Vessel: 37 ft Steber monohull MV Grinner
Crew: Craig Newton (skipper)
Weather conditions: A strong high over the northern Tasman Sea extended a weak ridge up the southern Queensland coast bringing moderate S-ESE winds, variable 10-20 knots. Light cloud early in the day increasing to heavier by late morning with frequent squally showers both coastal and out wide. Visibility in the main quite good, maximum air temp. 22° C, barometer 1032 hPa.
Sea conditions: Seas calm close in on less than 1 metre swell, increasing to 1 metre seas, on 1.8 metre swell out wide. Sea surface temps. 18.5° C at the Seaway rising to 22° C out wide, EAC running at less than one knot.
Left the Southport Seaway at 0630 hrs and headed ENE to the Riviera Grounds but instead stopped for the final drift just short of there at 0945 hrs. Drifted slowly to the NW and back onto the shelf until 1230 hrs, then headed back home. Arrived back at the seaway at 1450 hrs, total time of excursion 8 hrs 20 mins.
On leaving the seaway just one or two Australasian Gannets and Crested Terns milling around until at 0640 hrs the first returning trawler was encountered, which had little of note behind it save for the first seven returning Wedge-tailed Shearwaters for the Spring and not unexpected. Nothing new then until 0650 hrs when first of all a solitary Fluttering Shearwater, then the first of many Hutton’s Shearwaters, numbering six passed astern, heading north. Crossing the shelf over the next hour and a half produced just a few more Wedge-tailed Shearwaters and Australasian Gannets.
At 0820 hrs and still well on the shelf the first Kermadec Petrel of the day passed astern of the vessel, heading southward followed 20 minutes later by yet another Kermadec and the first Providence Petrel. At 0920 hrs and close to the shelf-break another Kermadec Petrel appeared followed closely by a Great-winged Petrel. There were huge amounts of baitfish appearing on the vessels sounder and Australasian Gannets were being encountered both foraging and loafing on the water, when at 0940 hrs a White-faced Storm-Petrel appeared from the south. Shortly after at 0945 hrs it was decided to come to a halt and drift, somewhat short of the Riviera Grounds but birds could be seen all around us at a distance and there was extensive baitfish shoals present.
Almost immediately we were joined by a second Great-winged Petrel, followed a few minutes later by yet another Kermadec Petrel, a couple more Providence Petrels and Wedge-tailed Shearwaters. By 1010 hrs Providence Petrel numbers had built up to five in the slick along with small numbers of both Wedge-tailed and Hutton’s Shearwaters when, at 1025 hrs the first three of several Common Noddies for the day appeared, obviously interested in the large numbers of baitfish present. Surprisingly, it wasn’t until 1055 hrs that the first Wilson’s Storm-Petrel arrived, a bird in extremely heavy wing moult, as were several others that followed. At 1110 hrs the sole Black-bellied Storm-Petrel for the day approached astern but uncharacteristically didn’t hang around for long. Five minutes later, in quick succession a couple more Kermadec petrels arrive in the slick, yet another all dark bird and the only intermediate bird for the day.
A few more Providence Petrels, Wilson’s Storm-Petrels and Wedge-tailed Shearwaters were still arriving when at 1145 hrs yet another two White-faced Storm-Petrels arrived one after the other. These three birds are the first August records for this species off Southport and it’s becoming apparent that there could be a shift in the wintering distribution for this species. Over the next three quarters of an hour nothing much else appeared except for a few more Common Noddies, Providence Petrels, Wilson’s Storm-Petrels and Wedge-tailed Shearwaters, until at 1230 hrs just as we were heading for home a third Great-winged Petrel turned up. On the way back home to the seaway, most of the birds observed were foraging Hutton’s Shearwaters, with the occasional Australian Gannet but a lone Wilson’s Storm-Petrel was sighted just a couple of nautical miles offshore at 1435 hrs.
Wilson’s Storm-Petrel – 10 (2)
White-faced Storm-Petrel – 3 (2)
Black-bellied Storm-Petrel – 1
Wedge-tailed Shearwater – 26 (7)
Fluttering Shearwater – 1
Hutton’s Shearwater – 43 (10)
Kermadec Petrel – 7 (2)
Great-winged Petrel – 3 (1) all gouldi
Providence Petrel – 19 (5)
Australasian Gannet – 28 (5)
Common Noddy – 10 (3)
Crested Tern – 21 (20)
Silver Gull – 16 (12)