This pelagic trip was touch and go with a strong south-easterly over the preceding days indicating a swell of 2-3m out wide. So it proved on the day, but the large size of - and facilities aboard - Crusader 1 allowed the boat to negotiate the tough conditions with a degree of relative comfort. A brisk south-easterly was blowing as we departed Mooloolaba Marina at 7am, departing a little later than usual so people would not need to find our meeting place in the dark. We battled big waves on the way out, seeing little close in other than a few Silver Gulls, Crested Terns and Australasian Gannets.
As we continued east an immature Brown Booby put in an appearance and then a Red-footed Booby showed briefly if distantly. An adult Brown Booby perched atop a trawler was spotted soon after.
We saw a Providence Petrel a bit further on so with a few people feeling crook in the unrelenting swell which slowed our progress, we tried our luck with a berley trail short of the shelf at 9.30am in 110m, 23 nautical miles offshore (26.483S; E153.324E). Winds were blowing from the south-east at 15-18 knots with gusts up to 20-22 knots. The swell refused to ease off all day.
A single Grey-faced Petrel came into the slick and approached the boat briefly. The first image below was the only one I managed but others fortunately did better. This is the first Grey-faced Petrel for the Sunshine Coast pelagics. Long expected here, the species is regular on the Southport pelagics so its absence to date is baffling. It seems that a few southern species like this one struggle to extend north beyond the Gold Coast, while tropical species like frigatebirds and boobies are more frequent in Sunshine Coast waters than offshore further south.
|Grey-faced Petrel - Pic by Louis Backstrom|
We decided to head further out after a short while and laid a second berley trail at 10.40am 30 nautical miles offshore in 220m. Providence Petrels were soon about and stayed around the boat for most of the time we were out wide.
Wilson's Storm-Petrels soon appeared and again were regular visitors to the slick.
A single Antarctic Prion put in a brief appearance and an hour later, three more Antarctic Prions flew into the slick, these birds proving more co-operative. This species was unexpected, especially as early as May, and it's interesting that the generally more numerous Fairy Prion (in Queensland waters) was not seen.
We pulled up stumps at 1.20pm having scarcely drifted in the washing-machine conditions. Not much was seen on the way back but an Australasian Gannet coming into adult plumage close to the boat was nice. We arrived back at the marina at 3.45pm. Elist here.
Greg Roberts (organiser), Toby Imhoff (skipper), Zoe Williams (deckhand), Louis Backstrom, Margie Baker, Tony Baker, Jan England, Richard Fuller, Malcolm Graham, John Gunning, Nikolas Haass, John Houssenloge, Mary Hynes, Sue Lee, Xiatong Ren, Rosemary Sheehan, Raja Stephenson, Carolyn Stewart, Ged Tranter, Jamie Walker, Shen Zhang.
SPECIES – Total (Total at any one time)
Grey-faced Petrel – 1
Providence Petrel – 30 (4)
Antarctic Prion – 4 (3)
Wilson's Storm-Petrel – 20 (3)
Brown Booby 2 (1)
Red-footed Booby 1
Australasian Gannet 15 (3)
Crested Tern 60 (20)
Silver Gull 20 (10)