Location: Southport, Queensland
Vessel: 37 ft Steber monohull MV Grinner
Crew: Craig Newton
Weather conditions: With a high near New Zealand and a trough lying off the SEQ coast, light SW winds early in the morning moving to light 5-10 knot breezes for the rest of the day. Just some light cloud cover but generally fine, visibility quite good but some haze on the horizon. Barometer 1016 hPa, maximum air temp. 26° C.
Sea conditions: Light seas on a 3 metre swell from the seaway and across the Shelf abating to about 1.5 metres in Slope waters by mid-morning. Sea-surface temps. 23.7° C at the Seaway, rising to 24.8 ° C at the Shelf-break and up to 25.3° C out wide.
Left the Southport Seaway at 0640 hrs and headed ENE to the Riviera grounds 26 nautical miles offshore. Crossed the Shelf-break at 0915 hrs and reached the drift point at 0950 hrs where, unusually, the current took us north. Continued the drift with just one run down the slick until 1245 hrs the headed back across the Shelf, reaching the Seaway at 1525 hrs. Duration of trip 8 hrs 45 mins.
No trawler activity on leaving the seaway, with just a few terns and Australasian Gannets present so we proceeded directly for the Shelf-break. Little of note across the Shelf save for a solitary Fluttering Shearwater and a single Short-tailed Shearwater heading north. On placing a berley bag over the back of the boat several Wedge-tailed Shearwaters and the odd Flesh-footed Shearwater followed until we reached the Riviera grounds. On reaching the drift point we were immediately joined by the first Providence Petrel for the day and very shortly afterwards a White-face Storm-Petrel, which only stayed briefly, before heading to the northeast. Wilson’s Storm-Petrels were now arriving in the slick and shortly after 1000 hrs the first Tahiti Petrel for the day arrived, circling the vessel.
That was pretty much it for the next hour, with Wedge-tailed and Flesh-footed Shearwaters, a few Providence Petrels and another White-faced Storm-Petrel along with more Wilson’s Storm-Petrels. It was the number of Tahiti Petrels arriving from the NE in a steady stream that most surprised though, as just a few days earlier further east on the Sea Mounts only 3 birds had been sighted. The water temp. out there was 23-24° C, approaching the tolerance level for this species, whereas it was still nearly two degrees warmer just off the Shelf. At 1125 hrs a larger darker bird arrived and promptly landed to feed, a Black Petrel, the second April record for Southport. Several people obtained photos of the Black Petrel feeding alongside Tahiti Petrels on the sea surface.
The Tahiti Petrels were arriving in such numbers now that several small flocks were forming and circling the vessel looking for the best patches of berley. Just after midday a large shearwater joined the throng, a magnificent Streaked Shearwater and it put on quite a show for some period of time. A sub-adult Pomarine also keenly joined in, harassing several birds and even took on a Tahiti Petrel which finally shook the Jaeger off. I’ve never heard a Pomarine Jaeger call so loudly or so prolonged before. Every bird present was clearly hungry and it would appear there was little baitfish activity, or much other in the way of food source. We headed back down the slick prior to leaving for home and a darkish intermediate Kermadec Petrel appeared and stayed for just a few minutes. Several birds followed on the way back, including two Tahiti Petrels which followed the vessel for some 13 nautical miles. A lone Long-tailed Jaeger at 1430 hrs was the only other bird of note on the way back in with some foraging Common Terns near the Seaway.
Wilson’s Storm-Petrel – 30 (10)
White-faced Storm-Petrel – 4 (2)
Black Petrel – 1
Wedge-tailed Shearwater – 48 (12)
Flesh-footed Shearwater – 26 (6)
Short-tailed Shearwater – 2 (1)
Streaked Shearwater – 1
Fluttering Shearwater – 1
Tahiti Petrel – 55 (12)
Kermadec Petrel – 1
Providence Petrel – 24 (8)
Australasian Gannet – 3
Little Black Cormorant – 1
Pomarine Jaeger – 2
Long-tailed Jaeger – 1
Common Noddy – 1
Common Tern – 31 (30)
Crested Tern – 15 (12)
Silver Gull – 21 (20)