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Jun 3: Just Shy of Brisbane

Today was my second Sunday in a row out on the brine, with the scheduled June Sunshine Coast pelagic taking place. There is a big low pressure system off NSW, and the leading edge of this meant SSW winds of 15-18 knots veering S today. I was expectant as we gathered at the wharf in Mooloolaba given the weather pattern, but also wished the pelagic was a few days’ hence, when the winds would kick around to the east (still, there might be a seawatching expedition to Moreton Island in the latter part of next week to try and coincide with that).

There was a 2m swell rolling in, but it had a much longer period than last week, and was well organised. This meant the boat rocked predictably, and no-one was seasick all day – hurrah!

We passed a few Hutton’s Shearwaters and Australasian Gannets on the way out, and a couple of Humpback Whales. Our track took us well to north of east, and it was going to be a long time before we arrived into Brisbane waters. It was with some trepidation that I looked upon a couple of fishing boats that we veered towards. I was exhilarated but if I’m honest also slightly frustrated when we saw a stonking subadult Shy Albatross around the first boat – an absolute cracker, but not even close to being in Brisbane waters. There were good numbers of Providence Petrels appearing from about half way out to the shelf, and a very brief prion might have been a Fairy, but I didn’t get enough on it to tell.

After what seemed like an age to an ardent Brisbane year-lister, we edged into Brisbane waters as we neared the shelf, and eventually cut the engine and commenced the drift. Providence Petrels continued to show up, but not much else happened for a while. Then a couple of prions put in an appearance, and studies of camera screens revealed them both to be Antarctic. Presently a Grey-faced Petrel joined the Providence procession, and it seemed to be a different individual to last week’s bird, with today’s bird showing less extensive grey on the forehead. I had resigned myself to not getting any Brisbane year ticks when a totally splendid Black-bellied Storm-petrel danced past the back of the boat, and proceeded to circle the boat a couple of times. Truly one of my favourite species! Several more showed in the ensuing hour, hard to tell if it was the same bird coming back for another nose at the slick. The time rolled around to leave, and this was going to be it. I was happy with a good pelagic, although the way the birds lined up there was only one year tick for me, perhaps a couple less than I was hoping for.

With one year tick today (Black-bellied Storm-petrel), my year list incremented to 278 species. I spent 4 hours 36 minutes birding in Brisbane, walked 0 km and drove 220.0 km. My chronological year list is here.

Black-bellied Storm-petrel. What a beauty!!

Show us your belly!