Tuesday 11 February 2014

Kaikoura really goes crazy

The sea was fairly flat, there was a light breeze, and there was a fair bit of cloud around, yet the mountains we could see were bathed in sunshine.  We headed out to the Seal Colony along the peninsula and had views of the seals and a few turnstone and banded dotterel, then headed to another spot to look for cirl bunting, and within a minute a male popped up onto a fence and then flew to a telephone wire.  Nice!

We headed down to South Bay to meet with the boat, and board with our skipper Gary.  Excitement was in the air, as for most of us this was going to be the first real albatross encounter (excuse the pun – we were of course going out with Albatross Encounter!).  We headed out to our first chumming spot a wee way off land, and of course had a few birds following before we even stopped, and made a pass of several fishing boats that had called and said they had birds behind their boat.  A short-tailed shearwater was on the water right by their boat, and a good addition to the trip list.

At the first chumming spot we lowered the chum and in came the birds.  Within minutes we had both Southern Royal and New Zealand wandering albatros, as well as Salvin’s and white-capped, and a little later a Northern Royal albatross also turned up.  Not a bad assortment of albatri!  Of course in amongst them were Northern giant petrels, Cape petrels, and Westland and white-chinned petrels.  The cameras were clicking!

We decided to move, and although it was a little lumpy in places there wasn’t a lot of swell, so we headed out deep.  We carried on right out to a place which is as far out as the regular trips go, and threw the chum back in the water.  Again the same albatross species were soon to arrive – with most of the birds probably having followed us.  But all of a sudden a white-faced storm-petrel appeared – wow, a good bird for Kaikoura, with not many of these recorded here.  Then Brent spotted another storm-petrel coming in and called it, and as the bird got closer we realised this was a grey-backed storm-petrel, a REALLY good bird!  Whoops went up as the bird came right in to the back of the boat to feed and then carried on up into the slick to join the white-faced storm-petrel.  Somehow another white-faced had snuck past, so we had three stormies in the slick – not often this happens at Kaikoura!  Gary had turned it on for us!

We continued chumming, and had a great assortment of birds around us, all the previous suspects, plus Buller’s shearwater, a single flesh-footed and a couple of probably sooty shearwaters, plus one or two short-tailed.  Excellent photo opportunities of all species, and the grey-backed very obligingly did several circuits of the boat coming right in on a number of occasions.

But before long it was time to head back in, so we threw the rest of the chum into the water, causing a major feeding frenzy, and then started headed back towards South Bay.  We raced into town, grabbed a bite to eat, and then most of us had decided to head back out on the afternoons trip, with some opting for a rest and wander in town, and one heading for the dolphin watching.

Those of us that headed back out in the afternoon scoffed our lunches and were back on the boat heading out in no time.  We headed to a closer spot first off, and had many less Royals and many more New Zealand wandering albatross, amongst all the other birds.  We then decided to head out further to the south and out further.  We arrived, threw in the chum and all was normal.  Until Matt yelled ‘Arctic skua’.  Off in the distance was a small dark bird flying purposefully to the SE, but it wasn’t an Arctic skua and I yelled ‘Noddy!’.  Unfortunately too distant to get a good view, was a black noddy, heading off out to sea! Wow the World was really upside down today!  Everyone saw the bird, it was just a shame it was so far away, but what a record for Kaikoura!

We got back down to business and continued watching the birds at the back of the boat, with no other major upset, until all the whale boats started converging nearby and we realised there was a sperm whale several hundred metres away, huffing and puffing on the surface.  We watched for a while until it sounded, raising its tail fluke as it dived.  Nice!  So we decided it was time to leave also and headed in shore for a quick look at Barnies Rock, just in case the noddy had gone to roost, and then along the shore as we headed back to South Bay.  Suddenly Gary and I spotted a funny looking little wave and realised there was a Hector’s dolphin right by us, so we had a quick look at that before continuing back to shore.  What a day!

A bit of time back at the motel for reading, downloading photos etc, before dinner and then bed!

Day total – Seen = 51; new for the trip = 10; total for the trip to date = 138

Northern Royal comes in for a look

Northern Royal coming straight at us

White-capped swings past the boat

Buller's shearwater coming to land

Northern Royal albatross coming close

Northern giant petrel calls as it comes in to land

Buller's shearwater leaves the water and flies in closer

White-chinned petrel on approach

Two Northern giant petrels go at it

Salvin's albatross comes in to land

White-capped albatross portrait

Grey-backed storm-petrel skips across the water

The three storm-petrels

New Zealand wandering albatross with wings arced

New Zealand wandering albatross coming in

New Zealand wandering albatross with the mountains in the background

New Zealand wandering albatross

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