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, 12 July 2015

Sunshine Coast Pelagic Trip July 2015

Soft-plumaged Petrel
An unusual mix of warm water and cold water seabirds was the outstanding feature of our pelagic trip off Mooloolaba on the Sunshine Coast on Saturday July 11. As the subtropics met the subantarctic, the highlights were sightings of Soft-plumaged Petrel and White-chinned Petrel - two species that are very rarely recorded in Queensland.

Australasian Gannet
Our departure from the Mooloolaba Marina at 7am on a perfect winter morning was preceded by several days of strong south-easterlies off the east Australian coast. A formidable front from the Antarctic was moving north towards the south-eastern states, promising the coldest conditions for several years. As we headed out to sea, large numbers of Australasian Gannets were feeding on what appeared to be an invasion of bait fish in Sunshine Coast waters. Quite a few Humpback Whales were seen, with one or two breaching on the horizon.

Providence Petrels
We arrived at the edge of the shelf in just under 2 hours, cutting the engine 35 nautical miles offshore in 345 metres at 26'36'479'S; 153',43',165' E. A barely discernible swell was the order of the morning with a gentle northerly breeze of 4-6 knots. The wind picked up a little as the day progressed, reaching about 12 knots by lunchtime, and with the temperature hovering between 18 and 22 degrees all day, it was a comfortable outing.

Antarctic Prion
As soon as we reached the shelf we saw what was probably a second-year Black-browed Albatross, but it didn't wait around. The first of many Providence Petrels appeared and the birds were clearly hungry as we began laying a trail of shark liver berley; an exceptionally large number of this species was recorded for the day.

Antarctic Prion
Fairy Prion - Pic by Rob Morris
The petrels were soon joined by a smattering of Fairy Prions. This species also was about the vessel for the whole time we were off the shelf.  The Fairy Prions were joined soon after by the first of a few Antarctic Prions - the first record of this species for the Sunshine Coast - to be seen as the morning progressed. The occasional Hutton's Shearwater put in an appearance along with a few Wilson's Storm-Petrels.
Common Noddy
A Sooty Tern was an unexpected visitor at this time of year. A Common Noddy was another subtropical species we did not anticipate seeing in winter.

Kermadec Petrel
We were wondering what other petrels might be among the hordes of Providence Petrels when an intermediate phase Kermadec Petrel appeared late in the morning. Things were looking up.

Kermadec Petrel
Soon after, a Tahiti Petrel joined the show. While common in summer, this species is rarely seen in winter. Then a Soft-plumed Petrel turned up, performing nicely for the cameras as it hung about the boat for about 15 minutes. This species has been recorded in Queensland perhaps on just two or three occasions previously. Another unexpected winter visitor was a single Wedge-tailed Shearwater.

Soft-plumaged Petrel
Soft-plumaged Petrel
A second Common Noddy showed, as did a first-year Black-browed Albatross. (We had expected to see more albatross on this excursion after the good numbers seen off the Gold Coast a couple of weeks earlier.) With a change for the worse in the weather looming, we were thinking of turning around when a White-chinned Petrel appeared behind the boat; another species known from Queensland from just a handful of records. Then a second Kermadec Petrel flew in.

White-chinned Petrel
We had drifted almost 10 nautical miles in a south-easterly direction to a depth of 580 metres when we turned around at 1.45pm after 4.5 hours on the shelf. We arrived back at the marina a little after 3.30pm, pleased with our efforts for the day.

Species (Total Maximum at One Time)

Black-browed Albatross 2 (1)
Wilson's Storm-Petrel 10 (4)
Antarctic Prion 8 (2)
Fairy Prion 50 (6)
White-chinned Petrel 1 (1)
Soft-plumed Petrel 1 (1)
Kermadec Petrel 2 (1)
Providence Petrel 250 (60)
Tahiti Petrel 1 (1)
Hutton's Shearwater 6 (2)
Wedge-tailed Shearwater 1 (1)
Australasian Gannet 200 (20)
Sooty Tern 2 (1)
Crested Tern 20 (4)
Common Noddy 2 (1)
Silver Gull 8 (2)
16 species

Humpback Whale 15 (4)
Risso's Dolphin 6 (2)


Paddy Dimond (skipper),  Greg Roberts (organiser), De-Anne Attard, Ralph Brown, Phil Cross, Robyn Duff, John Gunning, Nikolas Haass, Elliot Leach, Rob Morris, Brian Russell, Andrew Stafford, Raja Stephenson, Paul Walbridge.



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