Up a little later on account of our awesome night out kiwi spotting, and a beautiful day began. Sunshine and light winds as we headed south towards Marsden Cove for our pelagic. We met our boat and skipper Steve and got a quick orientation before chugging slowly out in to the calm waters of the bay. We cruised along the shoreline of the Whangarei Heads before spotting a couple of white-fronted terns, fluttering shearwaters and little penguins. Steve slowed the boat and came around, and what!? – those aren’t fluttering shearwaters! We had three little shearwaters right there nearby, feeding away, and right close to the shore. Normally a super tricky species to get good views of, these birds just put on a show! Awesome start!
We had really good views, spotted the little penguins a few times, and then decided to carry on. We passed through a really large flock of fluttering shearwaters, getting excellent views of them as well, and incredibly no little shearwaters with them. Amazing. We carried on out and started to get into deeper water, gradually shelving out to the 100m mark, with more little shearwaters as we went. We carried on a bit and with great views of the Hen and Chicken Islands and the adjacent coastline, put out the sea anchor and started to chum.
The winds were really light, and even after almost ten minutes there was one flesh-footed shearwater by the boat…hmmm. Almost too good! But gradually the birds started to arrive. A few little shearwaters passed, more flesh-footed shearwaters started to arrive, and numbers of white-faced storm-petrels started to put in an appearance over the slick, with fairy prions also coming in. Ok, this is more like it. We looked at every Cook’s type petrel that was coming past and then one just looked different. It seemed slightly different in size, jizz, and as it swept around short in the bill – Pycroft’s petrel! Everyone got on to the bird, and although not great views, it was seen by everyone. The numbers of birds continued to steadily increase, and they kept us busy examining every Cookilaria. Then, something strange happened, considering it was still the middle of the day – the number of Cook’s petrels really slowed, and most of the birds seemed to be Pycroft’s. We’ve seen this sort of thing happen before at Whitianga, but late in the day. This was still middle of the day, and suddenly, most of the birds were Pycroft’s, and great views of them. We had a white-capped albatross come past and then come in a little later, as well as a Northern giant petrel – later on there were two of them!
We continued to chum, but nothing new was coming in, but certainly still some good numbers of birds coming past. So, we decided to head further out. We only went a short distance, but decided to start to chum again. A few more little shearwaters, the white-faced storm-petrels started to come in, as well as the flesh-footed shears, and then – Grey-faced petrel!! Yes, another of the targets, with a briefly but good fly by. It was followed by several more over the next 45 minutes, so great views in all. And then a NZ storm-petrel decided to put in an appearance! Boom! Great views, although brief, but only to be followed by perhaps 4-5 more of them, giving awesome views and making a number of nice close passes of the boat! Then suddenly a strange Cookilaria – what’s that!? Mottled petrel!!! Another great bird, but not one that was expected. A bit longer, a few more Cook’s, but mainly Pycroft’s and the wind was getting up and making it a little bumpy. So we decided to head back in, but as we turned the boat to head home a black petrel dropped into our wake! Score – the last of the ‘probables’ had turned up, making it really the time to head back.
We stopped in to have a cuppa in the shelter of some of the islands, listening to saddleback, bellbird, and spotting the odd NZ pigeon and red-crowned parakeet fly by. Beautiful. Back closer to shore we had another little penguin, before some oystercatchers, a fly-by reef egret, and dock. To our accommodation, a lovely dinner and a few celebratory drinks, and bed!
|Whangarei Heads, a pretty spectacular bit of country|
|Islands of a fowl nature, the Hen and Chickens...|