Vessel: 37 ft Steber monohull, MV Grinner
Crew: Darren Shringles (skipper).
Weather conditions: A high over the Tasman sent a ridge up the eastern Queensland coast bringing light SW winds on the coast early morning, rising to 15-20 knots S-SE by midday out wide. Skies, fairly clear inshore early but out wide on the shelf-break, frequent heavy rain squalls, diminishing visibility somewhat. On approaching the coast mid afternoon cloud cover parted with generally sunny conditions. Maximum air temperature 27° C, barometer 1021 hPa.
Sea conditions: Fairly calm seas on a low swell on leaving the seaway, picking up gradually to a messy one metre sea on a 1.5 metre swell by the 50 fathom mark, with seas to 2 metres in slope waters. Sea surface temps. 24.5° C at the seaway, rising to a maximum of 25.8° C at the widest drift point.
Kermadec Petrel. Photo: Paul Walbridge
Left the seaway at 0610 hrs and headed ENE out to Jim’s Mountain some 28 nm from Southport. With worsening conditions and approaching rain squalls, decided to stop a few nautical miles inside Jim’s Mountain and started the drift at 0925 hrs in slope waters. With increasing heavy rain the vessel moved south a mile or so at around 1110 hrs, where a second drift began until it was time to head for home at 1230 hrs. Arrived back at the seaway at 1515 hrs, duration of trip 9 hrs 5 mins.
Nothing much around on leaving the seaway, with just a couple of Common Terns, a Pomarine Jaeger and a Pied Cormorant in the first couple of miles. The only trawler of the day was encountered at 0655 hrs, approx. six nm offshore, with just a few Crested Terns an Silver Gulls around it plus a Caspian Tern and the first Wedge-tailed Shearwaters, also four more Pied Cormorants. Continued across the shelf into increasingly lumpy conditions, until at the shelf-break the first Providence Petrel appeared astern of the vessel at 0855 hrs, followed shortly after at 0900 hrs by another two and at 0910 hrs by the first two Tahiti Petrels for the day. The first Wilson’s Storm-Petrel arrived at 0920 hrs.
Tahiti Petrel. Photo: Paul Walbridge
On starting the drift at 0925 hrs it took a while but by 0940 hrs at least thirteen Tahiti Petrels had arrived in the slick, along with a sole Wedge-tailed Shearwater, up to five Wilson’s Storm-Petrels and half a dozen Providence Petrels. At 0950 hrs, a plumpish all dark shearwater arrived briefly that was first called as a Sooty Shearwater, based on flight pattern but on inspection of photos later proved to be a particularly long billed and robust Short-tailed Shearwater. The first Kermadec Petrel for the day also arrived at this time, a pale intermediate bird which fed in the slick with the other birds. At 1000 hrs another Kermadec Petrel arrived, followed at 1015 hrs by two more Kermadec Petrels, both dark birds and the count of Tahiti Petrel had risen to thirteen again, with at least ten Providence Petrels.
At 1035 hrs, more Tahiti Petrels and Providence Petrels were arriving, along with the second Sooty Tern for the day and a particularly tatty Pomarine Jaeger and four more Wilson’s Storm-Petrels. At 1045 hrs a second, also tatty looking but darker plumaged. Another new bird appeared in the slick in the shape of a White-faced Storm-Petrel, a new bird for the year, it kept its distance though, a Grey-faced Petrel also arrived at this time just as the rain started to move in. On moving south a short distance to get out of the path of the squall a new drift was started and by 1150 hrs at least another twenty Tahiti Petrels had joined in the slick with a Gould’s Petrel also arriving which stayed for at least fifteen minutes approaching quite close to the vessel. Another Grey-faced Petrel arrived along with at least a dozen Providence Petrels and another five Wilson’s Storm-Petrels.
Heading back across the shelf a raft of twelve Wilson’s Storm-Petrels were encountered at 1235 hrs, the nothing much until 1445 hrs when three Hutton’s Shearwaters were put up from the sea surface and headed south. A Wilson’s Storm-Petrel was also put up off the surface at 1455 hrs along with another two Hutton’s Shearwaters just three nm from shore. At 1505 hrs a couple of immature Australian Gannets were encountered just outside the seaway along with a couple of Wedge-tailed Shearwaters.
Wilson’s Storm-Petrel – 36 (12)
White-faced Storm-Petrel – 1
Wedge-tailed Shearwater – 12 (2)
Short-tailed Shearwater – 1
Hutton’s Shearwater – 5 (3)
Tahiti Petrel – 56 (20)
Kermadec Petrel – 4 (2)
Grey-faced Petrel – 2 (1)
Providence Petrel – 36 (12)
Gould’s Petrel – 1
Australasian Gannet – 2
Pied Cormorant – 6 (4)
Pomarine Jaeger – 3 (1)
Sooty Tern – 5 (3)
Caspian Tern – 1
Common Tern – 2
Crested Tern – 14 (6)
Silver Gull – 13 (12)