Monday 27 November 2017

Sunshine Coast Pelagic - November 25, 2017

Cook's Petrel
A prolonged period of ideal weather conditions – E-SE winds of 10-20 knots consistently over the past couple of weeks – together with a highly successful pelagic off Southport on November 18 prompted us at short notice to head out for the second time this month. We departed Mooloolaba Marina at 6.30am with a forecast of 10-15 knots SE looking promising on what turned out to be a partially cloudy daily with occasional showers and a maximum temperature of 28C.

Wilson's Storm-Petrel
We were up against a vigorous 1.5m-2m swell on the way out, but the large size and deep hull of Crusader 1 - operated by Sunshine Coast family company Sunshine Coast Afloat helped ease the discomfort. Again, Wedge-tailed Shearwaters were in alarmingly small numbers in inshore waters for reasons which remain unclear. A flock of Short-tailed Shearwaters, a single Hutton's Shearwater and a dark phase Arctic Jaeger were seen as we headed east.

Wilson's Storm-Petrel
We cut the engine just off the shelf in 220 fathoms at 9.20am – the rough ride having slowed us down a bit – 32 nautical miles offshore: 26.38738S, 153.42603E. We began laying a berley trail – thanks Rob Morris for getting the berley side of things sorted at short notice – and the first Wilson's Storm-Petrel was quickly on the scene. We had Wilson's about in some numbers for the whole time we were out wide, often very close to the boat, and it was the most common bird of the day.

Cook's Petrel
A large ray surfaced close to the boat before we saw an interesting petrel several hundred metres to the north. It was most likely a White-necked Petrel, but the bird didn't oblige by coming in closer.
An hour later we noticed two small Pterodroma petrels in the distance to the south and this time one of them followed the slick up to the boat. It was a Cook's Petrel which showed nicely if briefly at close quarters. This is a rare species in Australian waters and only the second time it has been seen in Queensland.

Cook's Petrel
The weather turned out to be pretty much as forecast. Tahiti Petrel was seen regularly. 

Tahiti Petrel
Wedge-tailed Shearwaters remained thin on the water. The occasional Short-tailed Shearwater checked out the slick, as did a single Flesh-footed Shearwater.

Short-tailed Shearwater
Completely unexpected was an immature Great Cormorant which flew in and hung around for a while, looking more than a little out of place.

Great Cormorant
A single Sooty Tern flew high overhead, as did a single Pomarine Jaeger.  A pod of Pantropical Spotted Dolphins surfaced shortly before we pulled up stumps and turned around at 12.50pm, having drifted just 1.5 nautical miles during the 3.5 hours we were off the shelf. We arrived back at the marina at 3.20pm. 

Sooty Tern
PARTICIPANTS: Richard Taylor (skipper), Zoe Williams (deckhand), Greg Roberts (organiser), Margie Baker, Tony Baker, Chris Burwell, Antonia Burwell, Felicia Chan, Wan Fang Chen, Alex Ferguson, Rick Franks, James Galea, John Gunning, James Martin, Rob Morris, Steve Murray, Gerry Richards, Carolyn Scott, Ross Sinclair, Natalie Sinclair, Jim Sneddon, Andrew Stafford, Andrew Sutherland, Ged Tranter, Paul Walbridge. E-list.

SPECIES : Total (Maximum at one time)

Cook's Petrel 1 (1),
Tahiti Petrel 30 (6),
Wedge-tailed Shearwater 35 (8),
Short-tailed Shearwater 25 (20),
Flesh-footed Shearwater 1 (1),
Hutton's Shearwater 1 (1),
Wilson's Storm-Petrel 60 (15),
Crested Tern 30 (8),
Sooty Tern 1 (1),
Arctic Jaeger 1 (1),
Pomarine Jaeger 1 (1),
Great Cormorant 1 (1).

Pantropical Spotted Dolphin 15 (6).

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