Location: Southport, Queensland.
Vessel: 37ft Steber Monohull, MV Grinner
Crew: Craig Newton (skipper)
Weather conditions: A weakening ridge along the Queensland coast with a trough moving westover the Coral Sea brought moderate to fresh S-SE winds to the SEQ coast leading up to the Saturday. Light SW winds on leaving the Seaway, swinging around to SE 15-20 knots by mid morning, then dying down by late morning. Winds freshening again from the south early afternoon. Moderate cloud cover for most the morning, fining up later in the afternoon, with several north moving rain squalls out wide away from the coast. Visibility good, maximum air temperature 27 C, barometer 1016 hPa.
Sea conditions: Calm seas on 1 metre swell on leaving the Seaway, by mid-morning rising to 1 metre seas on up to 2 metre swells. Sea-surface temps. 25.4 C at the Seaway rising to 26.4 C at the Shelf-break and widest drift point. EAC running at 1.5 nm out wide.
Left the Seaway at 0600 hrs initially intending to head out to Jimís Mountain ENE of Southport but with the conditions slowing the vessel down slightly opted to conduct the drift just into Slope waters some 24.5 nautical miles ENE of the Seaway. Crossed the Shelf-break at 0900 hrs and reached the first drift point at 0915 hrs. Continued to drift until 1136 hrs then headed at a leisurely pace for home, arriving back at the Seaway at 1550 hrs. Total duration of trip 9 hrs 50 mins.
Unlike two weeks earlier there was little trawler activity returning outside the Seaway but one trawler did have some attending birds, mainly Crested Terns but also several Wedge-tailed Shearwaters and a few Flesh-footed Shearwaters. Headed out across the Shelf with little sighted but at the 78 fathom mark a warm current line had a few birds feeding in the shape of a few Wedge-tailed Shearwaters, a Flesh-footed Shearwater and the first Pomarine Jaeger of the day in attendance.
On reaching the final drift at 0915 hrs it was several minutes before the first birds arrived at the slick with a Great-winged Petrel (Grey-faced) and a couple of Wedge-tailed Shearwaters appearing. For the next hour a few more Great-wingeds, Flesh-footed, Wedge-tailed and a solitary Huttonís Shearwater arrived and surprisingly then the first Tahiti Petrel of the day,one of only three for the day, a very low count for February. Although new birds were still arriving and indeed feeding right at the rear of the vessel, nothing new arrived save for a solitary Fluttering Shearwater flyby. Headed back for home at 1136 hrs and took it easy in case of finding any foraging parties.
Not much of note on the journey back with just a few Wedge-tailed Shearwaters and a sole Flesh-footed Shearwater and Pomarine Jaeger noted. However just 2 nautical miles out from the Seaway, large rafts of feeding birds were noted just to the north and we headed back NE to engage. There were several rafts of actively feeding, mainly Wedge-tailed Shearwaters but also Huttonís, Flesh-footed and at last,
Streaked Shearwaters, also the lone Arctic Jaeger of the day. We generally kept the vessel to port of the feeding birds using the evening sun to advantage and spent the next 20 minutes trying to gauge some sort of count. For instance Brian Coates has sent a snapshot of the first raft clearly showing 3 Streaked Shearwaters on the water & we seemed to encounter more in each raft put to air but many of the birds as we slowly motored NE along the line of rafts milled around and my final count of 6 Streaked Shearwaters was the one I feel most comfortable with, although probably conservative.
Wedge-tailed Shearwater - 1290 (1000)
Flesh-footed Shearwater - 18 (5)
Streaked Shearwater - 6
Fluttering Shearwater - 1
Hutton*s Shearwater - 10 (7)
Tahiti Petrel - 3 (2)
Great-winged Petrel - 5 (2)
Pied Cormorant - 1
Pomarine Jaeger - 3 (1)
Arctic Jaeger - 1
Crested Tern - 107 (100)
Silver Gull - 2