Sunday 1 April 2012

On the way to the Jungle

Well again it has been a while since a blog update.  I’ve been laying pretty low the last few weeks as I’ve been working at trying to get my image library organised.  Part of this is due to the fact a little organisation is long overdue, but mostly because I have been working with my co-author – Paul Scofield from Canterbury Museum – on getting closer to finishing our book!  We have had something in the pipeline for a few years now, and are finally getting closer to have something completed.  The book will be ‘The Photographic guide to the Birds of New Zealand’ and will of course mostly feature my photographs.  But as can be expected – and sometimes for the most bizarre species – there are gaps which will be filled by other local New Zealand photographers.  Auckland University Press are publishing it and we will hopefully have it out by the end of 2012.  So all pretty exciting!
As well as working on this, we had our sixth annual Three Kings pelagic.  We had a great crew onboard and Tank our skipper looked after us well as per usual.  Lots of fish, a few crayfish, and as per usual we ate very well.  We normally have four days out on the water, and this was the plan again this year, but a ‘weather bomb’ was forecast to hit with 40+ knot winds forecast for the last day, so we came in a day early.  Why they call them weather bombs these days I have no idea, we used to just call them storms didn’t we?
The three days we had out were great, not quite the mega trip of last year, with water temperatures being lower than at the same time last year, and therefore influencing the birds we encountered.  We had good numbers of skuas, including great views of a long-tailed that came and hung around the back of the boat for a good few minutes.  This was the first trip we encountered all five species of skua that occur in New Zealand.  We got a few white-naped and Kermadec petrels, but not in their usual numbers, although a lot of Cookilaria petrels, mostly Cook’s, but a few probable Pycroft’s as well.

A brief trip report written by Sav is below...

Hi all,
The 6th annual Wrybill Birding Tours pelagic to the North of the NZ mainland was undertaken during 29 Feb - 2 March (curtailled by one day by the "weather bomb"!).
Participants: Steve Wood, Phil Hammond, Richard Fenner, Tim Barnard, Neil Robertson, Brent and Sav (WBT, organisers) and Tank Barker, skipper of "Demelza".

By our own high standards this was only really an average trip bird-wise, but still pretty amazing!!

We were almost constantly accompanied by several Balck Petrels, Flesh-footed Shearwaters, Buller's Shearwaters and White-faced Storm-petrels. Fluttering Shearwaters were present in all inshore situations, and Cook's Petrels were particularly numerous compared to previous trips.  There were also many White-capped and NZ (Gibson's) Albatross.

Other highlights were:
New Zealand Storm-petrel : seen each day, with a probable total of over 13 birds. 2 at a time on 3 occasions.
Wilson's Storm-petrel : also seen each day. At least 10 individuals.
Grey-faced Petrel : surprisingly few. About 8 diffent birds.
Black-winged Petrel : less than 20
White-naped Petrel : 9 individuals at least. 2 and 3 at once.
Kermadec Petrel : one intermediate phase.
Long-tailed Skua : 6 different birds, including an amazing adult which just showed off at the back of the boat!
South Ploar Skua : one
Pomarine Skua : one superb adult. (plus Arctic and Brown Skua to make a clean sweep!!)
Add in a few Buller's Albatross, Sooty Shearwater, Bryde's Whale, jumping Sunfish, Marlins, Flying Fish and a host of brilliant fish caught for food and you can see it was a great trip all up.
There was also a very puzzling pterodroma petrel which we can't agree on an id - yet..............

Next year's trip will be at about the same time, so if you are interested - let us know soon.

So as I write this I’m now sitting on a plane somewhere between Miami and Manaus, about to get on the Clipper Adventurer for a ‘Jungle Rivers’ cruise.  We start in Belem, Brazil, with a few days in the Amazon, before heading up the coast through Suriname, French Guiana, Guyana, and Tobago before ending in Trinidad.  Should be an awesome trip with a bunch of new birds and mammals.  I’m onboard as Assistant Expedition Leader and Photographer/Zodiac Driver/General Naturalist so should get some great photo opportunities.  It’s a part of the World I have dreamt of visiting since I was a kid, reading rainforest and tropics books, so pretty excited!  Hopefully can post a few updates from the trip on here, so stay tuned!

PS - Just managed to post this.  We are currently sitting waiting for clearance out of Brazil after an incredible couple of days in the Amazon - Wow!  I can't believe it has taken me this long to get to this part of the World, and boy am I coming back at some stage.  Just amazing...more soon and photos to be posted here when I get a decent internet connection!

Buller's albatross coming in for food

New Zealand albatross landing

New Zealand albatross - possibly Antipodean - coming in to land

Buller's shearwater passing

Wilson's storm-petrel bouncing

Black-winged petrel

White-naped petrel

White-capped albatross gorging

Flesh-footed shearwater in flight

New Zealand storm-petrel, one of a number seen

New Zealand storm-petrel banking sharply

Long-tailed skua coming in

Long-tailed skua showing off

Long-tailed skua upperwing with diagnostic dark trailing edge to wing

Long-tailed skua hovering

Cook's petrel

White-faced storm-petrel bouncing

Cook's petrel

Cook's petrel underwing

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