Location: Southport Qld
Vessel: 37 ft monohull MV Grinner
Crew: Craig Newton (skipper)
A weak ridge of high pressure over the Queensland southern coast brought fine conditions to the region. Light SW winds early, tending to NW 10-15 knots by mid morning, the swinging back around to SW by midday. Fine clear conditions all day, visibility excellent, maximum air temp. 27 C, barometer 1018 hPa.
With ex tropical cyclone Ita moving SE toward New Zealand a SSE swell of 2-2.5 metres throughout the day with seas up to .5 metre. Sea surface temp. at the seaway 24.9 C, rising to 26.9 C out wide.
Left the Southport seaway at 0610 hrs and headed out to Jim's Mountain some 28 nautical miles ENE of Southport. Reached the final drift point at 0935 hrs and continued to drift ESE at just over 1.5 knots until 1230 hrs, where we did a final run down the slick before heading back. Reached the seaway at 1530 hrs, total time of trip 9hrs 20mins.
On leaving the seaway, just a couple of Crested Terns and Silver Gulls present, along with 14 Common Terns foraging. Shortly after the first Wedge-tailed Shearwaters were encountered along with a couple of Hutton's Shearwaters and on the water a juvenile Australian Gannet, the first for the season and early for the region. There were a few returning trawlers and the first one encountered at 0640 hrs had the most birds following, with Pied and Little Black Cormorants, large numbers of Crested Terns and Silver Gulls and at least 100 Wedge-tailed Shearwaters. This was followed up quickly by a small foraging flock of Wedge-tailed Shearwaters and the first Wilson's Storm-Petrel of the day, only 4 nautical miles from shore.
The first Flesh-footed Shearwater appeared astern at 0650 hrs, followed shortly after behind the second trawler by another along with several more Wedge-tailed Shearwaters, Crested Terns and Silver Gulls. Just before the shelf-break, at 0837 hrs, the first Providence Petrel was encountered, quickly followed by four more. On reaching the drift point at 0935 hrs, we were immediately joined by 5 Wilson's Storm-Petrels in the slick, quickly followed by a White-faced Storm-Petrel and several more Providence Petrels. By 0955 hrs the numbers of Providence Petrel had built to 8 and Flesh-footed Shearwater to 5 and by 1005 hrs numbers of White-faced Storm-Petrels had risen to 6 as had Wilson's Storm-Petrel.
The first Tahiti Petrel arrived alongside at 1014 hrs and for the next hour or so several more appeared along with more Providence Petrels, Wilson's Storm-Petrels and unprecedented numbers of White-faced Storm-Petrels. At 1135 hrs the two birds of the day arrived, with first of all one of the Coral Sea Storm-Petrel types arriving astern, hot on the tail of the 25 seen the previous weekend on the sea mount trip, followed immediately by a stunning, typical morph White-bellied Storm-Petrel, which obligingly, did several close passes astern of the vessel. Heading back down the slick before heading for home revealed just how many White-faced Storm-Petrels there were, they appeared to be everywhere and the final count would be conservative.
On heading for home one or two Wilson's Storm-Petrels followed the vessel for some distance as did at least one Tahiti Petrel and a Flesh-footed Shearwater. The only other new bird for the day was sighted at 1500 hrs, just 5 nautical miles offshore, with 2 foraging Little Terns sighted, along with a dozen Wedge-tailed Shearwaters.
Wilson's Storm-Petrel - 34 (6)
White-bellied Storm-Petrel - 1
Coral Sea Storm-Petrel - 1
White-faced Storm-Petrel - 38 (6)
Wedge-tailed Shearwater - 182 (100)
Flesh-footed Shearwater - 11 (5)
Hutton's Shearwater - 9 (2)
Tahiti Petrel - 9 (2)
Providence Petrel - 41 (8)
Australasian Gannet - 1
Little Black Cormorant - 2
Pied Cormorant - 1
Little Tern - 2
Common Tern - 14
Crested Tern - 190 (150)
Silver Gull - 65 (50)
Cheers - Paul W.