Location: Southport, Queensland.
Vessel: 37 ft Steber Monohull, MV Grinner.
Crew: Craig Newton (skipper)
Weather conditions: A weak ridge lying along the Queensland east coast brought light S-ESE winds 5-10 knots. Heavy cloud for most of the day with light showers early tending to heavier rain as day progressed with only occasional respite. Maximum air temp. 24 C, barometric pressure 1008 hPa.
Sea conditions: Light seas all day on variable swell to 1.3 metres. Sea surface temps. 25.7 C at the Seaway, 26 C at the Shelf-break, with a maximum 26.8 C at the widest drift point.
A day when the prevailing wet conditions made it difficult for birding and fully tested the weather resistant integrity of the various digital cameras and binoculars onboard. There were vast amounts of baitfish present both inshore and offshore which would explain the large numbers of terns around both in numbers and species. What was surprising however was the absence of any Pterodroma species, usually a feature of March pelagics.
Left the Southport Seaway at 0625 hrs and with the conditions the way they were decided to head out at good speed to Jim's Mountain ENE of the Seaway and leave what we thought was coastal rain behind (as usually happens) but not this time. Crossed the Shelf-break at approx. 0900 hrs and reached the first drift point at Jim's at 0935 hrs. Drifted SSW at 1.5 knots, with one traverse back up the slick, until 1245 hrs, then headed for home. Reached the Seaway at 1515 hrs, total duration of trip:
8 hrs 50 mins.
On leaving the Seaway we had prior knowledge that huge numbers of Spanish Mackerel were smashing into the baitfish and that there were trawlers present. We encountered these trawlers soon after and noted two in particular had masses of birds around them. The first trawler had mainly Silver Gulls, Crested Terns and Wedge-Tailed Shearwaters around it with the usual Little Black Cormorants festooned on the rigging. The second trawler just 10 minutes later revealed smaller numbers of birds but noteworthy was raft of 8 Pomarine Jaegers, resting on the water behind it, of various morphs and approaching full breeding plumage,
spectacular, especially as this species was new to a couple of punters. Crossing the Shelf was mainly uneventful save for the days only Fluttering Shearwater, a few more Wedge-tailed Shearwaters and Pomarine Jaegers.
On crossing the Shelf-break the first Flesh-footed Shearwaters appeared behind the vessel along with the first Tahiti Petrel of the day. We reached Jim's Mountain at 0935 hrs and small numbers of Tahiti Petrel, Wedge-tailed and Flesh-footed Shearwaters started to appear, along with a lone Pomarine Jaeger. Two birds then appeared high up, first of all flying away from us to the north but for the next hour or so at least, re-appearing almost as if using the vessel for bearings in the gloomy conditions, a couple of immature White-faced Herons heading for who knows where!
It took an hour of chumming for the first Wilson's Storm-Petrels to turn up and a little later a lone Black Noddy put in a brief appearance. In the meantime Flesh-footed Shearwaters were starting to outnumber Wedge-tailed Shearwaters and Tahiti Petrels were beginning to show close to the vessel. More Flesh-footed Shearwaters and Wilson's Storm-Petrels were appearing in the slick and at 1125 hrs a small, dazzling white tern appeared from the north, an immature White Tern, it passed in front of the vessel and continued south.
Headed for home and on the way back across the Shelf just a few more birds were sighted but on approaching the coast, small numbers of Hutton's Shearwaters were seen to head north in small groups. A couple of miles north of the Seaway a large feeding flock of mainly terns were sighted over bait fish and we went over to investigate. This flock consisted mainly of Common Terns but also Crested Terns and a lone Hutton's Shearwater. A party of 10 Little Terns was sighted shortly after and before we entered the Seaway.
Wilson's Storm Petrel - 13 (5)
Wedge-tailed Shearwater - 347 (200)
Flesh-footed Shearwater - 19 (12)
Fluttering Shearwater - 1
Hutton*s Shearwater - 13 (6)
Tahiti Petrel - 20 (5)
Little Black Cormorant - 16 (10)
Pied Cormorant - 3 (1)
Pomarine Jaeger - 17 (8)
Arctic Jaeger - 3 (2)
Black Noddy - 1
White Tern - 1
Little Tern - 10
Gull-billed Tern - 2 (1)
Caspian Tern - 2
Common Tern - 310 (300)
Crested Tern - 389 (250)
Silver Gull - 152 (150)