Vessel: 37 ft Steber monohull MV Grinner
Crew: Craig Newton (skipper)
Weather conditions: A weakening high gradually moving eastward over the Tasman Sea brought changing wind conditions to the SEQ coast. 10-15 knots from the SE initially, turning to 20-25 knots ENE, late morning. Moderate to heavy cloud cover with frequent rain squalls as day progressed, turning to heavy rain. Visibility moderate to good, barometer 1024 hPa maximum air temp. 22° C.
Sea conditions: Fairly calm seas on a low swell on leaving the seaway, rising to 1 metre seas, on up to 2 metre swell out wide, with the change in wind direction and intensity. EAC running at less than 1 knot, sea-surface temps. 19.6° C at the seaway, rising to 21.5° C out wide.
Left the Southport Seaway at 0635 hrs and due to the prevailing conditions headed out ENE to the edge of the shelf at approx. 23 nautical miles offshore. Drifted slowly ESE until 1200 hrs when headed for home, arriving back at the seaway at 1500 hrs. Total duration of trip 8 hours 25 minutes.
On leaving the seaway, little of real note, just a few Australasian Gannets foraging and singles of Fluttering Shearwater, Silver Gull and Crested Tern. A few minutes later and large numbers of Hutton’s Shearwater were sighted streaming northward with at least 40 passing in front of the vessel and then a large mixed group on the water comprising of at least 200 Hutton’s Shearwaters and 7 Fluttering Shearwaters along with a few Wedge-tailed Shearwaters. There was little trawler activity and what there was had little in the way of bird life around. At 0755 hrs, just 11 nautical miles offshore and still well on the shelf, the first Providence Petrels began to appear
More Providence Petrels and Hutton’s Shearwaters were appearing and at 0820 hrs the first Wilson’s Storm-Petrel appeared astern followed shortly after by the first Great-winged Petrel arrived. At 0855 hrs the first surprise bird arrived from the south, approaching briefly, a White-headed Petrel and by now the Wilson’s Storm-Petrel numbers behind the vessel had risen to 17 as we had the burley bag trailing behind the vessel. At 0940 hrs, just after crossing the shelf-break it was decided to pull up and drift as several birds could be seen milling around foraging. By 0956 hrs the numbers of Providence Petrels had quickly risen to 60, Wedge-tailed Shearwaters to 20 and Great-winged Petrel to 3 when a huge shape appeared in the form of a young female Gibson’s Albatross.
Shortly after that at 1010 hrs a juvenile Black-browed Albatross arrived at the back of the vessel just as an adult Masked Booby made an appearance, a pale eyed bird of the race Sula d. personata. More Wilson’s Storm-Petrels were arriving almost in a stream when at 1020 hrs a second juvenile Black-browed Albatross appeared and began interacting with the other bird at the back of the vessel. Shortly after at 1030 hrs the first White-faced Storm-Petrel arrived in the slick followed at 1040 hrs by a Kermadec Petrel and a couple of Common Noddies. At 1110 hrs the sole Black-bellied Storm-Petrel for the day appeared in the slick along with yet more Wilson’s Storm-Petrels and another White-faced Storm-Petrel. From then until 1200 hrs when it was time to head for home just a few more Common Noddies appeared along with a couple more White-faced Storm-Petrels and several more Wilson’s Storm-Petrels.
Heading back across the shelf several species followed for a while and a count at 1330 hrs revealed a single Great-winged Petrel, a single Hutton’s Shearwater and 3 Providence Petrels. However at 1350 hrs and just 9 nautical miles offshore a large dark shape with a longish tail appeared astern out of the gloomy rain squalls and gradually headed towards us. The vessel stopped as the bird approached and berley was immediately thrown over the back of the vessel as it flew past and headed south. It only flew a few hundred metres when it hit the brakes as it picked up the scent and immediately headed back and landed astern of the vessel, a magnificent sub-adult Light-mantled Sooty Albatross, with other birds now joining it and we remained there in the gloomy conditions, taking many photographs, for a good few minutes. It was time to head into the seaway with little else of note sighted.
Wilson’s Storm-Petrel – 63 (17)
White-faced Storm-Petrel – 5 (2)
Black-bellied Storm-Petrel – 1
Gibson’s Albatross – 1
Black-browed Albatross – 2
Light-mantled Sooty Albatross - 1
Wedge-tailed Shearwater – 30 (20)
Fluttering Shearwater – 7 (6)
Hutton’s Shearwater – 248 (200)
Kermadec Petrel – 1
White-headed Petrel – 1
Great-winged Petrel – 10 (3) all gouldi
Providence Petrel – 125 (60)
Australasian Gannet – 14 (12)
Masked Booby – 1
Common Noddy – 5 (2)
Crested Tern – 6 (3)
Silver Gull – 4 (3)