Thursday, 15 November 2012

Pelagic fun

Snow on the mountains (Seaward Kaikoura Range), sunshine blazing, and light breezes, it was a good start to the day. We headed around a few spots to search for cirl bunting, and checked out the seal colony as well. No cirls, but several ruddy turnstone at the seal colony and a flock of red-billed gulls and Hutton’s shearwaters working just offshore.

We met with the boat just after 0900 and headed out in the capable hands of Skipper Tracy. The sea was pretty calm, with just a slight swell and a slight breeze to keep things moving – near perfect conditions for people at least, and not to bad for the birds as well. Within a few minutes of leaving South Bay we were seeing the first albatross and of course Cape petrels were soon zooming in to follow us. We headed for a fishing boat that was working the area and had a good number of seabirds behind it, and stopped nearby. Putting the chum out we picked up most of the birds that were with it, and before long had a good bunch of seabirds behind our boat, feeding on the chum. Salvin’s and NZ wandering albatrosses were the most common of the albs, with one or two white-capped albatross coming past also. Soon they were vying with the Northern giant petrels at the chum, whilst the Cape petrels squabbled over the scraps.

We had excellent views of these birds right at the back of the boat, and having a bird with a 11ft wingspan litterally at arms length is something special!

We then moved out into deeper water further offshore, and many of the same birds followed us. We also had a brief flyby from a young black-browed albatross and a grey-faced petrel, and a juvenile Northern Royal albatross came quietly in as well. So five species of albatross can’t be too bad!

We then headed inshore, looking at Barney’s Rock for anything different, seeing a couple of small pods of dusky dolphins on the way, and then skirted along the shore back to South Bay, keeping an eye out for Hector’s dolphins. Alas, none were seen. Back on dry land we headed for Albatross Encounter where we had lunch, whilst Brent, Phil and Mike decided to head out for another afternoon pelagic.

The afternoon pelagic brought much of the same, with a flyby from another (different) grey-faced petrel, possibly the same immature black-browed albatross, but this time we had a good number of white-chinned petrels come right in and feed beside the boat, as well as a short-tailed shearwater. After the chum had been dispensed with we headed in close to the end of the Peninsula to see if we could see any feeding flocks of Hutton’s and although there were not large numbers of them, we did get very nice views.

All in all a fantastic day, with spectacular weather and a very beautiful backdrop!

Bird of the day – NZ wandering albatross x2, Northern Royal albatross x3, black-browed albatross x1, banded dotterel x1, Westland petrel x1, Hutton’s shearwater x1
Day total – Seen = 41; new for the trip = 6; total for the trip to date = 135

Immature black-browed albatross doing a brief flyby.

Juvenile Northern Royal albatross sitting on the water.

Red-billed gull hovering whilst feeding near the boat ramp.

Immature red-billed gull in flight.

Cape petrel following the boat as we steamed along.

Cape petrel in flight.

NZ wandering albatross coming in to land at the back of the boat.

Salvin's albatross flying past the boat.

Adult white-capped albatross sitting on the water.

Juvenile Northern Royal albatross sitting on the water.

NZ wandering albatross coming in to land.

Closeup of a Northern giant petrel.

Two NZ wandering albatross fighting over the food.

White-chinned petrel in flight.

Cape petrel in flight over the sea.

NZ wandering albatross showing a slightly brown cap.

Juvenile Northern Royal albatross in flight.

Immature black-backed gull in flight.

Two Northern giant petrels fighting over the chum.

Still fighting.

Short-tailed shearwater sitting on the water at the back of the boat.

White-chinned petrel closeup.

White-chinned petrel sitting on the water.

Older NZ wandering albatross sitting on the water.

Hutton's shearwater in flight showing the underwing pattern.

Hutton's shearwater banking in flight.

Hutton's shearwaters in flight low over the sea.

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