Well many people think I’m mad, and after today you can probably add another ten people to that list! I’ve been harping on about great shearwaters ever since Sav’s jammy spotting of one off Kaikoura last week, and things got a whole lot jammier today!
It started off rather civilised, with a venison pie for breakfast, then boarding the water taxi to Ulva Island. The showers held off, and we had fantastic views of everything we needed to see. We walked across to Boulder Beach, getting great views of yellowhead, both red- and yellow-crowned parakeets, brown creeper, and all the other usual bush birds. Then on the return we got nice views of several South Island saddlebacks, so all boxes ticked and a nice lunch near the jetty.
We were then picked up by Aurora Charters at 1230 hrs, with Ty Jenkinson at the helm, and headed out towards Wreck Reef, checking out a few spots for penguins etc. The weather was pretty lively with a good 3+m swell running and probably 25+ knots of wind. So things were looking good as we arrived at Wreck Reef with clouds of white-capped and Buller’s albatrosses following, and at least several Southern Royal albs. Almost the first bird to turn up next was a broad-billed prion which showed pretty well, coming in to the back of the boat and making several sweeps. Then a Southern giant petrel came in, followed by Cape petrels and several Northern giant petrels.
However, the excitement was still to come. I got a glimpse of something a long way off coming in towards us and called it realising it was something different. It didn’t need to get very close at all before I yelled ‘white-headed petrel!”. The bird came straight towards us and made several sweeps, flying around the bow of the boat and then disappearing. Not long afterwards perhaps another bird appeared also from downwind. I felt a little better having been the only one to have spotted the bird from the ferry yesterday, but now everyone else had seen it now! Things went a little quiet for a while until Matt spotted a little shearwater which clearly had to be a Sub-antarctic little shearwater. Again a bit of a lull until we spotted a bird coming in from downwind again. This time it was something really good, and glimpsing it over a wave all I got was a dark cap and pale collar, enough to shout ‘GREAT SHEARWATER!’ at the top of my lungs. Everyone was out and looking for the bird and it came right into the boat, making several passes before heading upwind and landing on the water. It then ended up doing several VERY close passes within metres of the boat giving extended views. What a stunner! I’m afraid that at this point I lost all composure and screamed and yelled at the top of my lungs rather unashamedly! To think after all the angst that we actually had one in front of us here...man!! With the multiple Australian sightings there is clearly something going on with this species at the moment.
The bird disappeared, the rain arrived and we decided to head back towards home, but passed another TWO white-headed petrels on the way...ridiculous! So is there any time better than now to get out on the water...I think not! A few beers were had in celebration back at the South Sea Hotel, before a cracking dinner!
|Southern Royal albatross coming in
|Southern Royal alb
|Just to prove we were in NZ with a white-capped albert
Bird of the day – ?? (I forgot to ask...but has to be GREAT SHEARWATER!), ha! South Island saddleback x1, little blue penguin x1, white-capped albatross x1 (NO great shearwater??!!)
Day total – Seen = 46; new for the trip = 12; total for the trip to date = 87