Location: Southport, Queensland
Vessel: 37 ft Steber Monohull, MV Grinner
Crew: Craig Newton (skipper)
Weather conditions: A high to the north of New Zealand maintained a ridge up the NSW coast, bringing light SW winds early in the day, swinging around to the N-NW by mid-morning. Less than 10 knots for most of the morning, tending to 10-15 knots on approaching the coast, mid-afternoon. Some high coastal cloud early in the day, clearing to a fine day, visibility good, with some haze on the horizon. Maximum air temp. 31° C, barometer 1008 hPa.
Sea conditions: Calm seas early, on up to 1 metre swell, increasing to 1.5 metre swell out wide, with seas increasing to 1 metre on approaching the coast mid-afternoon. Sea surface temps. 25.5° C at the Seaway, increasing to 26.8° C at the Shelf-break and a maximum of 27.5° C out wide.
Left the Southport Seaway at 0600 hrs and headed out to Jim’s Mountain some 28 nautical mile ENE of Southport. Reached the final drift point at 0900 hrs and drifted for the next nearly three hours until heading for home at 1225 hrs. Travelled back over the shelf, reaching the seaway at 1515 hrs, total duration of trip 9 hrs 15 mins.
On leaving the seaway, just one or two Crested Terns present until the first trawler was encountered at 0610 hrs with 7 Little Black Cormorants festooned on its rigging, 70 Crested Terns in attendance and 35 Wedge-tailed Shearwaters following mainly astern. A raft of 20 Wedge-tiled Shearwaters were sighted at 0617 hrs and investigated, while a second trawler at 0625 hrs revealed 12 Wedge-tailed Shearwaters and 40 Crested Terns. Continuing on, several more small parties of Wedge-tailed Shearwaters and Crested Terns were encountered over baitfish when at 0655 hrs a solitary Arctic Jaeger was sighted to starboard, with the first Pomarine Jaeger sighted some time later at 0745 hrs.
At 0800 hrs the first Hutton’s Shearwater shot past the vessel in usual fashion, whilst just 15 minutes later the first Tahiti Petrel for the day appeared to the south and still on the shelf. At 0825 hrs and just over the shelf break a large foraging flock of 100 Wedge-tailed Shearwaters was encountered and investigated but nothing new encountered except for a lone Flesh-footed Shearwater. 0855 hrs saw another couple of Tahiti Petrels and a solitary Flesh-footed Shearwater appear from the south and the drift was started soon after at 0900 hrs. With the light winds it took a while for the scent of the shark liver to disperse but by 0930 hrs there were a couple more Tahiti Petrels, 2 Flesh-footed Shearwaters, 4 Wedge-tailed Shearwaters and the first Great-winged Petrel for the day, on the slick.
By 0950 hrs, Wedge-tailed Shearwater numbers had risen to 12, Tahiti Petrel to 4 and by 1020 hrs at least another 10 Tahiti Petrels were seen to arrive from the south. At1040 hrs, probably the bird of the day arrived from the SW, an immature Masked Booby, a pale eyed Coral Sea bird, it hung around for a good few minutes ans seen to actively fish, diving into the water. There were a few Crested Terns arriving by now and more and more Tahiti Petrels along with the odd Great-winged Petrel. At 1125 hrs the first Wilson’s Storm-Petrel arrived in the slick, not a common species in these latitudes in January. Still more Tahiti and Great-winged Petrels were arriving, along with another couple of Flesh-footed Shearwaters at 1210 hrs along with yet another Wilson’s Storm-Petrel.
As we were about to head back up the slick and head for home at 1225 hrs a Pomarine Jaeger arrived along with a third Wilson’s Storm-Petrel, this Pomarine was a bird quite heavily in moult and put on quite a show for the pax to photograph. At 1255 hrs, whilst still in slope waters another Pomarine Jaeger was sighted and at 1310 hrs a Hutton’s Shearwater circled the vessel followed shortly after at 1335 hrs by another. Very little heading back over the shelf, with just a few more Wedge-tailed Shearwaters and a couple more Pomarine Jaegers and just outside the seaway, a single Pied Cormorant and 3 Common Terns.
Wilson’s Storm-Petrel – 3 (1)
Wedge-tailed Shearwater – 207 (100)
Flesh-footed Shearwater – 7 (2)
Hutton’s Shearwater – 3 (1)
Tahiti Petrel – 31 (5)
Great-winged Petrel – 6 (2)
Masked Booby – 1 S. d. personata
Little Black Cormorant – 7
Pied Cormorant – 1
Pomarine Jaeger – 5 (1)
Arctic Jaeger – 1
Sooty Tern – 1
Common Tern – 3 (2)
Crested Tern – 138 (70)