• 20th October, 2013, Southport Pelagic Trip, Southport, Qld, Australia.

    Hi All, the pelagic for Saturday 19th was postponed to the following day, read the report below.

    Location: Southport, Queensland
    Date: 20/10/2013
    Vessel: 37 ft Steber monohull, MV Grinner

    Weather conditions:
    A high near New Zealand extended a ridge onto the Queensland coast, with a southerly change passing through on the Friday bringing strong SE winds into the region, and Saturday also experiencing unstable conditions, with strong winds and big seas. Conditions however eased somewhat over Saturday night and Sunday saw lighter SSE-NE winds 10-15 knots. Clear skies early on with cloud cover increasing approaching the shelf-break, with several heavy rain squalls noted heading coastward. Visibility generally quite good, maximum air temp. 27 C, barometer 1020 hPa.

    Sea conditions:
    Light seas, on a negligible swell on leaving the seaway, with seas rising to about half a metre on a maximum 1.5 metre swell out wide. Sea surface temps. 20.4 C at the seaway rising to 25.4 C at the shelf-break and a maximum of 25.7 C at the widest point. EAC running at a max. of 2.5 knots out wide.


    Left the Seaway at 0600 hrs and headed out to the Rivieras, some 28 nm ENE of Southport. Crossed the Shelf break at 0845 hrs, reaching the final drift point at 0935 hrs. Continued to drift south until 1205 hrs then headed back up the drift before heading back home, with one short stop back on the shelf at 1330 hrs. Arrived back at the seaway at 1530 hrs, total trip duration, 9 hrs 30 mins.

    On leaving the seaway, zero trawler activity so none of the usual Wedge-tailed Shearwaters, Crested Terns etc. but Short-tailed Shearwaters were encountered immediately, some on the water but most, curiously heading slowly north. There has been a large wreck of this species up and down the east coast, particularly SEQ/northern NSW. Moving out, a few Wedge-tailed Shearwaters were noted, foraging, until at 0655 hrs, just 8 nm off the coast a large shaped loomed in from the north, a worn plumaged Shy Albatross cauta/steadi type with a totally bleached out white head. We stopped the vessel and fed this bird for a while before it headed south and we moved on. Cauta/steadi types are uncommon winter visitors at best in these waters let alone a bird in October.

    Over the next hour or so, species sighted were just more Wedge-tailed and Short-tailed Shearwaters until the 50 fathom mark when the berley bag was lowered astern and at 0805 hrs the first Wilson’s Storm-Petrel appeared in the wake along with an ever increasing bunch of Short-tailed Shearwaters. This continued until we reached the drift point at the Riviera grounds where we noted an abundance of bait and a largish feeding flock of Short-tailed and Wedge-tailed Shearwaters. At least the Short-taileds out wide had found some food source unlike the starving birds closer to shore, which now found their selves at the point of no return.

    On stopping here, the foraging shearwaters headed over us on dropping the berley over and almost immediately at 0935 hrs another Shy Albatross, this one a much fresher plumaged bird, also a sub-adult appeared, this one staying for some considerable time, although unlike the first bird never feeding close to the vessel. By 0940 hrs the numbers of Wilson’s Storm-Petrels had built up to 15, when the first Black-bellied Storm-Petrel and Providence Petrel arrived in the slick. All the birds were very hungry and were feeding that close that even with a short handled net one could have plucked several birds at once from off the water. The storm-petrels in particular warmed to Rob Morris fish bomb mix which broke up into tiny storm-petrel sized morsels and they were literally climbing over other birds to get to it.

    Experienced sea-birders will know that Short-tailed Shearwaters although a compact species are quite rotund but a lot of those present at the start of the drift were showing more of a Wedge-tailed Shearwater type jizz, courtesy of a long flight and bad weather and other factors. At 1050 hrs a hoped for prediction for the day arrived from the north a fast flying Mottled Petrel, typically shooting quickly through although some “shooters” got some record shots. Just 20 minutes later a lone White-faced Storm-Petrel appeared on the starboard side with just two observers getting good enough views of it. This constitutes the first Spring Southport record for this species but as some quite possibly winter in the Coral Sea along with other storm-petrel species, hardly surprising.

    Large numbers of both Short-tailed Shearwaters and Wilson’s Storm-Petrels were arriving mainly from the south interspersed with Wedge-tailed and Flesh-footed Shearwaters, Providence Petrels and Black-bellied Storm-Petrels, when at 1125 hrs a Gould’s Petrel made a timely appearance and gave superb close-up views for at least 20 minutes. Fifteen minutes later at 1140 hrs a menacing shape loomed up close in the slick, a dark plumaged South Polar Skua, not unexpected given the amount of Short-tailed Shearwaters passing through, this bird remaining for a few minutes and allowing a few photographs.

    At 1205 hrs we headed back up the slick and then for home with several Short-tailed Shearwaters and Wilson's Storm-Petrels following the vessel almost all the way back. At 1330 hrs on a warm current line another Mottled Petrel zoomed in from the north and it was decided to stay for a few minutes and drop some more berley as several other birds appeared including the second Hutton's Shearwater for the day. Sure enough, a second Mottled Petrel appeared soon afterward but it too, passed quickly to the south. Mottled Petrel by the way was a new species for most of the punters on board, surprisingly. Nothing much of note then until just outside the seaway over the tide current line with 20 Little Terns in a fishing party.


    Wilson's Storm-Petrel - 356 (70)
    White-faced Storm-Petrel - 1
    Black-bellied Storm-Petrel - 10 (3)
    Shy Albatross, cauta/steadi - 2 (1)
    Wedge-tailed Shearwater - 35 (20)
    Flesh-footed Shearwater - 6 (2)
    Short-tailed Shearwater - 219 (60)
    Hutton's Shearwater - 2 (1)
    Providence Petrel - 34 (6)
    Mottled Petrel - 3 (1)
    Gould's Petrel - 1
    Little Black Cormorant - 2
    South Polar Skua - 1
    Little Tern - 20
    Crested Tern - 5 (2)
    Silver Gull - 1