Sunday 17 April 2011

A rough day...but NZ storm-petrel helps!

It was one of those mornings where you felt you were getting out of bed before you had even gotten into bed!  And the nightmare of not finding kiwi the night before was real...

We breakfasted, packed, cleaned and then Dave the ranger took our gear down to the wharf whilst we walked down.  It was drizzling and there was a strong wind so the water was looking a little on the rough side for our pelagic into the Hauraki Gulf today!  The Assassin with Brett Rathe at the helm arrived just after 0800hrs and we joined Sav and the rest of the team (including Steve Howell) onboard and headed out towards Little Barrier.  The sea couldn’t have been more different to yesterday with 2-3m swell and some good chop with 30-40 knot winds from the NW, swinging to the W in the afternoon.  We were in for an exciting ride, in more ways than one.

Banging into the swell we got part way to Little Barrier when a Wilson’s storm-petrel was called and so we decided to stop and chum.  It snuck off, but we had great views of good numbers of grey-faced petrel, flesh-footed and fluttering shearwater, Australasian gannets, and several Buller’s shearwaters.  I spotted a storm-petrel coming in and called it, but it turned out to be another Wilson’s storm-petrel, until Brett casually pointed and said ‘What about that one over there?’....and there was our first NZ storm-petrel.  Awesome, we had at one stage at least three Wilson’s storm-petrels and the NZ stormie side by side and the difference in shape, jizz, and behaviour was just so obvious.  A very nice opportunity and the shutters were clicking.  Several fairy prion made an appearance, as did passing common diving-petrels, but we decided to move on for the sheltered waters of Little Barrier for some lunch.

Lunch was in a nice calm spot with the sound of saddleback, whitehead and bellbird in the forest backdrop, and we then headed around the southern end of Little Barrier and out to the west, into the pounding seas again.  As we got a couple of miles off we spotted an albatross, either a black-browed or Campbell, and shortly after we stopped to chum at our second location, but the bird didn’t reappear.  However, we had a similar assemblage of birds with the addition of several black petrel , a couple of Cook’s petrel, and another NZ storm-petrel.  When it started to rain pretty hard we decided it was time to head in, and with a following sea the ride was a lot better!

We made a brief stop at Kawau for weka (North Island subsp) and also saw a couple of peacock on the lawn, then stopped as we crossed the channel for several more little blue penguins.  A reef egret near the port, and a nice mixed flock of South Island and variable oystercatcher in the carpark provided good comparison.  Then it was off to the motel, dinner, and an early night!

Bird of the day – still to come
Day total – Seen = 48 + 3H (little spotted kiwi, morepork, fernbird); new for the trip = 10; total for the trip to date = 102

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