Location: Southport, Queensland
Vessel: 37 ft Steber monohull.
Crew: Craig Newton (skipper)
A high over New Zealand pushed a ridge up through the east Queensland coast bringing light 5-10 knot E-NE winds early, rising to 10-15 knots NE-N by midday. A generally fine and hot/humid day with just some light, filtering cloud and visibility very good. Maximum air temp. 31C, Barometer 1016 hPa.
Light seas on a light swell on leaving the Seaway, rising to a maximum of .5 metre seas 0n 1.5 metre swell with the increasing winds later in the day. Sea-surface temps. 24.3 C at the Seaway, rising to 25.7 C at the Shelf-break and 26.4 at the widest drift. EAC out wide, running at 3+ knots.
Left the Seaway at 0550 hrs and travelled out to Jimís Mountain, some 31 nm ENE of Southport. Crossed the Shelfbreak at approx. 0815 hrs. and reached the final drift point at 0910 hrs. Drifted in a SSE direction until 1230 hrs when it was time to head for home but as happened in January there was once again a problem with batteries and we couldnít get underway. Radioed home to the skipperís wife and their back-up vessel was eventually sent with a spare battery. The boat finally arrived at 1705 hrs and we headed for home at 1735 hrs, arriving back at the Seaway at 2250 hrs. Total birding hours 11 hrs 45 mins, duration of trip 17 hrs 10 mins. Total distance of drift approx. 24 nautical miles SSE of the starting drift point.
On leaving the Seaway we ran into 5 trawlers over a distance of approx. 5 miles and encountered a total of 7 species with Silver Gulls and Crested Terns being predominant but with a smattering of two species of cormorants, Pomarine Jaegers and Wedge-tailed Shearwaters and a single Huttonís Shearwater. We then proceeded out over the shelf with very little seen, just a few foraging Wedge-tailed Shearwaters. It wasnít until 0900 hrs and some way after crossing the shelf-break that we encountered our first Tahiti Petrel, more than likely attracted to the shark liver filled berley bag, bouncing in the water at the back of the boat. Just five minutes later the first Great-winged Petrel turned up as did almost immediately a White-necked Petrel, which moved on pretty quickly.
A few minutes after the drift started, with the Great-winged Petrel numbers building the first Providence Petrel of the season appeared, an early sighting as with last year. At 0935 hrs the first Kermadec Petrel appeared followed shortly by another, just as a small white bird loomed up from astern, an adult White Tern. Numbers of birds were now quickly coming in from the south where the northerly winds were carrying the scent of the berley, with Wedge-tailed Shearwaters, Tahiti and Great-winged Petrels being predominant. At 1015 hrs the sole Common Noddy of the day appeared briefly before disappearing down the slick to the north, with another Providence Petrel arriving along with even more Tahiti Petrels and Great-winged Petrels.
At 1035 hrs the first of many Wilsonís Storm-Petrels arrived in the slick, with a couple of this species over the next couple of hours coming ridiculously close to the back of the vessel enabling some great photography with the very stable conditions. So for the next couple of hours it was pretty much the same with more Tahiti, Kermadec and Great-winged Petrels, Wilsonís Storm-Petrels, appearing from the south and moving up the slick, occasionally circling back and feeding at the back of the vessel. With the vessel going nowhere at 1230 hrs when we should have been heading for home, it just meant that much more extra time for birding but no mega bird this time with just Flesh-footed Shearwater being the only added species for the day at 1350 hrs, with a solitary bird appearing briefly.
As the rest of the afternoon progressed the numbers of Wedge-tailed Shearwaters gradually dropped off as they headed back to the local colonies but a few more Kermadec Petrels appeared, mostly dark birds, some in moult, some not and for the first time we obtained photographs of this species actually feeding close by, on the sea surface and aggressively so. In the past I had seen this species land to feed but too far off to get meaningful evidence but this time several of this species hung around for some time actively feeding and interacting with other species. At one point, mid afternoon, the only species circling the vessel was Tahiti Petrel as the other birds rested in the slick but this is not an uncommon occurrence off here. As the battery replacement went ahead at 1705 hrs there were still 8 Great-winged Petrels, 3 Tahiti Petrels and a solitary Providence Petrel around the vessel. We then
headed home under a moonlit sky, in calm seas and all that was missing was a Crownie or a glass of Red, celebrating another great, albeit extended day out on the Blue Paddock.
Wilsonís Storm-Petrel - 13 (3)
Wedge-tailed Shearwater - 112 (50)
Flesh-footed Shearwater - 1
Huttonís Shearwater - 1
Tahiti Petrel - 90 (13)
Kermadec Petrel - 8 (2)
Great-winged Petrel - 63 (8)
Providence Petrel - 5 (1)
White-necked Petrel -1
Little Black Cormorant - 3
Pied Cormorant - 6 (3)
Pomarine Jaeger - 12 (3)
Common Noddy - 1
White Tern - 1
Crested Tern - 153 (100)
Silver Gull - 170 (100)