|Hi All, below is the full report for Saturday's rather exciting Southport Pelagic.
Location: Southport, Queensland
Vessel: 37 ft Steber monohull, MV Grinner.
Weather conditions: A low pressure system off the NSW coast combined with a ridge over central Australia maintained fresh SW to S winds onto the south Queensland coast. Light SW wind on leaving the Seaway freshening to 18-20 knots from the south around midday, decreasing to a light breeze on approaching the coast late afternoon. Clear blue skies all day with excellent visibility. Maximum air temp. 19 C, barometric pressure 1016 hPa.
Sea conditions: Moderate seas on a low swell on leaving the Seaway, gradually rising across the Shelf until the wind shifting around to the south brought seas to 1.7 metres on swell sets to 2.5 metres. Sea surface temps. 19.6 C at the Seaway, 21.8 C at the Shelf-break and rising to a max. of 23.1 C at the widest drift point.
Left the Southport Seaway at 0705 hrs reaching the Shelf-break at 0915hrs and arriving at the drift point at Jim's Mountain approx. 32 nm ENE at 1005 hrs. Drifted slowly to the SE until 1325 hrs then headed for home, reaching the Southport Seaway at 1615 hrs. Total duration of trip, 9 hrs 10 mins.
Not much activity on leaving the Seaway, with no returning trawlers and just a few recreational fishermen meant just a few foraging Australasian Gannets and just the odd Crested Tern about, so it was full steam to Jim's Mountain 32 nm ENE of Southport. Little of note heading across the Shelf with just a few more Gannets, the first Wilson's Storm-Petrel of the day and surprisingly 3 Little Pied Cormorants heading SE about 12 nm offshore. The berley bag was lowered and by the time we had reached the Shelf-break more Wilson's Storm-Petrels started to appear in the wake along with Providence Petrels and one or two foraging Common Noddies were also sighted.
On reaching the drift point at Jim's Mountain the first bird of note to appear was a lone Antarctic Prion which hung around in the slick and made several close passes over the next half an hour or so, not a species we see every year. By now the numbers of Providence Petrel had really grown with more Wilson's Storm-Petrels also appearing in the slick when what was initially thought to be the first 'Fregetta' storm-petrel of the day came into the stern of the vessel from the NE. Adding to the confusion a Black-bellied Storm-Petrel appeared right behind it just seconds later. Rob Morris had the foresight to shoot a few rushed frames off of the first bird and on quickly checking out his rear screen LCD called me over. This was no *Fregetta* and the image showed lines of heavy streaking on the underparts, Southport's and Queensland's probable first New Zealand Storm- Petrel. Fortunately the bird stayed around the vessel for the next 1 hr 45minutes, making several close passes around the rear of the vessel, so lot's of passable, if not brilliant photos were obtained. What struck everyone onboard was the 'jizz' of the bird and the flight being quite different from the ever present Wilson's and Black-bellied Storm-Petrels, the punters on board eventually being able to pick the bird up with the naked eye when approaching the vessel.
More and more Providence Petrels were appearing along with Wilson's and Black-bellied Storm-Petrels along with the first of three Great-winged Petrels, an unusual sighting for winter up here. Even more unusual was the fact that one of them was a 'macroptera*, as far as I'm aware a Queensland first. Although more birds were turning up by the minute, no new species had been noted and at 1325 hrs it was time to head for home. We lowered another berley bag over the stern and the Providence Petrels and Wilson's Storm- Petrels followed us back way onto the Shelf, into at least the 50 fathom mark, probably closer. On approaching the Seaway,more Australasian Gannets were noted, mainly birds resting on the water.
Wilson's Storm-Petrel - 27 (5)
New Zealand Storm-Petrel - 1
Black-bellied Storm-Petrel - 9 (3)
Antarctic Prion - 1
Great-winged Petrel - 3 ( 2 gouldi, 1 macroptera)
Providence Petrel - 222 (50)
Australasian Gannet - 28 (15)
Little Pied Cormorant - 3
Silver Gull - 1
Common Noddy - 3 (1)
Crested Tern - 6 (2)