Hi Birding-aussers, March rarely disappoints and
this year was no exception, here is the official report for the Southport
Vessel: Skybird III (Bigbird).
Pax: 21 (10 new).
Weather: Generally fine, with the occasional light
shower out wide. Wind 10-15 knots SE gusting to 20 knots. Visibility mostly
excellent, air temp. 27 C.
Seas: Up to 1 metre sea on up to 1.8 metre swell.
Sea surface temp. 24.5C inshore, 26C out wide in the current.
On leaving the Seaway one of the first birds
encountered was a young Australasian Gannet, extraordinarily early for this
area. We headed over to 3 trawlers in quick succession hoping for Streaked
Shearwater but to no avail with only Wedge-tailed Shearwaters and the usual
inshore stuff present. Traversing the Shelf waters as usual revealed little,
with one feeding party of about 60 Wedge-tails the only thing of
On crossing the Shelf-break and on entering
Slope waters Tahiti Petrels started appearing in twos & threes in ever
increasing frequency some actually following in the vessels wake (not chum
induced) and it soon became apparent we were about to be 'day trippin' on
the Tahiti Super Highway'.
We finally reached the widest drift point and on
offloading some chum were almost immediately joined by Tahiti Petrels attracted
to the ever growing slick. The problem was, apart from a couple of Wedge-tailed
and Flesh-footed Shearwaters that is all there were - Tahiti Petrels, coming and
going - we craved diversity!
I decided, while we still had plenty of time on our
hands to head back a few 'Ks' to a 'stream ' of warm water current where we
first noted Sooty Terns & Tahiti Petrels. Heading for this area produced
immediate results with the first White-tailed Tropicbird appearing and
increasing numbers of Tahiti Petrels. On reaching the pre-determined area the
vessel was stopped on sighting the second White-tailed Tropicbird for the day
which stayed around for a bit longer.
Suddenly from the rear a large white
& black bird approached low over the water and then soared over our
heads, a stunning adult Masked Booby (the first for a Southport Pelagic
& our 67th species). At one stage we were treated to the spectacle of a
soaring Masked Booby with a White-tailed Tropicbird hovering around just a
few feet above it. Awesome!
This just had to be the final drift point and
didn't disappoint. Tahiti numbers built up to the stage where at one point there
were at least 13 in view, feeding and milling around the slick, new
birds were seen to come and go constantly and the final count for the day should
be seen as conservative. Shearwater numbers were still low but a White-necked
Petrel then appeared giving everyone on board superb views, better than that of
a Gould's Petrel which made only a very brief appearence.
Heading back in and on the Shelf, a solitary White
Tern was sighted, fishing a couple of hundred metres to port and on immediatley
stopping the vessel, it wandered over, giving us spendid closeup overhead views.
A tip; having recorded several White Terns over the years off Southport, I've
noticed that you if sight one reasonably adjacent to the vessel and stop
immediately they almost invariably mosey on over for a look and I mean close
Tahiti Petrel - 45 (13)
White-necked Petrel - 1
Gould's Petrel - 1
Wedge-tailed Shearwater - 186
Flesh-footed Shearwater - 6
Hutton's Shearwater - 6
Fluttering/Huttton's - 2
Wilson's Storm Petrel - 2
White-tailed Tropicbird - 2
Australasian Gannet - 1
Masked Booby - 1
Pied Cormorant - 1
Little Black Cormorant - 5
Pomarine Jaeger - 2
Silver Gull - 61
Crested Tern - 24
Sooty Tern - 2
White Tern - 1
Cheers & there are still plenty of spaces on
the April 19th pelagic. - Paul Walbridge
Footnote: Sorry but I couldn't leave this one
alone! His Tahitilessness, one Tony R. was originally booked for this trip but
had to cancel. Does this mean that by
cancelling, he now will need counselling?
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