• 16th February 2013, Southport Pelagic Trip, Southport, Qld, Australia.

    Location: Southport, Queensland
    Date: 16/2/13
    Vessel: 37 ft Steber monohull MV Grinner.
    Crew: Darren Shringles (skipper)

    Weather conditions:
    A high just east of Tasmania, with a ridge along the east coast of Queensland brought SE-ESE winds to the SEQ coastline. Light winds to 10 knots ESE early on rising to 15-20 knots ESE by late morning. Squally showers along the coast with heavy cloud early, clearing as the day progressed out wide, with light, high cloud, visibility very good. Maximum air temperature 28 C, barometer 1016 hPa.

    Sea conditions:
    On leaving the Seaway, light seas on a moderate swell, rising to 1 metre sea on up to 2 metre SE swell out wide. Sea-surface temps. 24.7 C at the Seaway, 27.1 C at the Shelf-break and 28.2 C at the widest point. EAC running at 2.5 knots out wide.

    Left the Seaway at 0550 hrs and headed for the Riviera grounds, approximately 26 nautical miles ENE of Southport. Crossed the Shelf-break at around 0830 hrs and reached the final drift point at 0920 hrs. Drifted slowly ESE for the next three hours and started the journey back at 1220 hrs, heading back up the slick a short way to check for anything new. Then headed back with a following sea at a good clip, arriving back at the Seaway at 1430 hrs. Duration of trip, 8 hrs 40 mins.

    On leaving the Seaway there was little trawler activity with just 3 encountered in the first half an hour and little of note really save for record numbers of Little Black Cormorants, a few Wedge-tailed Shearwaters and a couple of Fluttering Shearwaters. At 0635 hrs about 5n.m. offshore we encountered a lone Fluttering Shearwater just loafing on the water and decided to turn around in the hope of at least getting some close flight shots. As we approached to within about 30 metres, it took off but headed directly for us and landed about 8 metres away and began to swim right to the back of the vessel, whereupon it shoved its head under the water and began peering under the vessel, moving its head from side to side. I have witnessed this before with another Fluttering Shearwater and they are merely looking for small baitfish sheltering from predators. Needless to say we had to advance several metres forward to get our photographs and it would then repeat the approach but I think everyone eventually got plenty of fine pictures.

    We kept heading east with just a few Wedge-tailed Shearwaters appearing here and there foraging and lowered the berley bag astern, at the customary 50 fathom mark, almost immediately attracting several Wedge-tailed Shearwaters. At 0900 hrs the first Tahiti Petrel of the day put in an appearance but was a flyby and just 10 minutes later the first Great-winged Petrel appeared astern. Shortly afterward we reached the drift point at the Rivieras and were immediately joined by a couple of Great-winged Petrels and up to a dozen Wedge-tailed Shearwaters and 3 Flesh-footed Shearwaters. Over the next 40 minutes these were joined by a Sooty Tern more Wedge-tailed Shearwaters, and a couple of Tahiti Petrels.

    By 1000 hrs up to 3 Tahiti Petrels were around the vessel with up to 6 Flesh-footed Shearwaters but the numbers of Wedge-tailed Shearwaters had risen to about 80 and this was the dominant species of the day. Shortly after at 1010 hrs the first Frigatebird arrived and approached quite closely before drifting off high up. It was Southport’s 2nd Great Frigatebird record and according to Carter & James from subsequent perusal of photographs, a 3rd/4th year male. At 1035 hrs the first of two White-necked Petrels arrived and put in several passes before *floating* off down the slick, to be followed at 1110 hrs by a second bird with photographs clearly showing a different underwing pattern and this bird was far more accommodating for the photographers on board, surely one of the oceans most photogenic tubenoses. At 1120 hrs the second Frigatebird of the day appeared briefly, high up from the north which quickly disappeared, an adult female Lesser Frigatebird.

    By now numbers of Flesh-footed Shearwater and Great-winged and Tahiti Petrel had risen and we began to notice something in particular with the Tahiti Petrel behaviour. At least two of the birds were making repeated landings right at the rear of the vessel and diving right into the other birds from behind with highly aggressive behaviour, driving Great-winged Petrels Flesh-footed and Wedge-tailed Shearwaters off the food. Of particular note was their aggression call, quite unlike the high pitch piping of the Great-winged Petrel and deeper, more guttural than the squeals of the Flesh-footed Shearwaters, a loud *eeeyaaah*, almost Silver Gull like and quite unlike the *whistles* noted from their breeding grounds. I need to make an effort to record this vocalisation as I can find no record of it!

    On heading back for home at 1220 hrs, little followed the vessel and nothing recorded until 1325 hrs when a group of 4 Fluttering Shearwaters passed by the vessel, followed by a Pomarine Jaeger just 5 minutes later and another Pomarine Jaeger just 5 minutes after that. At 1350 hrs a lone Hutton’s Shearwater put in an appearance, followed a few minutes later by the first Arctic Jaeger for the year, after that just a few Wedge-tailed Shearwaters sighted before the Seaway loomed ahead.

    Wedge-tailed Shearwater - 176 (80)
    Flesh-footed Shearwater - 19 (6)
    Fluttering Shearwater - 6 (4)
    Hutton*s Shearwater - 1
    Tahiti Petrel - 24 (4)
    Great-winged Petrel - 18 (4) all P.m. gouldi
    White-necked Petrel - 2 (1)
    Lesser Frigatebird - 1
    Great Frigatebird - 1
    Little Black Cormorant - 25 (24)
    Pied Cormorant - 1
    Pomarine Jaeger *-2 (1)
    Arctic Jaeger - 1
    Sooty Tern - 2 (1)
    Crested Tern - 52 (30)
    Silver Gull - 12