Sunday, 9 February 2014

Marlborough Sounds turns it on again

Well, it was a windy night, and there was definitely some concern for our trip out on Queen Charlotte Sound this morning, but we didn’t need to worry.  As we got on the boat for our trip out onto the water this morning the weather was looking pretty darn good, with a stiff breeze, but from a direction that meant only a little chop on the water and relatively protected sites throughout the Marlborough Sounds.

We jumped on the boat, and headed out towrds the open sea.  Paul our skipper gave us a few words of commentary on the way, but mostly our eyes were peeled for our featehred quarry.  We started to encounter a few fluttering shearwater and gannets, and made our way out past the entrance to Tory Channel, and into a spot to look for the first of our targets, Hector’s dolphin.  It wasn’t long and Matt’s sharp eyes picked up the characteristic rounded dorsal fin of a Hector’s.  We cruised slowly in, and before long had fantastic views of a female and moderately sized calf, and then were joined by several others.  They gave great views around the boat, and before long one of them was spy-hopping and actually leaping from the water.  Not something you see Hector’s do all that often.  Very cool!  The cameras were clicking, and I think a few great shots of water were taken, some of them may have even had a dolphin in them! ;)

We then headed on to our next spot to try and locate King Shag, and as we approached a local roost site, were rewarded with about 8 birds at the site, including a couple of really smart adults.  We slowly drifted in on them, trying to keep disturbance to a minimum, as they can be very nervous birds.  Having gotten reasonably close, and certainly close enough for excellent views and some good photographs, we slowly backed off and left them all there to enjoy the sunshine.

We then headed on out a little further and made our next stop, a stop at Blumine Island.  We landed on the beach, getting off the bow of the boat, down a small ladder and onto the beach.  We headed up into the forest to a spot that we had had luck before, and settled down for a wait.  Our target bird here was orange-fronted parakeet, with birds having been released over the last few years, but breeding at the site by these birds almost certain.  We waited and watched, but almost nothing resembling a parakeet by call or sight!  We did have plenty of other things to keep us interested though with several weka and their near fully grown chicks, South Island saddleback, bellbird, pigeon, etc.  With just a brief view of one bird by Matt, it took a long time for us to be rewarded, but the patience paid off, and all of a sudden there right in front of us was an orange-fronted parakeet!  Even better was the fact that it was an unbanded bird, so presumably a bird confirming their having bred at this site!  The bird fluttered off and we expected to see it again, but only a little chattering was heard, and unfortunately it ws time to go.
So we made our way back to the boat, and headed for Picton.  We grabbed some lunch quickly and then went and sat and ate our lunch amongst the vineyards, looking for the long-staying black kite.  But again it was not to be found.  The bird was probably up on a perch somewhere looking down at us, oblivious to the fact it was supposed to fly out and give us a display!

We carried on down towards Kaikoura, and called briefly into Lake Grassmere where we found a lot of banded dotterel and pied stilt, several wrybill, and at least six red-necked stint.  And even better the wnd wasn’t howling!  We then carried on down the coast, making a quick call at several spots to enjoy the spotted shags coming and going, and the seals frolicking, but also huge numbers of Hutton’s shearwaters and white-fronted terns feeding right in the surf zone at several places.

We checked into our accommodation, and then had some great kiwi fish and chips out on the picnic tables in the sun!  Even better to wash it down with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc!  After dinner, despite, or perhaps because of the vino, we failed in our attempt to find a little owl…

Day total – Seen = 53; new for the trip = 5; total for the trip to date = 128

A curious South Island saddleback comes in for a look

Young bellbirds were all about and practicing their calls

Weka and its chick feeding

Orange-fronted parakeet - what a little stunner!

Spotted shag flying by along the Kaikoura coast

And coming in to land!

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