It was a cold, windy and wet night, and when we woke it didn’t look a hell of a lot better! The wind had died down a bit, and it wasn’t raining, but it was obvious it wasn’t going to be a day at the beach! We headed down to the marina and checked in, then jumped onto our boat to head out on to Queen Charlotte Sound.
As we headed out, the sea conditions were pretty good in the sound, but there was a fair bit of wind. We encountered a few small rafts of post-feeding fluttering shearwaters, and there were a few spotted shags, kelp gulls, and gannets around also. We continued off out further and spotted a pod of dusky dolphins feeding, with a few shearwaters, gulls and gannets also in attendance. The dolphins were pretty intent on feeding, but showed a little interest in us, with a few individuals breaking away and coming alongside briefly. We headed in to a point where we could clearly see some shags roosting, and sure enough there were about 20 King shags roosting on a point. We got excellent views of these birds, mainly adults, with one or two younger birds amongst them. The shutters were clicking and everyone was happy, with just around 830 of these birds, completely confined to the Marlborough Sounds, this is an excellent bird to see.
We then headed off, and as we did so found some more fluttering shearwaters, and then another pod of dusky dolphins, but this one had at least one Hector’s dolphin that seemed to be hanging around on the edge of the feeding pod of dusky dolphins. We went in to investigate and got lovely views of the tiny little Hector’s right beside the boat.
We left them all to get on with feeding and carried on out towards Blumine Island. We found another nine or so roosting King shags and then headed in to a landing where we went ashore. The target bird was orange-fronted parakeet, that was released onto the island a few years ago, and seem to be breeding reasonably well. We headed to a spot where we have seen them before, and waited. The wind was pretty gusty, and certainly wasn’t helping matters. We kept our ears and eyes peeled, spotting tomtits, weka, tui and bellbird, but not a sound from a parakeet. We gave it as much time as we could, before we had to admit defeat and get back on the boat, damn! Ah well, we gave it a good shot.
We headed straight back towards Picton, seeing a couple more King shags in the water feeding on the way, and docked back in Picton just after midday. We then grabbed some lunch and headed on out to Renwick to munch our lunch and look for the long staying black kite. It was raining off and on, but as it cleared, the bird soared out from a ridge, spotted by the keen eyes of Carol, and everyone got on to it. With several swamp harriers around the difference between the two species was clearly evident.
We then headed on to the Blenheim sewage ponds, where we jumped out of the vehicle and straight away spotted a cirl bunting. We had brief but good views of it, and then saw it fly off and disappear. We scanned the spoonbills, and then managed to find a glossy ibis amongst them – excellent! On the way back to the van we heard a male cirl bunting singing, but it flew off before we could get on to it.
We then made a quick stop at Ohau Point to check out the pup NZ fur seals playing in the stream. There were several right at the start of the track, so we watched and photographed them playing in the freshwater. What great little critters! We then also stopped and checked out a few spots with nesting spotted shags. At one spot there were deserted nests with eggs, but at another there were quite a number of nests with large chicks. We also spotted a few giant petrels flying just off shore.
It was then time to head in to Kaikoura to the accommodation. We had an awesome meal of fish and chips at the Motel, and then went looking for little owl, even though rain and hail were coming down! We managed to spot two different birds, but not everyone saw them. They certainly are a little skittery, but nice to at least get a glimpse. With more rain on the roof we fell into our beds.
Day total – Seen = 49 + 1 heard (peafowl); new for the trip = 4; total for the trip to date = 132