Sunshine Coast Birds

Birding and other wildlife experiences from the Sunshine Coast and elsewhere in Australia - and from overseas - with scribblings about travel, environmental issues, kayaking, hiking and camping.

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Sunshine Coast Pelagic Trip March 2015

Streaked Shearwater
Streaked Shearwater, White-tailed Tropicbird, Long-tailed Jaeger and Red-footed Booby were the highlights of the pelagic trip of Mooloolaba on the Sunshine Coast on Saturday March 7. Other good birds included Lesser Frigatebird, Tahiti Petrel, an unusually large number of Pomarine Jaegers, Sooty Tern, Black Noddy and Common Noddy.

Conditions were calm and fine as we departed the Mooloolaba Marina at 6.35am. A gentle S-SE breeze struggled to reach 5 knots for the rest of the day and we feared the lack of wind did not bode well. Those fears proved to be unfounded. As we headed out to sea we saw good numbers of Common Terns inshore, a dark phase Arctic Jaeger and a Hutton's Shearwater. Things were looking up.
Wedge-tailed Shearwater
Plenty of Wedge-tailed Shearwaters were about as we made our way to the shelf, taking just 2 hours to reach its edge at 8.40am at 300m, 36 nautical miles offshore (26' 38' 950'S; 153' 42' 270'E). A swell of 0.5m barely changed during the day and the temperature under a sunny sky increased from 23 degrees in the early morning to 30 degrees by midday.

Flesh-footed Shearwater & Wedge-tailed Shearwater
When were arrived at the shelf we were greeted by an adult pale phase Red-footed Booby, which flew over the boat before flying away. A good sign indeed. Soon after, the first of 3 Lesser Frigatebirds (2 females and a male) appeared overhead as large numbers of Wedge-tailed Shearwaters and a smattering of Flesh-footed Shearwaters gathered around the shark liver berley trail we were laying.
Flesh-footed Shearwater
It was apparent that the birds were very hungry. Perhaps the unsettled weather off the Queensland coast in recent times, including Cyclone Marcia, had affected seabird feeding opportunities.

Pomarine Jaeger - immature

Pomarine Jaeger - dark phase
A couple of Pomarine Jaegers joined the fun and ever growing numbers of this species were to remain about the boat the whole time we were on the shelf. Most jaegers were juveniles or subadults and all but 2 were pale phase. The jaegers and frigatebirds joined the shearwaters in eagerly feeding on liver scraps. Late in the morning, a second-year Long-tailed Jaeger flew over the boat, giving us the jaeger trifecta.
Streaked Shearwater

Streaked Shearwater
We had been on the shelf about half an hour when the first of several Streaked Shearwaters arrived. Again, the species remained in the vicinity of the boat for as long as we were laying a berley trail.

Lesser Frigatebird - male

Lesser Frigatebird - female
As the morning progressed, a single immature White-tailed Tropicbird was seen somewhat distantly. Then a single Sooty Tern flew over, to be joined soon after by a second. A single Black Noddy made an appearance, as did a couple of Wilson's Storm-Petrels. Tahiti Petrel took a while to show but several settled in to join the feeding frenzy. Hutton's Shearwater made an occasional appearance.

Pomarine Jaeger & Wedge-tailed Shearwater

Tahiti Petrel
We had drifted 2.7 nautical miles in a northerly direction when we turned around at 1.10pm and headed home. Large numbers of actively feeding birds were with us continually for the 4.5 hours we were on the shelf. On the way back we encountered a large feeding flock of terns inshore, with good numbers of White-winged Terns among the more numerous Common Terns, a couple of Little Terns and a single juvenile Common Noddy. We arrived back at the marina at 3.15pm.

Common Terns & White-winged Terns
Species (Total Maximum at One Time)

Tahiti Petrel 8 (4)
Wilson's Storm-Petrel 4 (2)
Streaked Shearwater 4 (4)
Wedge-tailed Shearwater 300 (100)
Flesh-footed Shearwater 15 (5)
Hutton's Shearwater 4 (1)
White-tailed Tropicbird 1 (1)
Red-footed Booby 1 (1)
Lesser Frigatebird 3 (2)
Pomarine Jaeger 25 (15)
Long-tailed Jaeger 1 (1)
Arctic Jaeger 1 (1)
Silver Gull 2 (2)
Crested Tern 30 (4)
Common Tern 200 (100)
White-winged Tern 50 (30)
Little Tern 2 (2)
Sooty Tern 2 (2)
Common Noddy 1 (1)
Black Noddy 1 (1)
Pied Cormorant 2 (1)
Little Black Cormorant 2 (2)
Australian Pelican 3 (2)

Short-beaked Common Dolphin 2 (2)
Inshore Bottle-nose Dolphin 3 (2)
Oceanic Bottle-nose Dolphin 2 (2)


Lachlan Tuckwell (skipper), Greg Roberts (organiser),  Sarah Beavis, Robert Bell, Jo Cullinan, Linda Cross, Phil Cross, Hendrik Ferreira, Dawn Forrester, Nikolas Haass, Bob James, Paul Newman, Nerida Silke, Raja Stephenson, Russell Yong.

Light-manted Sooty Albatross: Pic Luke Bennett
In other Sunshine Coast seabirding news, Luke Bennett found a beach-washed Light-mantled Sooty Albatross of February 15 at Castaways Beach. This is a rare species in south-east Queensland at any time but this record is probably the first for the region in summer.


  1. I am just going to have to build up courage and come along one day. I see Linda and Phil Cross were on board .. I do the Caboolture River Roost Area for the QWSG. But I'm a beginner and still have so much to learn about Waders. But your trip, so many birds and this trip looked so calm. I think I will need you there to 'hold my hand Greg" ..... Jude.

    1. You'll be okay Jude, though the weather can never be guaranteed of course, and it can be pretty unsettled out there at times