Vessel: 37 ft Steber monohull MV Grinner
Crew: Darren Shringles (skipper)
A high over the Tasman Sea extended a weak ridge onto the east Queensland coast bringing light to moderate SW – NW winds onto the SEQ coastline. Light SW winds on leaving the Southport Seaway, gradually shifting around to the NW and rising to 15-20 knots at widest point by late morning then gradually abating by mid afternoon. Cloud cover, high but comprehensive out wide with intermittent sunny spells but by mid afternoon, mostly sunny conditions. Visibility excellent, barometer 1020 hPa, maximum air temperature 21 ° C.
Kermadec Petrel. Phot: Paul Walbridge
Calm seas on a negligible swell on leaving the seaway until mid morning out wide, with the strengthening NW winds bringing short, sharp choppy seas to 1.5 metres on a 1.7 metre swell from the NW. Curiously, later in the afternoon when heading inshore the swell was from more of a following easterly direction. Sea surface temperature 19.3 ° C at the seaway, 21.9° C at the shelf-break and 22.2° C at the widest point, a drop of 1.4° C on the previous month.
Left the seaway at 0650 hrs and headed out to the Riviera Grounds ENE of Southport. Crossed the shelf, crossing over the shelf-break at roughly 0915 hrs and finally reaching the Riviera Grounds at 0935 hrs. Drifted in a SE direction until 1230 hrs, then headed for home, reaching the seaway at 1500 hrs, total duration of trip 8 hrs 50 mins.
On leaving the seaway several trawlers were heading back in and at 0700 hrs the first one was encountered. There was the usual fare of Crested Terns, Silver Gulls and Pied Cormorants plus the first returning Wedge-tailed Shearwater for the Spring, very early. However a large dark shape appeared from the south, a Brown Skua, the first since 2011 and a rather odd looking one, that initially caused some confusion, none of us on board had ever seen such a pale looking individual before. The skua kept following the trawler back to the seaway with us in tow, keen to get photos but eventually it broke off and headed east, again with us in tow. At 0715 hrs a second trawler was encountered but this one only had a few Crested Terns and Silver Gulls around it.
By now we were beginning to encounter several Australasian Gannets, a species that so far had been in very low numbers but I think all day all we saw were full adult birds, numbers of Wedge-tailed Shearwaters were also starting to appear, a sign in these waters that winter was on the wane. A third trawler encountered at 0803 hrs provided little but small numbers of Crested Terns and Silver Gulls as we proceeded across the shelf. At 0855 hrs the first Hutton’s Shearwaters were sighted, with four of them passing by, followed at 0915 hrs by the first Providence Petrel attracted by the berley bag full of shark liver.
Northern Giant Petrel. Photo: Paul Walbridge
The drift point at the Riviera Grounds were reached at 0935 hrs and it took a few minutes but at 0945 hrs we were joined by two Providence Petrels, a Kermadec Petrel and a Fairy Prion. At 0950 hrs yet another Kermadec Petrel arrived along with the first Wilson’s Storm-Petrel, a Wedge-tailed Shearwater and another three Providence Petrels. By 1000 hrs there were up to three Kermadec Petrels around the vessel, a good number for July and at 1015 hrs an ominous dark shape loomed, a juvenile Northern Giant Petrel, which strangely didn’t approach the rear of the vessel, instead moving up and down the slick, much like the other birds on the day. Over the next hour, more Providence Petrels, Wedge-tailed Shearwaters and Hutton’s Shearwaters arrived from downwind until at 1100 hrs a second Fairy Prion and juvenile Northern Giant Petrel appeared.
At 1110 hrs finally, a Black-bellied Storm-Petrel arrived in the slick and put on quite a show over several minutes allowing for some good photographs for everyone. By 1135 hrs Providence Petrel numbers had risen to ten, Wilson Storm-Petrels to three, with another couple of Wedge-tailed Shearwaters arriving. By 1150 hrs another thirteen Providence Petrels had arrived, along with four Wilson’s Storm-Petrels and on leaving at 1230 hrs there were still eight Providence Petrels, a couple of Wedge-tailed Shearwaters and singles of Hutton’s Shearwater, Wilson’s Storm-Petrel and Australasian Gannet present. On the way back, a couple more Common Noddies were sighted at 1240 hrs, two more Hutton’s Shearwaters and Wilson’s Storm-Petrels at 1320 hrs, with three more Hutton’s Shearwaters five minutes later. At 1335 hrs a third Fairy Prion flew past the vessel and nothing much then until approaching the seaway when quite large groups of Australasian Gannets were encountered resting on the water.
Wilson’s Storm-Petrel – 16 (3)
Black-bellied Storm-Petrel – 1
Northern Giant Petrel – 2 (1)
Fairy Prion – 3 (1)
Wedge-tailed Shearwater – 18 (4)
Hutton’s Shearwater – 17 (4)
Kermadec Petrel – 6 (3)
Providence Petrel – 55 (13)
Australasian Gannet – 86 (30)
Pied Cormorant – 4
Brown Skua – 1
Common Noddy – 3 (2)
Crested Tern – 95 (50)
Silver Gull – 48 (20)