Location: Southport, Queensland
Vessel: 37 ft Steber Monohull, MV Grinner
Crew: Craig Newton (skipper)
In the week preceding the trip a low depression had formed off Fraser Island, much like before the preceding trip although not quite of such intensity but still generating SE winds to 50 knots off Cape Moreton a couple of days before. The Friday forecast saw a high over the Tasman moving eastwards and helping push the low of 1003 hPa southeast away from the Qld coast. On the day, light SW winds < 10 knots early on increasing to 10-15 knots NW later in the afternoon. Clear blue skies for most of the day, with some light cloud on approaching the coast in the afternoon. Visibility excellent, max. air temp. 20 C, barometer 1016 hPa.
Calm seas for most of the day on a swell of up to 1.8 metres & with the wind increasing later in the day on approaching the coast, seas rising to half a metre on a decreasing swell. Sea- surface temp. at the Seaway 19.2 C, 22.8 C at the Shelf-break and a maximum of 23.2 C out wide. Current out wide running at less than 1 knot.
After the results of the previous trip on the 16th of June, after the intense low brought birds up from the Southern Ocean into southern Queensland waters and beyond, it was decided on a strategy of forming a Fast Response Team to maximise a result, following a similar event. Whether this was achievable wouldn't be known until tried and tested. The decision to go was made on the Wednesday and by Friday we had a full boat of 15 punters plus a reserve ready to go on the Saturday but the crossing across the bar was deemed too dangerous still so Sunday was chosen. Another complication was the holding of the Gold Coast Marathon, held over the two days of this particular weekend, which entailed closing off most of the streets around our usual starting venue. The skipper diverted us to Runaway Bay Marina to the north of Mariner's Cove, which still had diversions but we all managed to board on time and get out through the Seaway in good time.
With the calm conditions it was decided to head straight out to Jim's Mountain, the scene of last months sensations. Crossed the Seaway at 0640 hrs and headed out ENE to Jim*s Mountain. Crossed the Shelf-break at 0925 hrs and reached the final drift point at 1005 hrs. Continued to drift slowly to the SE until 1300 hrs when we headed back up the slick then headed back for the Seaway. Arrived back at the Seaway at 1610 hrs, duration of trip 9 hrs 30 mins. exceptional for a winter trip.
On leaving the Seaway nothing much of note, just a few Crested Terns, Australasian Gannets and a Caspian Tern. Over the next 3-4 nautical miles three returning trawlers were encountered with these also revealing little more than Crested Terns, a Pied Cormorant and Silver Gulls. Crossing the Shelf was quiet, with several gannets sighted and a single Fluttering Shearwater, when at 0800 hrs a juvenile Giant Petrel sps was spotted astern heading south, too distant to identify specifically. Just 20 minutes later, an adult Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross circled the temporarily stationary vessel before it too headed southward, with the first Wilson's Storm-Petrel of the day making an appearance at the same time. Just before the Shelf-break at 0915 hrs a prion flashed passed the vessel and landed just a hundred or so metres astern so we reversed to investigate the now landed bird, which seemed reluctant to fly in the rather calm conditions. It turned out to be a Fairy Prion and after many photos were taken of it on the water we proceeded on.
From about halfway across the Shelf, the first of a fairly steady stream of south moving Common Noddies was noted and I probably undercounted this species for the day. The first Providence Petrels were sighted shortly after crossing the Shelf-break with increasing numbers of south moving Common Noddies in ones and twos. It was just before the drift point at Jim's Mountain at 0958 hrs when the real surprise of the day turned up around the vessel, a fresh plumaged Wedge-tailed Shearwater, the first July record from Southport and the first day of July at that, this species normally returns to local waters around the first week in August.
On stopping for the drift at 1005 hrs it was a few minutes before the first Providence Petrels arrived in the slick which was quickly followed by yet another Wedge-tailed Shearwater. A different bird, as on checking the photos, the tail feathering was slightly different. The numbers of Providence Petrel were starting to build, with Wilson's Storm-Petrels starting to appear down slick and even more Common Noddies streaming past when at 1055 hrs a juv. Gibson's Albatross appeared around the vessel, landing a few times to feed but not astern of the vessel. The next real surprise of the day was at 1125 hrs when a pair of adult
Silver Gulls arrived from seaward, not a species known for its seafaring ways in this neck of the woods and particular attention was paid to the outer primary 'mirrors'. This pair were particularly 'aggro' and would sit on the sea surface and wait for Providence Petrels to come into to land for a feed, then take off and literally charge at the petrels, forcing them to make an evasive dive.
Nothing much new was arriving although a few Australasian Gannets were appearing, not surprising as there was a lot of surface bait activity with numbers of Yellowfin Tuna and even Striped Marlin present close to the vessel. Then, at 1230 hrs a second, young adult Gibson's Albatross appeared and after several passes and inspections of the game fishing vessels also present, finally settled at the rear of our vessel, much to the delight of a few people on board who had never been this close to
these special birds. The Gibson's albatross had finally had its fill and took off with the two 'angry ant' Silver Gulls hot in pursuit.
On heading for home at 1300 hrs several Common Noddies were still noted heading south and at 1315 hrs the final new species of the day appeared at the port side of the vessel, the only Black-bellied Storm-Petrel of the day. On the way back the second Gibsons Albatross reappeared (assumed as such on plumage pattern) and followed intermittently for several miles.
Wilson's Storm-Petrel - 15 (4)
Black-bellied Storm-Petrel - 1
Gibson's Albatross - 2 (1)
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross - 1
Giant Petrel sps - 1
Fairy Prion - 1
Wedge-tailed Shearwater - 2 (1)
Fluttering Shearwater - 2 (1)
Providence Petrel - 57 (20)
Australasian Gannet - 58 (30)
Pied Cormorant - 3 (2)
Common Noddy - 31 (7)
Caspian Tern - 1
Crested Tern - 64 (20)
Silver Gull - 30 (10)
Not quite the day we had hoped for but still a pleasant day out on the blue paddock and also proof that we could get enough people together at very short notice and get the boat out to sea to observe how severe weather had affected bird movements.
Cheers - Paul W.