Location: Southport, Queensland
Vessel: 37 ft monohull MV Grinner
Crew: Craig Newton (skipper)
A high over the southern Tasman extended a broad ridge over Queensland, combined with a trough moving north over southern Queensland brought E-SE winds, 15-20 knots. Heavy cloud early, breaking up with sunny periods later on, then rainy squalls on approaching the coast late afternoon. Visibility generally quite good. Maximum air temp. 19 C, barometer 1022 hPa.
Moderate seas on a 1.5 metre swell early, increasing to up to 2 metre swell with a messy chop with the increasing wind by mid to late morning. Sea surface temps. 19.3 C at the seaway, rising to 21.9 C out wide.
Left the Seaway at 0700 hrs and initially headed for the Rivieras but with the deteriorating conditions, decided to stop just beyond the Shelf-break at 1020 hrs. Drifted here, very slowly, until 1235 hrs, then left for home, arriving back at the seaway at 1600 hrs. Duration of trip 9 hrs.
On exiting the seaway the first species sighted was Fairy Prion, with several passing astern to the north, followed by a few foraging Australian Gannets and a few Crested Terns. With no trawlers present, continued directly across the shelf with regular sightings of Fairy Prion and the first pterodroma of the day, a Providence Petrel sighted at 0740 hrs, just 5 nautical miles from the coast, with another single bird at 0810 hrs, still well on the shelf. From then until arriving at the shelf-break at 1020 hrs, it was all Fairy Prions with the occasional Providence Petrel and Australian Gannet.
Just a few minutes into the drift the first albatrosses for the winter arrived in quick succession, in the form of an adult Buller's, an adult Campbell (second Southport record) a juvenile Black-browed and an adult Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross, much to the delight of a few first timers on board. These birds all hung around the slick for quite some time, making several passes around the vessel presenting many photographic opportunities. Four species of Albatross together in southern Coral Sea waters is quite exceptional. Along with this group the sole Great-winged Petrel of the day appeared and remained for a few minutes.
While Providence Petrels continued to arrive from the north, another first for the winter arrived right at the back of the vessel and always a favourite, a Cape Petrel at 1120 hrs. For the next hour or so nothing much changed in regard to species present until 1200 hrs when the first Wilson's Storm-Petrel belatedly appeared in the slick, followed by a few more over the ensuing minutes. On heading down the slick a second Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross was encountered on the water at 1250 hrs.
Crossing back over the shelf produced more Wilson's Storm-Petrels, Providence Petrels and Australian Gannets, with the occasional Crested Tern. We were almost back at the seaway, just 600 metres from shore when a juvenile Northern Giant Petrel was sighted, sitting on the water at 1520 hrs. The skipper circled the vessel around back to the bird, which immediately flew over for a feed. There we remained for the next half an hour or so as the big brown bub provided an excellent photo shoot for all on board, approaching to within a metre. Plus by now, several Fairy Prions had arrived, along with some Hutton's Shearwaters, Fluttering Shearwaters and many circling Australian Gannets.
Wilson's Storm-Petrel - 7 (2)
Black-browed Albatross - 1
Campbell Albatross - 1
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross - 2 (1)
Buller*s Albatross - 1
Northern Giant Petrel - 1
Cape Petrel - 1 (D. c. australe)
Antarctic Prion - 1
Fairy Prion - 40 (15)
Fluttering Shearwater - 2
Hutton's Shearwater - 2
Great-winged Petrel - 1 (P.m.gouldi)
Providence Petrel - 33 (12)
Australian Gannet - 28 (8)
Crested Tern - 19 (5)
Silver Gull - 3
Another trip has been organised for this Saturday 6th July, with a few spots still available. Contact Paul Walbridge on (PH) (W) 07 3139 4584 (H) 07 3256 4124 E-mail: Paul_Walbridge@health.qld.gov.au
Cheers - Paul W.