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, 5 May 2013

Sunshine Coast Pelagic Trip May 2013

Kermadec Petrel - dark phase
White Tern, Red-footed Booby, Kermadec Petrel and White-faced Storm-Petrel were the highlights of an excellent pelagic trip off the Sunshine Coast. Also noteworthy was an unusually high number of Tahiti Petrels for this time of year.

Providence Petrel
As we headed out from Mooloolaba Harbour just before 7am on Saturday May 4 aboard our catamaran, Cat-A-Pult, conditions looked promising, with a cyclone in the Coral Sea earlier in the week and strong south-easterlys the previous day giving us hope that some good birds might be about. With light winds, a water temperature of 24 degrees and a maximum of 28 degrees forecast for this sunny autumn day, we were assured of a pleasant time at sea.

Tahiti Petrel
A single Fluttering Shearwater was seen on the way out before a small flock of Wilson's Storm-Petrels grabbed our attention at 180 metres. We were approaching the edge of the shelf at 8.50am at 270 metres, 30 nautical miles from shore (co-ordinates 26,39,920; 153, 42, 124) when we saw a White Tern. Although we had planned to be a bit further out on the shelf before stopping, this seemed a good spot to begin leaving a berley trail of shark liver.

White Tern
For the next four hours we drifted in a south-easterly direction with a mild swell and west-south-westerly winds rarely exceeding 10 knots: perfect viewing conditions. Birds were about us continually. No sooner had the White Tern disappeared when a pair of Hutton's Shearwaters cruised past and the first of the day's Providence Petrels showed up.

Wilson's  Storm-Petrel
Growing numbers of Wilson's Storm-Petrels and then a couple of Tahiti Petrels made their appearance. Tahiti and Providence Petrels in reasonable numbers were around the boat the whole time we were on the shelf. To encounter these numbers of Tahiti Petrel at this time of year was unusual.

White-faced Storm-Petrel     Picture Paul Barden
Our first hour on the shelf was non-stop action. An intermediate phase Red-footed Booby passed by the bow. A White-faced Storm-Petrel joined the Wilson's Storm-Petrels. A dark phase Kermadec Petrel wheeled overhead. A Pomarine Jaeger - again, unexpected at this time of year - joined the fray.

Pomarine Jaeger   Picture Paul Barden
As the morning progressed we found two more Kermadec Petrels, both light phase. A pod of Risso's Dolphins was nice. Two more White Terns showed. At least two White-faced Storm-Petrels were spotted regularly. A few Short-tailed Shearwaters came in.

Short-tailed Shearwater
We turned around at 1pm, when we had drifted about 8 nautical miles, retracing the berley trail for a while and noticing how well-attended it was, mostly by a steady procession of Providence and Tahiti Petrels. Little was seen on the return leg after we hit the shallower water other than a single juvenile Australasian Gannet. We arrived back in the harbour around 3.40pm.

Here is a neat tracking map of our journey provided by Paul Barden.

PARTICIPANTS: Lachlan Tuckwell (skipper), Greg Roberts (organiser), Paul Barden, Ian Barnett, Sarah Beavis, Ken Cross, Robyn Duff, Alex Ferguson, Nikolas Haass, Raja Stephenson, Bob James, Jim Macready, Ross Sinclair, Brian Willey.

SPECIES: Total (maximum number at one time).

Wilson's Storm Petrel 50 (8)
White-faced Storm-Petrel 3 (1)
Providence Petrel 60 (10)
Tahiti Petrel 30 (6)
Kermadec Petrel 3 (1)
Fluttering Shearwater 1 (1)
Hutton's Shearwater 2 (2)
Short-tailed Shearwater 4 (2)
Australasian Gannet 2 (1)
Red-footed Booby 1 (1)
Pomarine Jaeger 2 (1)
White Tern 3 (1)
Crested Tern 14 (10)
Silver Gull 3 (3)

Risso's Dolphins 6 (4)
Common Bottlenose Dolphin 2 (2)

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