Saturday 20 November 2010

A yellow-eyed or two

Yesterday, we said good-bye to Stewart Island on the 0800 hrs ferry, with another very smooth crossing in a very light breeze.  Not an awful lot of birds, but about 8-10 Fiordland crested penguins at the mouth of Half Moon Bay, and then small rafts of little penguins further out.  The odd white-capped albatross flew past, several brown skua, and lots of common diving petrel and Cape petrel.

We arrived back in to Bluff, loaded the van, and then had a quick look along the shoreline at the flocks of terns just in case there was something interesting, before then getting on the road and driving towards Owaka.  We quickly grabbed some sandwiches and headed to a beach nearby to check out if there were any New Zealand sea lions present, and there was a single large sub-adult male on the beach.  He was fairly mobile, and we got good views of him before he disappeared into the surf.  We then finished our lunch and then headed northwards, making a quick stop and finally (!) finding a little owl perched in the sun, obviously enjoying a little bit of warmth.  Great views of it in the scope for Art, as this was a life bird for him.

Continuing onwards we scooted through Dunedin and had a quick look at Tomahawk Lagoon, where a common sandpiper had been seen earlier in the month, but not in the last week or so.  We scoured the edges, particularly around the outlet near the road, but didn’t find it.  Some very confiding Royal spoonbill in breeding plumage were a nice bonus though.

A quick stop for take-away coffee (and slices) before heading through the city and continuing northwards – next stop Oamaru.  We headed straight for the yellow-eyed penguin colony at Bushy Beach and walked along the top to the platform and waited.  The sea was flat calm with very little wind and we could see large rafts of Hutton’s shearwaters feeding offshore, flying backwards and forewards.  There was also at least 2-3 Salvin’s and a couple of white-capped albatross, several giant petrels, and a Cape petrel.  Lots of spotted and Stewart Island shag were flying past and feeding also.  We waited some time, as the numbers of people watching expectantly also grew.  Then finally a bird came swimming ashore, clearly visible whilst underwater in the clear water.  It came ashore, but fairly quickly was out of sight below the cliffs.  Then I found a bird high on the cliff quite a way along that had obviously just stepped out from the bushes and was preening, and finally a third came ashore and stood on the beach preening for some time.  We had excellent scope views of these birds, and decided we had had good enough views and headed for the accommodation, then dinner.

New Zealand sea lion

The beautiful Bushy Point, Oamaru

Yellow-eyed penguin ashore and walking towards home...

Bird of the day – Yellow-eyed penguin x5, NZ sea lion x1

Day total – Seen = 54; new for the trip = 1; total for the trip to date = 159

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