Vessel: 37 ft Steber monohull, MV Grinner.
Crew: Darren Shringles (skipper)
Weather conditions: A high to the east of Australia and a trough moving east over western Queensland, brought showers to the southern Queensland coast. Some squally showers early on close to the coast but generally a fine day with just some high, light cloud. Wind, 10-15 knots from the SE, maximum air temperature, 29° C, barometer, 1024 hPa.
Sea conditions: Fairly calm seas on a low swell on leaving the seaway, gradually building up to a metre sea on a swell up to 1.7 metres. EAC out wide running at 2.5 knots, sea surface temps. minimum of 24.9° C inshore rising to 27.2° C out wide, in slope waters.
Left the seaway at 0600 hrs and headed ENE to the Riviera grounds, stopping just short of there when several foraging birds were encountered at 0835 hrs and it was decided to drift. At 1030 hrs the vessel headed back up the slick to roughly where we started and recommenced the drift. Drifted for the next two hours until 1230 hrs, then headed back over the shelf to Southport. Time spent in slope waters 4 hrs, total time of trip 8 hrs 30 minutes.
Due to the preceding conditions there had been no trawler activity overnight, so on leaving the seaway, very little bird activity evident, save for one or two Wedge-tailed Shearwaters, a Silver Gull, Crested Tern and a Pied Cormorant. Nothing much then until 0643 hrs when a Hutton’s Shearwater past down the starboard side and again nothing until a few more foraging Wedge-tailed Shearwaters and an accompanying Streaked Shearwater at 0720 hrs, approximately 14 nm offshore. Just a few minutes later at 0730 hrs a lone White Tern appeared astern and headed north eastward and shortly after a White-tailed Tropicbird was put up from the sea surface.
Tahiti Petrel. Photo: Paul Walbridge
Just before crossing the shelf-break at 0800 hrs the burley bag full of sharks liver was lowered astern and it wasn’t long before at least half a dozen Wedge-tailed Shearwaters were in tow, with a dark phase Kermadec Petrel appearing at 0830 hrs just before we pulled up to start the drift, this bird staying around for several minutes, passing close to the vessel, offering great photo opportunities. Almost immediately the first two Flesh-footed Shearwaters for the day arrived astern, followed very shortly by the first Tahiti Petrel and a lone Common Noddy. The Tahiti Petrel spent a good deal of time landing next to the Kermadec Petrel when it landed, to feast on the berley and chasing it off, having superior firepower, bill wise.
At 0855 hrs the first Wilson’s Storm-Petrel arrived in the slick and over the next fifty minutes or so nothing much changed until 0940 hrs when a beautifully plumaged Pomarine Jaeger approached low over the water to joined in, heading quickly down the disappearing slick. Over roughly the next two hours, nothing extra much of note, with mainly a few extra Tahiti Petrels, Wedge-tailed Shearwaters and Wilson Storm-Petrels arriving but just as we were leaving at 1230 hrs, a lone Black-bellied Storm-Petrel circled the vessel, the first ever March record, a bird with a missing right foot. Shortly after at 1235 hrs a Long-tailed Jaeger was put up from the sea surface. Moving back onto the continental shelf, a pair of adult White-tailed Tropicbirds were encountered at 1300 hrs and a single Red-tailed Tropicbird was sighted at 1340 hrs just eleven nautical miles from the coast. Just outside the seaway at 1430 hrs the last new species for the day in the form of two foraging Little terns were encountered.
Red-tailed Tropicbird – 1
White-tailed Tropicbird – 3 (2)
Wilson’s Storm-Petrel – 13 (3)
Black-bellied Storm-Petrel – 1
Wedge-tailed Shearwater – 26 (10)
Flesh-footed Shearwater – 6 (2)
Streaked Shearwater – 1
Hutton’s Shearwater – 2 (1)
Tahiti Petrel – 7 (2)
Kermadec Petrel – 1
Providence Petrel – 1
Pied Cormorant – 1
Pomarine Jaeger – 1
Long-tailed Jaeger – 1
Common Noddy – 1
White Tern – 1
Little Tern – 2
Crested Tern – 6 (2)
Silver Gull – 1