Vessel: 37 ft Steber monohull MV Grinner
Crew: Craig Newton (skinner)
Weather conditions: A high over the Tasman extended a ridge up along the Queensland coast, with moderate SE winds 10-15 knots early on, abating somewhat as the day progressed. Generally cloudy for most of the day, with several squally showers out wide, visibility generally quite good. Maximum air temp. 28° C, barometric pressure 1024 hPa.
Sea conditions: Calm seas on a 1.5 metre swell on leaving the seaway, which increased gradually to 2.5 metres, with several 3 metre swell sets out wide, with little sea on top. Sea surface temps cooler than the previous Saturday with 19.9° C at the seaway, rising to 23.3° C at the shelf-break and a maximum of 23.6° C at the widest point.
Left the seaway at 0600 hrs and due to the conditions, headed for the 120 fathom line just outside the shelf-break where the local anglers and the skipper had been seeing lots of baitfish activity. Reached the drift point at 0920 hrs and drifted approx. six nautical miles over the next three hours or so. Headed back slowly for home at 1230 hrs, arriving back at the seaway at 1545 hrs, duration of trip, 9 hrs 45 mins.
Black-bellied Storm-petrel. Photo: Paul Walbridge
With the trawlers still on holiday there wasn’t much on offer around the seaway, save for a single Pied Cormorant, a couple of Crested Terns and a Wedge-tailed Shearwater. At 0625 hrs the only Arctic Jaeger for the day flew astern, heading directly south. A few Wedge-tailed Shearwaters were now starting to appear, in foraging mode and at 0715 hrs a small tern like Jaeger flew behind the vessel, heading south, the first Long-tailed Jaeger for the Spring and relatively close inshore. The skipper lowered the berley bag over the stern, much earlier than normal. With a slick now forming behind the vessel a Flesh-footed Shearwater joined us at 0735 hrs, soon followed by a couple of Wedge-tailed Shearwaters. At 0812 hrs a lone Hutton’s Shearwater flew quickly southward, the only one for the day and was followed quickly at 0815 hrs by a second Long-tailed Jaeger also heading south. 0835 hrs and just a few miles short of the shelf-break saw the first Wilson’s Storm-Petrel appear behind the vessel, which grew to three by 0840 hrs then quickly to thirty by 0845 hrs, then mainly small numbers of Wedge-tailed Shearwaters joining until arrival at the drift point.
On arrival at the drift point, three Wedge-tailed Shearwaters came to the back of the vessel immediately, followed by five Crested Terns and ten Wilson’s Storm-Petrels. At 1000 hrs, first one then two and then three Long-tailed Jaegers arrived in the slick and appeared to stay for the duration, actively feeding and spending long periods resting on the sea surface. For the next hour or so, more Wilson’s Storm-Petrels kept arriving from downwind with the occasional Wedge-tailed Shearwater and Crested Tern until at 1110 hrs a Black-bellied Storm-Petrel finally arrived close to the back of the vessel, surprisingly the only one for the day, as October is generally a peak migration month for this species. Then another surprise, the first Short-tailed Shearwater for the year landed right at the back of the boat feeding hungrily, so far this Spring this species has avoided us, seemingly passing down the eastern seaboard much wider out.
By 1145 hrs, there were now at least two Flesh-footed Shearwaters feeding around the vessel, along with a couple more Wilson’s Storm-Petrels, Crested Terns and yet another Short-tailed Shearwater. By 1215 hrs the numbers of Wedge-tailed Shearwaters had risen to fourteen and Crested Terns to thirteen, a surprising number for this far out wide. On the way back another Long-tailed Jaeger was encountered at 1315 hrs followed by yet another at 1325 hrs, along with a Flesh-footed Shearwater. At 1500 hrs a second Hutton’s Shearwater was sighted, just six miles from shore, the nothing until closer to shore around Deadman’s Beach with at least twenty Little Terns foraging in the tideline.
Wilson’s Storm-Petrel – 80 (30)
Black-bellied Storm-Petrel – 1
Wedge-tailed Shearwater – 58 (14)
Flesh-footed Shearwater – 4 (2)
Short-tailed Shearwater – 2
Hutton’s Shearwater – 2 (1)
Little Black Cormorant – 1
Pied Cormorant – 1
Arctic Jaeger – 1
Long-tailed Jaeger – 7 (3)
Sooty Tern – 2
Little Tern – 15 (10)
Crested Tern – 26 (13)
Silver Gull – 1