• 21st December, 2013, Southport Pelagic Trip, Southport, Qld, Australia.

    Location: Southport, Queensland
    Date: 21/12/13
    Vessel: 37 ft Steber monohull, MV Grinner
    Crew: Craig Newton (skipper)

    Weather conditions:
    A slow moving over the central Tasman extended a ridge along the Queensland east coast. Light E-NE winds for most of the day, increasing to 12-15 knots mid afternoon when approaching the coast. A mainly clear day with some light, high cloud, visibility excellent. Maximum air temperature 28 C, barometer 1016 hPa.

    Sea conditions:
    Hardly any sea on a half metre swell on leaving the seaway. With the increase in wind speed in the afternoon seas rose to about half metre on 1 metre sea. Sea Surface temps. 25.9 C at the seaway, 26.4 C at the Shelf-break, then several south moving streams of warmer current were encountered, the warmest out wide being 28.9 C.

    Summary:

    Left the Seaway at 0600 hrs and travelled out to Jimís Mountain, some 28 nautical miles ENE of Southport. Crossed the shelf-break at 0825 hrs, reaching the final drift point at 0910 hrs. Drifted SSE for the next three hours with one short trip back up the slick at 1130 hrs, before heading back to Southport at 1215 hrs. Arrived back at the seaway at 1530 hrs, duration of trip 9 hrs 30 mins.

    On leaving the seaway, few birds around, with a solitary Little Tern the only one of note. Few returning trawlers were encountered and not much surrounded them save for a few Crested Terns and Wedge-tailed Shearwaters. However at 0635 hrs large numbers of Wedge-tailed Shearwaters were encountered in rafts and feeding on baitfish. In the largest raft a Pomarine Jaeger sat among the shearwaters, which dispersed as we approaches, a second Pomarine was sighted almost immediately. At 0750 hrs a Hutton's Shearwater was sighted working along a current line, with a second bird encountered shortly after. Few other birds were sighted crossing the shelf, with the berley bag lowered at the 50 fathom mark attracting the interest of just one or two Wedge-tailed Shearwaters.

    On reaching the drift point and with the winds being very light, it was a good twenty minutes before the first birds arrived in the shape of two Tahiti Petrels. The following two minutes saw an extraordinary flurry, of first an intermediate Kermadec Petrel joining the Tahiti Petrels, quickly followed by a Gouldís Petrel then a White-necked Petrel both of which, although giving good views, cleared through quickly. Numbers of Tahiti Petrel had built up to 5 by 0940 hrs and surprisingly only one or two Wedge-tailed Shearwaters were arriving. More Tahiti Petrels began to arrive but unlike last month the birds didnít appear to be as hungry and were content to loaf around at the end of the slick some two hundred metres or so away to the north. There were pockets of baitfish present and several large pelagic species of fish had appeared on the sounder and this could have held the interest of the birds.

    At 1015 hrs another Kermadec Petrel arrived from the south, quickly followed by another two together, all charging in to the congregation of birds at the top of the slick. For the next hour and a quarter the only two species present were Tahiti and Kermadec Petrels both of which were constantly building in numbers and at 1130 hrs 6 Kermadec Petrels were observed together sitting on the sea surface. At this time also the second White-necked Petrel appeared, giving the punters on board better views than the first bird, also the first Sooty Tern of the day. From then until the end of the drift it was mainly Tahiti Petrels and Kermadec Petrels although a second Sooty Tern and a third White-necked Petrel put in an appearance. During this period it was interesting to watch some of the Kermadec Petrels literally charging in, in level flight mode like Arctic Jaegers, although unlike last month, the main other species present was Tahiti Petrel, so no apparent harassment was noticed.

    On heading for home at 1215 hrs, there were still half a dozen Tahiti Petrels present along with 4 Wedge-tailed Shearwaters. At 1240 hrs the fourth White-necked Petrel was sighted in front of the vessel and this bird did a great close in fly past down the starboard side of the vessel, much to the delight of the punters onboard. Shortly afterward at 1245 hrs a bird was sighted, again up front but on the water and appearing dazzlingly white, a dead giveaway, a tropicbird and soon identified as an immature White-tailed Tropicbird as it took to the air on our approach. Up to 3 Tahiti Petrels were following the vessel and did so for at least an hour and well onto the shelf, for up to 10 nautical miles, this is nothing new for Southport. At 1345 hrs the only Flesh-footed Shearwater for the day appeared behind the vessel and likewise at 1355 hrs when a solitary Short-tailed Shearwater followed the vessel for a short time. Nothing much else for the rest of the return journey with just a few Wedge-tailed Shearwaters and Crested Terns until just outside the seaway in the tide line, with 3 Common Terns foraging.


    Species:

    White-tailed Tropicbird - 1
    Wedge-tailed Shearwater - 342 (300)
    Flesh-footed Shearwater - 1
    Short-tailed Shearwater - 1
    Hutton's Shearwater - 2 (1)
    Tahiti Petrel - 33 (6)
    Kermadec Petrel - 14 (6)
    Gould's Petrel - 1
    White-necked Petrel - 4 (1)
    Pomarine Jaeger - 2
    Sooty Tern - 2 (1)
    Little Tern - 1
    Common Tern - 3
    Crested Tern - 100 (70)
    Silver Gull - 3 (2)