Location: Southport, Queensland
Vessel: 37ft Steber monohull, MV Grinner
Crew: Craig Newton
Weather conditions: A slow moving high over northern New South Wales, moving east, brought light N-NW winds less than 10 knots to the SEQ coast. Some light high cloud throughout the day, visibility excellent. Maximum air temperature 27° C, barometer, 1024 hPa.
Sea conditions: Calm seas on a low swell inshore, with seas rising to about a metre on about a metre swell out wide but with the wind dropping off late morning, the sea dropped right off to almost glassy conditions. Negligible current out wide, sea-surface temps; 21.9°C at the seaway, 23°C just before the shelf-break and 24.2°C at the widest point.
Black-bellied Storm-petrel. Photo: Paul Walbridge
Left the seaway at 0645 hrs and headed ENE to the Riviera Grounds, approx. 28 nautical miles offshore. Reached the final drift point at 0925 hrs and drifted slowly south east until 1235 hrs when it was time to head for home. Arrived back at the seaway at 1550 hrs, duration of trip 9 hrs 05 mins.
On leaving the seaway, very little trawler activity and what there was had few birds around and must have completed cleaning up. Just singles of Australasian Gannet, Crested Tern and Silver Gull outside the seaway with just a few more Crested Terns sighted over the next hour. As usual the net bag with the sharks liver was lowered at the 50 fathom mark and at 0839 hrs the first Providence Petrel appeared astern, quickly followed by the first Fairy Prion of the season, very early in the year for Southport. Just a few minutes later at 0915 hrs the first Wilson’s Storm-Petrel appeared in the wake and when we arrived at the Riviera Grounds at 0925 hrs, three Providence Petrels arrived immediately astern.
A couple more Wilson’s Storm-Petrels appeared and at 0950 hrs the first White-faced Storm-Petrel appeared from the south east, from downwind, at the same time as up to eight Wilson’s Storm-Petrels, a dozen Providence Petrels and ten Crested Terns arrived at the slick. At 1010 hrs another White-faced Storm-Petrel arrived from the south with by now a dozen Wilson’s Storm-Petrels, ten Providence Petrels and another Fairy Prion. Numbers of Providence Petrels and Wilson’s Storm-Petrels were still arriving from the south, when at 1030 hrs a Common Noddy approached surprisingly close to the vessel, before moving on to the north.
Over the next hour, it was all Providence Petrels and Wilson’s Storm-Petrels arriving from the south into the slick until 1125 hrs when the first Black-bellied Storm-Petrel turned up, making several close passes around the vessel. By 1150 hrs the numbers of Providence Petrels had built to fifteen and at 1200 hrs another Black-bellied Storm-Petrel and Fairy Prion arrived at the slick. At 1225 hrs another four Wilson’s Storm-Petrels arrived from the south, along with two more White-faced Storm-Petrels and yet another Common Noddy, although the latter quickly moved on. At 1235 hrs it was time to head back and at that stage there were still several Providence Petrels present along with up to six Wilson’s Storm-Petrels.
Heading for home conditions lightened of considerably and I took up station on the bow of the vessel and at 1420 hrs a Hutton’s Shearwater was put up from the surface followed by a Fairy Prion at 1435 hrs and surprisingly again sitting on the water a White-faced Storm-Petrel at 1455 hrs, just ten nautical miles from the coast. Approaching the seaway, a solitary Hutton's Shearwater was encountered along with a very close in Wilson’s Storm-Petrel and a few more Australasian Gannets.
Wilson’s Storm-Petrel – 73 (12)
White-faced Storm-Petrel – 5 (2)
Black-bellied Storm-Petrel – 2 (2)
Fairy Prion – 4 (1)
Hutton’s Shearwater – 2 (1)
Providence Petrel – 66 (15)
Australasian Gannet – 5 (3)
Common Noddy – 2 (1)
Crested Tern – 19 (10)
Silver Gull – 5 (3)