• 17th August, 2013, Southport Pelagic Trip, Southport, Qld, Australia.

    Location: Southport, Queensland

    Date: 17/8/2013

    Vessel: 37 ft Steber monohull, MV Grinner

    Crew: Craig Newton (skipper)

    Weather conditions:
    A high in the southern Coral Sea brought NW-Ne winds 10- 20 knots to the SEQ coastline. Generally fine conditions throughout the day with some high cloud obscuring the sun at times but visibility generally very good. Maximum air temp. 25 C, barometer 1022 hPa.

    Sea conditions:
    Calm seas on negligible swell on leaving the Seaway, deteriorating with increasing wind and by the 50 fathom mark rising to about 1 metre of sea on 1.5 metre swell but little distance between swells, so bumpy with lots of spray. Out wide, conditions eased somewhat, sea surface temps. 20.4 C at the seaway rising to 23.7 C at the shelf-break and 24.8 C at the widest drift point. EAC out wide running at 3.5 knots.

    Summary:

    Left the seaway at 0610 hrs and headed out to the Riviera grounds, 26 nautical miles ENE of Southport. Crossed the shelf-break at 0915 hrs, reaching the final drift point at 1010 hrs. Continued to drift south for 8 nautical miles until 1230 hrs then headed for home, arriving back at the seaway at 1415 hrs, total time of trip 10 hrs 5 mins.

    On leaving the seaway, no trawler activity noted and just one or two Australasian Gannets and Wedge-tailed Shearwaters present. At 0700 hrs a couple of Huttonís Shearwaters crossed in front of the boat and an ever increasing stream of recently returned Wedge-tailed Shearwaters heading north, most likely to a source of baitfish. Heading for the shelf-break it was all Wedge-tailed Shearwaters, until 0847 hrs, just a couple miles short of the break when two Providence Petrels appeared, probably attracted to the slick from the berley bag.

    Reached the drift point at the Rivieras at 1010 hrs and at 1016 hrs a solitary Crested Tern appeared, quickly followed by a Wedge-tailed Shearwater, then 7 Providence Petrels, surprisingly from upwind to the north, they most likely had used the Crested Tern as a visual guide. The numbers of Providence Petrel were building gradually until 1025 hrs there were at least 20 around the vessel feeding hungrily when the first Wilson's Storm-Petrel arrived in the slick. Wedge-tailed Shearwaters were now outnumbering Providence Petrels with up to 40 feeding around the vessel and at 1103 hrs a Common Noddy arrived to investigate but as usual quickly moved on, with no interest in offal.

    Shortly after at 1115 hrs a Kermadec Petrel arrived, a darker intermediate bird in good plumage and it remained for some time, making extremely close passes and was observed a couple of times to actively pursue other birds in spectacular fashion just like a jaeger. Not long after at 1130 hrs the first Black-bellied Storm-Petrel appeared, a bird with the classic broad central stripe down the belly. The numbers of Wedge-tailed Shearwaters around the vessel had risen to 50 with at least 20 Providence Petrels at a time, continuously replenishing from the south, when a second dark intermediate Kermadec Petrel appeared, this one showing primary moult, also making several close passes. Around the same time a small shearwater that had been lurking around the distant edges of the feeding birds came close enough to be identified as a Fluttering Shearwater.

    At 1210 hrs a second Black-bellied Storm-Petrel approached the vessel, this one showing a narrower central stripe down the belly and joined at least 3 Wilsonís Storm-Petrels down the slick. The numbers of Wedge-tailed Shearwaters had risen to 60 and a second Common Noddy did a flyby. At 1230 hrs it was time to head for home as it would be a long, wet slog back with a brisk northerly abeam. Just half an hour later at 1300 hrs a second year Black-browed Albatross appeared astern amongst the still following throng of Wedge-tailed Shearwaters. Right on cue and for the second year in a row, an early returning Tahiti Petrel appeared, providing punters with the unusual spectacle of Southern Ocean meets Coral Sea, something Southport is renowned for. Heading back and at 1320 hrs, still outside the shelf a Brown Booby appeared from the north, heading SE, the last notable sighting for the day.

    Species:

    Wilsonís Storm-Petrel - 8 (3)
    Black-bellied Storm-Petrel - 2
    Black-browed Albatross - 1
    Wedge-tailed Shearwater - 215 (60)
    Fluttering Shearwater - 1
    Huttonís Shearwater - 3 (2)
    Tahiti Petrel - 1
    Kermadec Petrel - 2
    Providence Petrel - 109 (20)
    Australasian Gannet - 8 (5)
    Brown Booby - 1
    Common Noddy - 2 (1)
    Crested Tern - 7 (2)
    Silver Gull - 2