Location: Southport, Queensland
Vessel: 37 ft Steber monohull, MV Grinner
Crew: Darren Shringles (skipper)
A high over the Tasman extended a weak ridge along the southern Queensland coast. Light northerly winds early, freshening to 10-15 knots by mid morning and increasing to 15-20 knots from the SE with the southerly change, late afternoon. Fine for most of the day, with increasing light cloud until the change late in the day with increasing
heavy cloud with rain. Max. air temp. 30 C, barometer 1008 hPa.
Light seas on a low swell early on and with the wind speed increasing, seas rising to a metre on a 1.5 metre swell by mid-morning. With the southerly change arriving late afternoon, seas rose considerably on a 2 metre swell. Sea-surface temps. 23.7 C at the seaway rising to 26.9 C at the Shelf-break and 27.4 C at the widest drift point. EAC out wide running at 3.5 knots.
Left the Seaway at 0550 hrs and proceeded out ENE to Jim's Mountain, some 30 nautical miles. Reached the Shelf-break at 0815 hrs and on to the final drift at 0850 hrs. Proceeded to drift for approx. 11 nautical miles until 1220 hrs when it was decided to head for home. Unfortunately the batteries had failed and after much effort with the mobile phones, able to text to shore and arrange for assistance. The boat owner, organised a new battery and rescue vessel and the rendezvous occurred at sometime after 1700 hrs by which time we had drifted another 10 nautical miles to the SE. Arrived back at the Seaway at 2100 hrs, duration of trip 15 hrs 30 mins.
On leaving the seaway encountered several returning trawlers, three of which were checked and produced nothing more than a few Pied & Little Black Cormorants, Silver Gulls and Crested Terns and only two tubenose species, Wedge-tailed and Fluttering Shearwaters. On lowering the berley bag over the stern at the 50 fathom mark, nothing seemed to be attracted until just before the Shelf-break with a few Wedge-tailed Shearwaters appearing astern. On reaching the drift point at Jim's Mountain and throwing berley over the side the first birds arrived almost immediately, with 3 Tahiti Petrels quickly gliding in, followed immediately by a couple of Great-winged Petrels, now showing a much advanced state of plumage moult compared to the previous month.
For the next hour or so, Tahiti Petrels and Great-winged Petrels streamed in from the south and at 0930 hours a feeding party was noted just to the south, with these birds comprising of mainly Wedge-tailed Shearwaters and Sooty Terns gradually drifting over to us. Typically, an adult Sooty Tern with a juvenile closely in tow, both calling loudly,
came right to the vessel, with the adult dipping and picking up some berley, rising & then dropping the food to encourage the young bird to do the same, neither bird of course actually eating the berley. At 1005 hrs the first Kermadec Petrel arrived, again from the south, along with another 6 Tahiti Petrels and a Black Noddy.
Another Kermadec Petrel arrived at 1025 hrs and at 1035 hrs the first Streaked Shearwater for the season arrived with just brief views at a distance, before it disappeared to the south. For the next half an hour it was basically Tahiti, Great-winged and Kermadec Petrels arriving astern from the south until at 1100 hrs there were up to 4 Kermadec Petrels around the vessel. More Great-winged, Tahiti and Kermadec Petrels were arriving along with Wedge-tailed Shearwaters when at 1150 a suspected Fregetta storm-petrel arrived astern, all but too briefly but subsequent photographs revealed it to be a New Zealand Storm-Petrel, which untypically did not hang around. Not long after, another Fregetta type arrived, with very pale underparts but the jury is still out on this bird and photographs need to be further scrutinised (This bird does not appear in the list below).
As mentioned above, we were heading for home at 1220 hours when trouble struck and with the ensuing events unfolding the skipper advised us to just carry on doing our thing, whilst he made the appropriate arrangements, just 15 minutes later a rather large, broad winged Storm-Petrel appeared on the starboard side of the vessel and flew astern, not particularly close, left to right and disappeared. A call from one. I think Andrew, "it has a white throat" then someone else, Rob I think, "there is a breast band" or words to that effect. A quick check of the images on the camera LCDs confirmed what we had just witnessed, Australias first mainland sighting of Polynesian Storm-Petrel! This and the New Zealand Storm-Petrel sighting are subject to BARC submission and approval.
So, the vessel kept drifting to the south and 20 minutes later, finally, the first 'cookilaria' of the day turned up, a Gould's Petrel and it was particularly accommodating, providing very close views to the punters on board who had never seen one. Shortly after, with the light being compromised with the increasingly heavy cloud a near adult Red-tailed Tropicbird arrived and spent the next several minutes thrilling everyone on board, including the skipper with its close fly byes. Tropicbirds of both species invariably perform around a vessel as they are both highly inquisitive species. So, from then on it was pretty much more of the same, with Tahiti and Great-winged Petrels arriving with the occasional Sooty Tern, until the last new species of the day, with a Wilson's Storm-Petrel arriving astern, before heading south at 1515 hrs.
Red-tailed Tropicbird - 1
Polynesian Storm-Petrel - 1
Wilson*s Storm-Petrel - 1
New Zealand Storm Petrel - 1
Wedge-tailed Shearwater - 226 (100)
Streaked Shearwater - 1
Fluttering Shearwater - 2
Tahiti Petrel - 93 (11)
Kermadec Petrel - 11 (4)
Great-winged Petrel - 36 (6) all P. m. gouldi
Gould's Petrel - 1
Little Black Cormorant - 11
Pied Cormorant - 4
Black Noddy - 1
Sooty Tern - 19 (12)
Crested Tern - 74 (60)
Silver Gull - 28 (12)