Location: Southport, Queensland
Vessel: 37 ft monohull MV Grinner
Crew: Craig Newton (skipper)
A high over the Tasman Sea combined with a trough in the Coral Sea brought E-SE winds to the SE coast of Queensland. A light SW breeze early quickly swung around to the east rising to 15-20 knots easterly by mid-morning. By midday winds had moderated to less than 15 knots from the SE. Cloud cover at the Seaway heavy early on with frequent squally showers, with the cloud cover dissipating away from the coast and the day becoming increasingly fine. Visibility excellent, max. air temp. 28 C, barometer 1016 hPa.
Light seas, on just over a metre swell on leaving the Seaway but deteriorating quickly with the easterly wind and the swell from the east bumping up as short sharp swell sets of up to 2 metres by mid morning, with seas up to a metre on top of that. With the moderating wind switching around to the SE, conditions easing somewhat by midday. Sea surface temps, 25.7 C at the Seaway, rising to 26.7 C halfway across the shelf & 27.8 C at the Shelf-break. EAC out wide, up to 2.5 knots.
Left the Seaway at 0600 hrs and headed ENE to the Riviera grounds. With the deteriorating conditions and with the vessel having to slow down to 5 knots, we decided to drift on crossing the shelf-break at 1015 hrs, some 22 nautical miles ENE of Southport. Drifted slightly west of south for the next 2 hours before heading home at 1240 hrs, arriving back at the Seaway at 1520 hrs. Total duration of trip 9 hrs 20 mins.
On leaving the Seaway we encountered three trawlers in quick succession. The first trawler revealed very little save for a lone Gull-billed Tern, a few Crested Terns and Pied and Little Black Cormorants, the second trawler being more productive with large numbers of Wedge-tailed Shearwaters plus a few more terns and cormorants. The third trawler was barely better than the first, with just a few Wedge-taileds, terns and cormorants . With the sea conditions deteriorating the vessel slowed down somewhat and it became a bit of a slog out over the shelf.
At 0655 hrs the next new bird for the day showed up, a lone Sooty Tern, still just a few miles offshore. Then for the next few miles it was just the occasional Wedge-tailed Shearwater, until 0900 hrs when the first good bird for the day showed up, a White-necked Petrel and still well on the shelf, followed quickly by the first Flesh-footed Shearwaters and Great-winged Petrels as by now we were towing the berley bag astern. At 0915 hrs a second White-necked Petrel appeared and was followed shortly after by the sole Pomarine Jaeger for the day. More Great-winged Petrels and Flesh-footed Shearwaters were appearing astern attracted by the berley bag and it promised to be a good day as obviously post cyclone these birds appeared to be ravenous and so it turned out to be. 1005 hrs saw an adult and juvenile Sooty Tern approach closely along with the first couple of Tahiti Petrels for the day.
On reaching the drift point at 1015 hrs we had approached a feeding flock, comprising of 16 Sooty Terns and at least 40 Great-winged Petrels which immediately swarmed around the vessel when the berley was thrown over. The next surprise bird of the day then arrived, a Red-footed Booby which approached closely but kept going, a species that is becoming annual. Numbers of Great-winged and Tahiti Petrels were beginning to rise, approaching so close that we could literally reach out and touch them if we had wanted to, they were that hungry. At 1055 hrs the first 'cookilaria' approached the vessel, a Gould's Petrel, but didn't stay and flew on. At 1130 hrs a third White-necked Petrel appeared and made several close approaches. This was followed closely by a Black Petrel, which landed right at the back of the vessel and was followed shortly after by a second bird. These birds hung around the vessel for some considerable time and indeed there may have been more than two. Black Petrels are becoming increasingly frequent in SEQ waters.
At 1150 hrs the second 'cookilaria' of the day put in an appearance, a Black-winged Petrel and this bird made several close approaches much to the delight of the shutterbugs on board. The numbers of Wedge-tailed Shearwater were now beginning to predominate but
Great-winged and Tahiti Petrels were still present and the latter were now showing very well and landing right at the back of the vessel, giving amazing photographic opportunities, showing punters just how robust that bill is. At 1215 hrs the first Kermadec Petrel put in a belated appearance, followed at 1220 hrs by a 4th White-necked Petrel and just minutes later by a second Kermadec Petrel. Headed for home at 1240 hrs and singles of Flesh-footed Shearwater and Tahiti Petrel followed the vessel for some distance until at 1355 hrs a distant and elevated tropicbird was sighted heading seaward. After much analysing of the heavily cropped photos it was ID'd as a virtually streamerless Red-tailed Tropicbird. Few birds then back across the shelf except for a Flesh-footed Shearwater and the only 2 Hutton's Shearwaters for the day.
Red-tailed Tropicbird - 1
Black Petrel - 2
Wedge-tailed Shearwater - 423 (200)
Flesh-footed Shearwater - 12 (6)
Hutton's Shearwater - 2
Tahiti Petrel - 23 (6)
Kermadec Petrel - 2 (1)
Great-winged Petrel - 121 (50)
Gould's Petrel - 1
White-necked Petrel - 4 (1)
Black-winged Petrel - 1
Red-footed Booby - 1
Little Black Cormorant - 7 (5)
Pied Cormorant - 6 (3)
Pomarine Jaeger - 1
Sooty Tern - 25 (16)
Gull-billed Tern - 1
Crested Tern - 96 (70)
Silver Gull - 42 (30)
There are now 2 spots available for this coming Saturday 16th Feb.
Contact Paul Walbridge at:
(PH) (W) 07 3139 4584 (H) 07 3256 4124 Email:
Cheers - Paul W.