Vessel: 37 ft Steber Monohull, MV Grinner
Weather conditions: A high east of NSW combined with a trough moving east over western Queensland brought E-NE winds and mainly fine conditions to the SEQ coastline. A mainly fine day with some high light cloud and hazy conditions with visibility, fairly good. Winds light early probably less than 10 knots from the east rising to 15-20 knots ENE later in the afternoon. Max. air temp. 28° C, barometer 1016 hPa.
Sea conditions: Light seas early on a low 1.5 metre easterly swell, with seas rising to a metre later on in the afternoon. Sea surface temps. showing some odd variation to the norm, with 23° C at the seaway dropping to 21.6° C just 5 nm from shore, rising to 24.2° C at the 50 fathom mark, then hitting a cold tongue of water dropping to 22.7 ° C outside the shelf break before rising to 23° C at the widest point. The warmer water seemed to be closer inshore however with a high of 25.2° C just 13 nm offshore later in the afternoon.
Left the seaway at 0550 hrs and headed approx. 28 nm ENE to Jim’s Mountain. Arrived at the drift point at 0905 hrs, where drifted until 1030 hrs and because of a distinct lack of birds headed back to the shelf-break where a large feeding flock of shearwaters had been encountered on top of a huge amount of baitfish on the way out. Proceeded to drift here until mid-day then headed back a short way to where another large group of shearwaters had been reported over the radio. We then headed back for home reaching the seaway at 1445 hrs, duration of trip 8 hrs 55 mins.
As we headed out of the seaway three trawlers were encountered within the first fifteen minutes, all of which had finished cleaning up so only a few Wedge-tailed Shearwaters, Crested Terns and Silver Gulls were encountered, along with a lone Flesh-footed Shearwater and a couple of Pied Cormorants, although a loafing flock of thirty Silver Gulls was encountered on the water. The first migrating flock of ten Short-tailed Shearwaters was encountered moving south at 0625 hrs, followed at 0630 hrs by another 200 and again at 0634 hrs with 110. Still more groups of Short-tailed Shearwaters were heading south in a leisurely south due to the light conditions and at 0645 hrs two more species for the day were added with a single Hutton’s Shearwater heading north and a Pomarine Jaeger heading south.
Large schools of baitfish were showing on the sounder with the ominous shapes of Marlin showing beneath them and reports were coming in of Striped Tuna being caught. At 0715 hrs the cry of tropicbird went out as a White-tailed Tropicbird passed in front of the vessel, high up heading south. Over the next hour small numbers of foraging Wedge-tailed Shearwaters were encountered with greater numbers of migrating Short-tailed Shearwaters, until at 0818 hrs a feeding flock was encountered just before the shelf-break comprising of six Short-tailed Shearwaters, eleven Crested Terns and 200 Wedge-tailed Shearwaters, the first decent congregation of this species for the Spring. At 0845 hrs the bird of the day appeared from the north and crossed astern of the vessel, a splendid Mottled Petrel a good hundred metres away but showing well for all to savour and luckily Todd Burrows was camera ready at the back of the boat with his Canon 1DX Mk II to capture some images. A Sooty Tern also put in an appearance at this time.
On reaching the drift point at 0905 hrs not much around with just a few Short-tailed Shearwaters still heading leisurely south but at 0912 hrs the first Wilson’s Storm-Petrel arrived from downwind and headed up the slick as did a couple of Short-tailed Shearwaters. Over the next hour things were pretty quiet as one or two Wilson’s Storm-Petrels arrived along with a few Wedge-tailed Shearwaters and Short-tailed Shearwaters and at 0955 hrs the second Flesh-footed Shearwater for the day arrived but showed just mild interest in the berley. Apart from a few small groups of south moving Short-tailed Shearwaters nothing much was happening so it was decided to move back towards the shelf-break where the bait schools had been detected.
At 1055 hrs, just off the shelf-break a raft of 400 Wedge-tailed Shearwaters was encountered above a large school of baitfish, so we pulled up roughly fifty metres from them and berleyed but to no avail, with baitfish underneath, they weren’t interested So, we headed closer in where we’d heard there were still more birds around the game fishing boats and encountered more rafts of up to 100 Wedge-tailed Shearwaters and also more than a few Short-tailed Shearwaters loafing on the water but were met with the same indifference. Heading back over the shelf increasing flocks of Short-tailed Shearwaters were encountered, boosted now by the wind speed increase and singles of Pomarine Jaegers were sighted at 1330 hrs and 1345 hrs both moving south. Numbers of Short-tailed Shearwaters started to increase getting closer to shore when at 1405 hrs just six nautical miles from the seaway a steam of 1500 were counted passing front and back of the vessel.
White-tailed Tropicbird – 1
Wilson’s Storm-Petrel – 6 (3)
Wedge-tailed Shearwater – 779 (400)
Flesh –footed Shearwater – 2 (1)
Short-tailed Shearwater – 2500 (1500)
Hutton’s Shearwater – 1
Mottled Petrel – 1
Pied Cormorant – 2
Pomarine Jaeger – 3 (1)
Sooty Tern – 1
Crested Tern – 41 (11)
Silver Gull – 90 (50)