Tuesday, 20 November 2018

Day three - New Zealand storm-petrel and a day at sea

It was up early, grab breakfast and some lunch at the local Bakery, and then to Sandspit. On the way we made a brief stop and had a look for buff-banded rail in the mangroves. We managed to see a bird several times, and although not photographable distance, we got reasonable views of this little skulker.
We then headed to the boat and board, with the sun shining and light winds. On the way out we searched for little penguin in the Kawau Channel and had about 6 birds, with good views of three rafted up.  A nice start with this being some peoples first penguin species!  We then continued out into the open ocean, and things got a little bumpy, but not too bad.  We headed out to the west of Little Barrier, on the way seeing common diving petrel, a few fluttering shearwaters, and the first flesh-footed shearwaters. After a few hours of steaming arrived at our first chumming location.  We started to drift and chummed as we went, and within seconds had birds streaming in.  Flesh-footed shearwaters were the first in, with white-faced storm-petrels close behind, and a lot of fairy prions.  These were the main contenders for the day, but after maybe twenty minutes we had the first New Zealand storm-petrel, which disappeared without most getting on to it! No worries, a steady stream of New Zealand storm-petrels came past the boat for the rest of the day, with probably 15 or so individuals being seen.  Awesome!
We had small numbers of fluttering shearwaters visit the chum, a couple of sooty shearwaters, and several black petrels.  After lunch we decided to relocate back to the start of our drift, and although this brought more of the same, shortly after we arrived and started chumming again we had a white-capped albatross (the first albatross for many) come past the boat. Probably the strangest thing all day was the total lack of Buller’s shearwaters – not a single bird seen all day!
But an amazing day nonetheless, and late afternoon we headed back to land, with a happy group!  Massive rain showers that looked to have been passing the mainland throughout the day were building, but still we managed to dodge them as we searched (fruitlessly) for kookaburra on the way back to the accommodation.

Little penguins at sea

Fairy prion as it flies past the boat

Flesh-footed shearwater, the quickest to the chum, and the noisiest bird of the day

Cook's petrel against the sea

Little Barrier Island, the location for the majority of breeding Cook's petrels and only site we currently know for breeding New Zealand storm-petrel

Black petrel, not many seen, but a couple of good views of some

Black petrel in amongst the gathering

Cook's petrel swings by the chum slick

Cook's petrel banking up high

Fluttering shearwater pattering over the surface

New Zealand storm-petrel, undoubtedly the star of the show...ok I am biased!

Day two - ducks and saddleback

Up early with a forecast of showers for the morning, and unfortunately it was right. We headed out to an estuary to make the most of the morning light, and we had nice success with variable oystercatchers, black-winged stilts, and New Zealand dotterels.  But the showers came in and put a damper on things.  However, another long-distance view of fairy tern and our first wrybill which made a short guest appearance raised spirits.

We decided to call it and went back to the accommodation, packed up and headed for the hills.  Literally!  After a short drive we had a pair of Australasian little grebes and New Zealand dabchick right beside each other for close comparison and some nice images.  Also in nearby bushes were silvereyes, tui, and our first photo opportunities with New Zealand fantail.  The showers had ceased and the light was pretty nice for photography, so we stayed and made the most of it.
Heading off, we grabbed some lunch on the way, pies made more than a guest appearance, and after a few hours drive we were at a fantastic location for the afternoon. Paradise shelduck with ducklings started the afternoon, followed by brown teal, purple swamphen, and Eastern rosella – introduced but a pretty spectacular bird nonetheless.  We decided to go for a walk and in the end had beautiful light with more brown teal and some great forest birds, including bellbird and more tui, whitehead, fantail and then some showy saddleback.  They played hard to get to start with and then completely gave themselves up feeding in flax flowers in beautiful light.
All up a pretty nice day, with some stunning scenery and some great birds and photographic opportunities!  Dinner was excellent and a happy team!

Oystercatcher against the light with a worm

Nice backlight silhouette

Even the variable oystercatchers know where they should be

Fantail with a dragonfly in bill

Silvereye hanging out

Brown teal...can we trust them?

Red-billed gull having a wash

Female bellbird feeding on flax

Saddleback singing from a flax flower

Saddleback peering out

Brown teal cruising

Sunday, 18 November 2018

Day One - gannets and dotterels

The group gathered at the Hotel, we loaded the van and off we headed, to the rugged and wild West Coast.  As we approached the coast, it certainly looked like it had been rugged with salt spray hanging in the air and making visibility reduced.  But as the morning developed the air cleared and the light improved.  But with thousands of Australasian gannets in front of us, who could worried about visibility.  The colony was in full swing with eggs still being incubated, right through to chicks that were large and fluffy and at least 3-4 weeks old.  And so much going on – adults filled the air, calling non-stop, ecstatic displays, and even copulation still occurring.  Plenty to point the camera at.  There were also a lot of white-fronted terns, also with a wide range of chicks from very small just hatched, through to juveniles taking their first flights.
As midday approached we headed to a bakery – the first of the trip – where only one of the group was tempted by a pie!  On the road, we ate lunch at a scenic overlook with beautiful views out over rolling hillsides, covered by a mix of native and exotic vegetation.  And then on to the East Coast to a small estuary where we had a quick look at the state of the tide before checking in to the accommodation.  A quick rest, and then out to the estuary at the height of the tide, hoping to watch it drop.  We found a bunch of New Zealand dotterel as well as nesting variable oystercatchers. A shower of rain came in, so we decided to take some time to explore further down the coast, where we found another beach with more New Zealand dotterel.  We spent some time there photographing and then headed back to our original location, where the rain shower had passed and the late afternoon light was getting very nice for photography.  We had plenty to look at, with NZ dotterel, variable oystercatchers, Caspian tern, and white-faced herons all posing to differing degrees – who could pose more than a New Zealand dotterel though!
Really nice light and some lovely images were captured, before heading back to the vehicle.  As the words ‘I can’t believe we haven’t seen a fairy tern’ left my mouth an adult fairy tern flew past!  Not great views, but enough for most to get on to the bird before it disappeared off into the distance.
Pizza and burgers for dinner, with locally made beer!  Life is good!
New Zealand dotterel checking us out

Variable oystercatcher making itself pretty

Little pied cormorant giving a stretch

Backlit variable oystercatcher

Immature Caspian tern on the fish

Variable oystercatcher playing peek-a-boo


Looking at the last post on this Blog, it is hard to believe what has happened in the last two years and four months since that last post.  There have been some pretty significant life changes, not exactly the reason for not posting here in that time, but life has been busy.

I am now based mainly out of Buffalo, New York in the USA, haven't quite developed the Buffalonian accent yet, but have developed a deep love for grilling with a Big Green Egg and cooking chicken wings!  I now have a wonderful fiancee who has changed my life in some many amazing ways, and although still working on ships 6-7 months a year, I'm trying to reduce that a little, to allow more time together.

I have just gotten back to New Zealand last week, where I will spend most of the next four months.  First up is a 21-day tour around New Zealand - a photographic tour - and then some time off over Xmas with said wonderful girl and family, before a trip to India with Zegrahm Expeditions.  Chennai to Myanmar should be awesome!  After that another 21-day tour around New Zealand for Wrybill Birding Tours, NZ.  And then a break back in the US...

A day never to forget

Saturday, 9 July 2016

Northward bound

Well it has been a great couple of weeks at home, with an opportunity to catch up on things at home, visit friends, and a bit of mountain biking as well.  Been trying to spend some time updating our website - Wrybill Birding Tours, NZ - and after changing over to the new site at the end of May it is looking pretty good.  I had hoped to spend a little time on my own website - Eco-Vista: Photography & Research - but this didn't happen.  I want to give the galleries a major overhaul and start adding in some new images...but where does the time go!

So, now it is the evening before leaving, I have just bottled 18 litres of beer (damn nice it is too!), and about to have dinner and then put down a beer to ferment whilst I am away for the next wee while.  Luckily with the WilliamsWarn system I have it is so automated, I just need to get the temperature turned down in about 10 days and it can sit there until I get back...to drink it!  Perfect!

The Galapagos was just an incredible trip - everything I hoped it would be and more.  We had two fantastic cruises, visiting much of the Archipelago over the two weeks.  We had a great team working onboard and really fun times, and a great group of guests on each trip.  It is certainly a place I'd love to get back to and hope I get the opportunity at some stage.  With little time to write, I figured a few visual highlights could do the talking for me...enjoy!

Espanola mockingbirds...doing what the Galapagos mockingbirds do!

We watched a pair of waved albatross with a third interloper for almost an hour, what awesome birds!

Sunset on Espanola with Nazca boobies silhouetted

The ever present Sally lightfoot crab

Frigates coming in to take fish scraps from the fish market at Puerto Ayora

Possibly one of the most stunning gulls in not such a stunning pose!

Male great frigate doing his thing

Sunset in Darwin Bay, Genovesa Island

Blue-footed booby getting into it

A rather rare bird these days, male Vermillion flycatcher in the setting sun

Flightless cormorant, what a cool bird!

Lava cactus, growing, rather unsurprisingly, out of the lava on Fernandina

Galapagos penguin and a marine iguana

Galapagos hawk 'playing' with a ghost crab

Blue-footed boobies diving for fish just off the beach

Male frigate bird with a beak full of small fish

Male frigatebird scooping up fish by the beakful

Great blue heron tossing a fish around

Spines on a prickley pear cactus

Woodpecker finch, the last species I got to see, having seen most of the finches

Sunset on our last evening in the Galapagos