Saturday, 21 November 2015

Wind and spray on the ocean waves

We boarded the ferry and as we headed out of the bay the wind was ripping across the surface of the sea and whipping up spray in all directions…this was going to be exciting.  We spotted four Fiordland penguins on rocks, and then it was out into the open water.  The swells picked up, but still in the lee of the island it wasn’t too bad.  As we got out a little further the swells got larger and the spray and wind increased.  Most of us were on the back deck, and despite the spray, it was worth it.  The swells were never huge, perhaps just over 2m high, but the spray and winds were impressive.  But even better was the fact we got distant, but identifiable views of at least two Buller’s albatross, new for the trip.  A single broad-billed prion also showed briefly, and small numbers of common diving-petrels, white-capped albatross, and sooty shearwaters were seen during the trip.

We arrived into Bluff and grabbed our gear, loaded the van, and then fought the winds, which must have been in excess of 40 knots, as we headed to a nearby estuary area.  However, the tide was incredibly high, and the wind was forcing the water right in to where we might have expected to have seen some waders, so there was nothing evident.

We continued on northwards, grabbing some lunch along the way, and then eating a beach site.  We went for a walk along the beach after we had finished eating, and saw five Hooker’s sea lions resting in various places along the beach.  There were two rather large males, what looked like two large females and a small sub-adult.  All looked healthy and happy, enjoying the sunshine, despite the wind.  We took a few photos and then headed back along the beach, enjoying the chance to stretch our legs.

It was then back into the van, and further north.  Late in the afternoon we made a stop at a beach to look for yellow-eyed penguins.  As we walked out to the viewing spot, an adult yellow-eyed penguin came up out of the surf and waddled up the beach.  It paused several times and we had great scope views of it standing on the beach, preening, and then gradually heading up to where it must have had a nest in the coastal forest.  We thought that was a great start, but after almost an hour and a half, not another single penguin had shown its face!  We did have excellent views of both pied and bronze morph Stewart Island shags flying past, a perhaps soon to be split species.

We then headed to the accommodation, checked in, and then headed in to town to dinner.  Another excellent dinner, a few wines to celebrate new grand children and the reaching of 4000 species (Southern brown kiwi as your 4000th bird can’t be bad!), and then off to bed.

Day total – Seen = 49; new for the trip = 2; total for the trip to date = 166

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