Location: Southport, Queensland
Vessel: 37 ft monohull, MV Grinner
Crew: Craig Newton (skipper)
In the week leading up to the trip there had been moderate to strong SE winds, brought on by a high over the Tasman with a deepening trough over the Coral Sea. On the day, light SE winds to about 10 knots easing off even more during the morning, switching around to NE during the afternoon. Just some light cloud early, with visibility generally excellent. Max. air temperature 27 ° C, barometer 1016 hPa.
Conditions eased off considerably over the Friday evening with calm seas on a swell up to 2 metres decreasing as the day wore on. Sea-surface temperatures, 23.7° C at the Seaway and a max. of 26.4° C at the Shelf-break. EAC running.
Left the Seaway at 0600 hrs and headed out ENE towards the Riviera grounds some 26 nm. Crossed the Shelf-break at 0855 hrs and reached our final drift point at 0920 hrs. Drifted south in the current for 6.5 nm until 1240 hrs, then headed for home. Reached the Seaway at 1510 hrs, duration of trip, 9 hours 10 minutes.
On leaving the Seaway, 2 trawlers were already at the entrance and it was some eight minutes later when we encountered the final returning vessel which had just a few Wedge-tailed Shearwaters plus singles of Short-tailed and Flesh-footed Shearwaters and a lone Pomarine Jaeger. Shortly after at 0615 hrs and just 3 nm offshore a large dark shape loomed from astern, passing over us just briefly before heading south – a dark phase South Polar Skua, with the pale nuchal collar showing clearly and hastily taken photographs showing an obvious whitish area above the bill. Sighting will be submitted to BARC.
Not much of note crossing the shelf, with just the occasional Pomarine Jaeger and Wedge-tailed Shearwater until just inside the shelf-break at 0850 hrs, when a Black Petrel appeared in front of the bows, passing close down the port side and around the stern of the vessel as we stopped but it just kept going, to the south. With the berley bag bouncing in the water and putting out a nice slick we had began to attract a few birds, first of all some Great-winged Petrels, then the first Kermadec Petrel of the day at 0910 hrs.
Just 10 minutes later, still a few miles short of the Rivieras we happened upon a substantial feeding flock of mainly Wedge-tailed Shearwaters and Sooty Terns in a warm current flow and the sounder showing substantial bait activity, so we decided to drift at this point. After a few minutes the Wedge-taileds and Sooty Terns stayed with the baitfish but more Great-winged (Grey-faced) Petrels began to arrive in some numbers and the heavily in moult birds of various ages fed heartily on the berley thrown over, devouring it as quickly as we could offer it. Another Kermadec Petrel arrived from the north along with more Flesh-footed Shearwaters and with the Great-winged Petrels now arriving in some numbers the next new arrival for the day happened to be the first ‘cookilaria’ a Black-winged Petrel, which although giving good views, quickly headed off to the south.
At 1100 hrs the first Gould’s Petrel appeared, again from the NE and was more accommodating than the Black-winged Petrel, performing a couple of circuits. At 1130 hrs a lone Long-tailed Jaeger did a flyby completing the list of jaegers for the day and it was from then that the Kermadec Petrels started to appear at regular intervals from the north , with at one point up to three around the vessel and with highly variable plumage, some greyish, some sandy coloured intermediates and a couple of dark birds. Several of these birds showing quite advanced secondary moult. Another Gould’s Petrel appeared, this one being very accommodating for the photographers on board and shortly after at 1200 hrs the first belated appearance of a Tahiti Petrel, much to my relief!
In the next 40 minutes before heading for home, another Tahiti Petrel appeared and gave good, close-up views along with more Kermadec Petrels and the ever present Great-winged Petrels. Great-winged Petrel was once considered an uncommon to rare visitor at best to this region but in the last couple of years is occurring in similar numbers to NSW, where it has always been a summer fixture. On heading for home at 1240 hrs we encountered another feeding party shortly after with several Wedge-tailed Shearwaters, yet another Gould’s Petrel and a second Arctic Jaeger for the day. On crossing back over the Shelf, little of note but getting closer to the coast small parties of southward moving Short-tailed Shearwaters began to cross past us again.
Black Petrel – 1
Wedge-tailed Shearwater – 264 (100)
Flesh-footed Shearwater – 22 (6)
Short-tailed Shearwater – 67 (30)
Tahiti Petrel – 2
Kermadec Petrel – 12 (3)
Great-winged Petrel – 139 (40)
Gould’s Petrel – 3 (1)
Black-winged Petrel – 1
Pied Cormorant – 4
South Polar Skua – 1
Pomarine Jaeger – 6 (1)
Arctic Jaeger – 2 (1)
Long-tailed Jaeger – 1
Sooty Tern – 16 (12)
Crested Tern – 35 (30)