Location: Southport, Queensland
Vessel: 37 ft Steber Monohull MV Grinner
Crew: Craig Newton (skipper)
Weather conditions: A high over the Tasman formed a ridge up the Queensland coast bringing light SE-E winds to the SEQ coastline. Not as fine as the day before with a much heavier cloud cover out wide, with several approaching heavy rain squalls, with visibility only fair. Winds E-NE to about 12 knots. Maximum air temperature 29 ° C, barometer 1016 hPa.
Sea conditions: Calm sea on a light swell inshore, which barely increased throughout the day. Sea surface temps.
25.1 ° C inshore, rising to 26.5 ° C out wide. EAC running at 4.2 knots out wide.
Cook's Petrel. Photo: Paul Walbridge
Left the seaway at 0555 hrs and headed out over the shelf, to the 130 fathom line just outside the Continental Shelf where masses of baitfish had been reportedly encountered. Crossed the shelf-break at 0835 hrs and reached the final drift point at 0930 hrs and drifted until 1210 hrs, then headed for home, arriving back at the seaway at 1515 hrs, duration of trip 9 hrs 20 mins.
On leaving the seaway the first trawler appeared almost immediately with just a few Silver Gulls, Crested Terns and two species of Cormorant, namely Little Black and Pied Cormorants. Around the second trawler were the first Wedge-tailed Shearwaters for the day, a Pied Cormorant and a few more Crested Terns and Silver Gulls. Heading for the shelf-break we encountered mainly Wedge-tailed Shearwaters, when at 0815 hrs an adult Masked Booby flew astern of the vessel, heading north, not close enough though to see the iris colour. Just a few minutes later a white bird was sighted on the port side on the sea surface, an adult White-tailed Tropicbird, which headed eastward.
Black Petrel. Photo: Paul Walbridge
The berley bag had been lowered astern and at 0900 hrs a large dark petrel approached astern, an obvious procellarid, it soon landed astern and the vessel was stopped. It was a Black Petrel, with probably the darkest bill tip I’ve seen on this species. While this happening and people were getting nice close-up shots of the petrel, up to eight Wedge-tailed Shearwaters had now joined also, giving us a gauge of size for the Black Petrel, the first Wilson’s Storm-Petrel had also joined in. We continued on our way and 0915 hrs saw the first Tahiti Petrel fly by and on starting the drift at 0930 hrs another four arrived at the new slick. Not much new was happening with a few more Tahiti Petrels hanging around and the Black Petrel disappearing and reappearing but later checking of the images revealing a second Black Petrel appearing at approx. 1105 hrs, this bird also putting in a sustained appearance.
The cloud by now had become quite heavy giving the sea surface a quite grey appearance along with a heavy squall approaching when at 1115 a ‘cookilaria approached the port side of the vessel, just a couple of passes and then was gone. I had very poor views of the underparts but did manage to get two good shots of the upperparts through the wall of bodies. Luckily, John Gunning was more strategically placed and managed to get some reasonable shots of the underwing and combined views finally convinced us that it was Southports long overdue first Cook’s Petrel, a mega. A few more Tahiti Petrels, Wilson’s Storm-Petrels and Wedge-tailed Shearwaters continued to arrive but at 1210 hrs it was time to head off with the large squall starting to produce some spits. Nothing of note was sighted on the journey back.
White-tailed Tropicbird – 1
Wilson’s Storm-Petrel – 6 (3)
Black Petrel – 2 (1)
Wedge-tailed Shearwater – 22 (8)
Tahiti Petrel – 11 (3)
Cook’s Petrel – 1
Masked Booby – 1
Little Black Cormorant – 2 (1)
Pied Cormorant – 4 (1)
Crested Tern – 107 (60)
Silver Gull – 100 (40)