fairly light seas on a moderate swell on leaving the seaway, with conditions deteriorating as the morning wore on. At the widest drift winds had swung to due north at 25 knots and this combined with a southerly swell and north to south current really bumped up the waves leading to uncomfortable & at times wet conditions. Sea surface temps. 20.4 C at the Seaway, 21.8 C at the Shelf-break with a warmer current of 22.8 at the widest drift.

    Vessel: M.V. Grinner Skipper: Craig Newton

    This was to be a day that three of Southportís specialty birds really turned up to be counted!

    Left the Seaway at 0630 hrs and arrived back at 1600 hrs * duration of trip 9 hrs 30 mins.

    The initial approach was to head for a local seamount known as Jimís Mountain some 26 nms ENE of the Seaway but by the time we reached the shelf-break it was decided to take a more comfortable option of heading to a spot a few nms south west of there but still in Ďslopeí waters. Just after leaving the seaway, Craig the skipper tied a rope around a fairly large tuna and after a few knife slashes tossed it over the stern and we towed it out over the Shelf. The theory is bits and pieces gradually break of in the wake and a slick forms. It really works and before long we had up to 14 Wedge-tailed Shearwaters following the vessel without having to chum. Seabird photographers will know that the best shots of seabirds in flight are achieved when the vessel is in motion and the birds are following close behind.

    For many onboard it was either their first pelagic or first Oz pelagic so it was a welcome photo opportunity, A lone Huttonís Shearwater was the only thing of note crossing the Ďabyssmal plainí and just after crossing the Shelf-break someone shouted albatross, so we stopped as a Wandering type, too distant to specify which, passed astern of the vessel. We chucked a bit of sharks liver over but it kept going its merry way southward, however soon after, the first Tahiti Petrel of the spring honed in on the slick followed quickly by several Wedge-tailed Shearwaters. We decided to move on for another couple kilometres south,to another known ridge before stopping for a drift.

    It wasnít long before the first Kermadec Petrel (an all dark morph) showed up, followed quickly by Wilsonís & Black-bellied Storm Petrels plus Providence and Tahiti Petrels. Over the next hour or so waves of birds, of various species passed through, moving down the slick, when suddenly the bird of the day appeared alongside the vessel, a very early Black Petrel, which appeared on and off over the next half an hour or so. By now, even more Kermadec Petrels of various morphs plus increasing numbers of Black-bellied Storm Petrels & Tahiti Petrels were turning up. Also small numbers of Wilsonís Storm Petrels, Providence Petrels, Sooty Terns & Common Noddies. This would have to be the first trip Iíve ever been on where Kermadec Petrels outnumbered Providence by two to one! At 1245 hrs it was time to call it a day as the conditions meant it would be a fairly slow trip back.
    Little to report on the way back save for a lone Little Tern and one or two very shy Humpback Whales and some more Australasian Gannets.

    All in all a very satisfying day with everyone pretty pleased with the outcome despite the rigorous conditions (only 2 people sick though).

    SPECIES:

    Tahiti Petrel - 25 (6)
    Providence Petrel - 4 (2)
    Kermadec Petrel - 8 (2)
    Black Petrel - 1
    Wedge-tailed Shearwater - 125 (30)
    Flesh-footed Shearwater -2
    Huttonís Shearwater - 1
    Wandering Albatross -1
    Wilsonís Storm Petrel - 4 (2)
    Black-bellied Storm Petrel - 31 (5)
    Australasian Gannet - 6
    Silver Gull - 1
    Crested Tern - 2
    Little Tern - 1
    Sooty Tern - 9 (5)
    Common Noddy - 2

    Cetaceans :
    Humpback Whale - 4
    Pantropical Spotted Dolphins - 20-30
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