Vessel: 37 ft Steber monohull MV Grinner
Crew: Craig Newton (skipper)
Weather conditions: A high in the Tasman extended a firm ridge up the eastern Queensland coast, bringing light SE to E winds to the SEQ coast. Mostly fine with just some light high cloud out wide, visibility excellent, maximum air temp. 28° C, barometer 1024 hPa.
Sea conditions: Calm seas on a negligible swell on leaving the seaway, diminishing to glassy seas at the widest drift point, rising to .5 metre seas closer to the coast with the onshore breeze, late afternoon. Sea surface temps. 22.7° C at the seaway, rising to 23° C at the shelf-break and a maximum of 25.1° C at the widest point.
White-headed Petrel. Photo: Paul Walbridge
Left the seaway at 0600 hrs and headed out to a ridge we used to go out to in the days we used the Sea World I Research & Rescue Vessel, that is a NW-SE ridge, a few miles SE of the Riviera Grounds. Arrived at the ridge at 0930 hrs and barely drifted with practically no current and wind for the next 2 Ľ hrs. before heading back to Southport. Headed slowly back at 1145 hrs and arrived back at the seaway at 1500 hrs, duration of trip 9 hrs.
On leaving the seaway, just a single Pied Cormorant and Crested Tern present, with the first Wedge-tailed Shearwaters not appearing until about three nautical miles offshore, with up to for foraging in current lines. At 0630 hrs, about six nautical miles from shore a large fishing flock was encountered with up to 400 Wedge-tailed Shearwaters, five Crested Terns and at least one Flesh-footed Shearwater present. From there until just before the shelf-break a few more Wedge-tailed Shearwaters and Crested Terns, then the first Wilson’s Storm-Petrel arrived alongside the vessel at 0755 hrs. Shortly after at 0805 hrs a large skua loomed in, a dark morph South Polar Skua, which promptly zoomed off to the south.
South Polar Skua. Photo: Paul Walbridge
At 0825 hrs, now well into slope waters a white bird was picked up on the water on the starboard side, the vessel was halted as the bird continued to preen, a resplendent White-headed Petrel, which took off and spent the next few minutes showing off around the vessel. I’m pretty sure this is only the second October record for this species, which showed a fair bit of wear and tear in the wing and body plumage but fresh head feathering. The numbers of Wilson’s Storm-Petrel around the vessel had built up to twenty, attracted by the berley bag. It was time to move on as we still has some way to go to the drift point.
Arrived at the underwater ridge at 0930 hrs and the first four Providence Petrels arrived immediately, along with a Wedge-tailed Shearwater and eight Wilson’s Storm-Petrels. At 1000 hrs another large skua type approached the vessel, this time a near classic South Polar Skua with pearly grey underparts, which did a couple of quick passes before it too left to the south. By now another five Providence Petrels and eighteen Wilson’s Storm-Petrels had arrived and worked their way down the slick. At 1040 hrs an all dark Arctic Jaeger approached from the north and promptly shot through to the south east, this was followed just 15 minutes later by a second very similar all dark bird.
Heading back toward the shelf, nothing much of note although by 1245 hrs there was still a Crested Tern and Providence Petrel following the vessel and by 1320 hrs at least 7 Wilson’s Storm-Petrels had joined behind in the wake, as we had filled the berley bag again. Back on the shelf and nearer to shore, Wedge-tailed Shearwaters started to appear in small numbers and on visiting Deadman’s Beach just to the north of the Seaway a couple of Common Terns were noted and a Little Black Cormorant was sighted just outside the seaway.
Wilson’s Storm-Petrel – 64 (20)
Wedge-tailed Shearwater – 418 (400)
Flesh-footed Shearwater – 2 (1)
Providence Petrel – 13 (5)
White-headed Petrel – 1
Little Black Cormorant – 1
Pied Cormorant – 1
South Polar Skua – 2 (1)
Arctic Jaeger – 2 (1)
Common Tern – 2
Crested Tern – 15 (5)