|Hi All, last months trip was all about Storm-Petrels, this month, it's all about the Prions. Read on.
Location: Southport, Queensland
Vessel: 37 ft Monohull, M.V. Grinner
Weather conditions: A high centred just south of Victoria and moving slowly eastward extended a ridge into Queensland bringing strong southerlies and rain periods to SEQ on the Saturday easing on Sunday. On leaving the Seaway, fine conditions with light winds, increasing on the way out to 10+ knots with cloud increasing to heavy, with frequent rain squalls. Visibility only moderate, with maximum air temp. 18 C,barometric pressure 1024 hPa.
Sea conditions: Light seas on a low swell on leaving the Seaway, increasing to 1.5 metres on up to 2 metre swell out wide. Sea surface temps. 19.2 C at the Seaway, rising to 21.9 C at the Shelf-break and a maximum of 22.1 C at the widest point.
Left the Seaway at 0700 hrs and headed out to the Riviera grounds 28 nmENE of Southport crossing the Shelf-break at roughly 1100 hrs and arriving at the widest drift at 1135 hrs. Drifted south until 1300 hrs then headed for home arriving back at the Seaway at 1550 hrs. Total duration of trip 8 hrs 50 mins.
On leaving the Seaway nothing much of note save for the odd Australasian Gannet and Crested Tern but just a couple of miles offshore the first Fairy Prion was encountered so things were starting to look promising. There seemed to be little trawler activity but just a few minutes later we headed for a charter fishing vessel which had birds around it, namely our first Brown Skua for a couple of years and the first Yellow-nosed Albatross of the day. We stayed in the vicinity for awhile, while people on board took photos and then proceeded east with more Fairy Prions sighted and a couple of juvenile Black-browed Albatrosses within minutes of each other. With the days preceding bearing quite strong sou-easterly onshore winds it wasn't at all surprising that birds normally sighted out wide were being encountered quite close in and just after 8 am we encountered theonly prawn trawler of the day which had another juv. Black-browed Albatross and 3 Yellow-nosed Albatrosses behind it, plus another Fairy Prion and the first Wilson's Storm-Petrel of the day. Proceeded on andj ust a few minutes later and just 6 nm from shore 2 more Yellow-nosed Albatrosses and the first pterodromas of the day in the form of single Providence Petrel and dark phase Kermadec Petrel, the closest inshore that I've seen either in SEQ waters.
Kept heading out eastward over the Shelf with just a few Australasian Gannets noted and the occasional Fairy Prion, Yellow-nosed Albatross and Providence Petrel, when at 1030 and still a couple of nm short of theShelf-break a different albatross appeared around the vessel,Southports second ever Buller's Albatross, a full adult bird and enough to stop the boat for a few minutes as the bird was ravenous & punters on board wanted photos of one of the planets most stunning albatrosses. At one point the skipper could be seen to feed the bird with one hand and phone-cam it full frame with the other. It was shortly joined by two more Yellow-nosed Albatrosses and increasing numbers of Providence Petrels and Fairy Prions and another Wilson's Storm-Petrel. We were losing time with all the stoppages and it was time to move on and at 1135 hrs just 2 nm short of the Rivieras a squall loomed ahead, so the skipper and I decided to pull up and start to berley. Almost immediately on doing so and with rain starting to fall, 4 prions landed beside the vessel and started to feed, one of these was obviously a Fairy Prion but the other 3 were darker and heavier looking and I called people's attention to them. I initially thought they were Antarctic Prions but on closer scrutiny that night on my laptop it soon became apparent they were Salvin's Prions (since confirmed by several independent sources). Lots of gripping photographs were taken of this rarely photographed species. More prions began to appear in some numbers including Antarctic, Fairy and at least one if not more Slender-billed Prions plus more photos taken of the Salvin's Prions in flight. Another dark-phase Kermadec Petrel appeared around the vessel and over the next hour seemingly kept appearing but on once again on scrutinising the images, one was infairly fresh plumage and two were showing different moult, so actually 3 dark plumaged birds were present. 1300 hrs and it was time to return and 3 Yellow-nosed Albatrosses followed us back and at 1440 hrs, we stopped and 7 Yellow-nosed Albatrosses surrounded the vessel plus Wilson's Storm-Petrel, Fairy Prion and Providence Petrel. Just a few more Australasian Gannets on heading back to shore.
Wilson's Storm-Petrel - 6 (1)
Black-browed Albatross - 3 (1)
Yellow-nosed Albatross - 22 (7)
Buller's Albatross - 1
Salvin's Prion - 3 (3)
Antarctic Prion - 16 (8)
Slender-billed Prion - 1+
Fairy Prion - 20 (6)
Kermadec Petrel - 4 (all dark phase)
Providence Petrel - 39 (15)
Australasian Gannet - 20 (3)
Brown Skua - 1
Crested Tern - 16 (10)
Silver Gull - 8