Exceptional numbers of Providence Petrels were notable on our pelagic trip off Mooloolaba on Saturday August 4. We enjoyed perfect sea conditions but although birds were plentiful, nothing exceptional was seen. We set off shortly after 7am in our catamaran, Cat-A-Pult, with the promise of a good day: a gentle south-westerly blowing at 8 knots with a 1.5-metre swell. We ran into our first Providence Petrel 20 nautical miles out.
We had distant views of a few Humpback Whales before reaching the edge of the shelf before 9am and began leaving a berley trail of shark liver at 26.36.065S; 133.42.855E in 250 metres of water, 31 nautical miles offshore. Providence Petrels were very much in evidence while we were out on the shelf. We turned towards shore at 1pm, trying our luck with another berley trail further in at 120 metres. The wind in the late morning increased to 15-20 knots but eased off and turned south-easterly as the day progressed.
Large numbers of Providence Petrels were about the boat, giving every indication of being very hungry. They were frequently within a few metres of us as they competed aggressively for burley scraps.
Wilson's Storm-Petrel was the next most common seabird on the day. They also were continually following the boat. Despite looking hard, surprisingly no other storm-petrels were seen.
As during our June pelagic trip, a single Wedge-tailed Shearwater was about the boat off the shelf; this species is very scarce in south-east Queensland in winter.. Several Hutton's Shearwaters were the only other birds of note, with a few Fluttering Shearwaters further inshore.
A couple of mantra rays were nice to nice on the way back in. After a picture-perfect winter day, we returned to the marina at 3.45pm.
PARTICIPANTS: Paddy Diamond (skipper), Greg Roberts (organiser),
Ian Barnett, Allen Briggs, Mal Chicksen, John Deitz, Rob Dougherty, Robyn Duff, Wayne Kroll, Gavin Masters, Jim Macready, Colin Reid, Brian Willey.
SPECIES: Total Number (Maximum at one time):
Humpback Whale 6 (2)
Providence Petrel 130 (40)
Wedge-tailed Shearwater 1 (1)
Hutton's Shearwater 6 (2)
Fluttering Shearwater 4 (2)
Wilson's Storm-Petrel 30 (6)
Australasian Gannet 12 (4)
Crested Tern 10 (4)