Monday, 31 October 2011

Shorebirds in the morning, seabirds in the afternoon

Up after a restful night of no snoring, and headed down to the hide and shellbanks at Miranda.  The tide was coming in, and the gull-billed terns and whimbrel seemed were still in the same place.  When we got to the hide, the sharp-tailed sands were also still there, and as the tide came in the numbers of bar-tailed godwit and red knot started to increase.  We didn’t end up with anything new except for a ruddy turnstone, but it was pretty spectacular watching the godwit and knot wheeling round and resettling on the shellbanks.

As the crowds gathered (Miranda Shorebird Centre open day) we headed off and towards Whitianga.  We arrived in Whitianga, checked in, grabbed some lunch and then headed down to the marina to get on our boat.  We met with Ian and Andy and headed out, seeing reef egret on the way, as well as red-billed gulls at a nesting colony and pied shags in the pohutukawa trees nesting as well.

As we headed out we had a single parasitic jaeger on the water, that lifted off and headed towards the white-fronted terns feeding nearby, and then we started to see lots of common diving-petrels and a few white-faced storm-petrels and fluttering shearwaters.  As we reached our chumming location out beyond the Mercury Islands we had a distant Northern Royal albatross go past, and a little shearwater land nearby.

With the chum in the water the birds started to come in, with of course the flesh-footed shearwaters being the first to arrive.  They dominated the pack, but over the next few hours we had reasonable numbers of Buller’s shearwaters, a few black petrels, and then the Cook’s petrels started to come past.  Checking each one carefully, it wasn’t till later that we started to get recognisable Pycroft’s petrels, with darker heads.  We were pretty lucky to have several albatross around the boat as well, with at least 4 white-capped albatross, and 2 Buller’s and 2 Salvin’s.  A single Northern giant petrel put in an appearance but wouldn’t come in close, but we had good close views of several grey-faced petrels, at least a couple of sooty shearwaters and the highlight was a pass by a mottled petrel.  Possibly the same bird came back a few minutes later, but this time further out.  We also had a small mako shark checking out the chum on several occasions, and even try chasing a few birds around.

As the numbers of Pycroft’s increased we decided to head for home, on the way spotting a small pod of common dolphins, but they weren’t in a playful mood.  Back on dry land we headed for a local pizza and pasta joint before heading home with full bellies!

Bird of the day – Buller’s albatross x5, wrybill x1, mottled petrel x1
Day total – Seen = 66; new for the trip = 8; total for the trip to date = 113

Bar-tailed godwit and red knot in the Hudsonian godwit!


White-faced heron

Mottled petrel off Whitianga

Cook's petrel

White-capped albatross

Star of the day with regards to 'Bord of the day' - Buller's albatross

And again

Aberrantly plumaged flesh-footed shearwater - we called him Marvin

On the water

Grey-faced petrel swinging by

Pycroft's petrel

Mako shark cruising past

Even the black-backed gulls got a look in

Flesh-footed shearwater

Me looking sneaky...although one of the gang were sneaky and took this when I wasn't looking!

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