Saturday 20 February 2016

Charming Kaikoura

We were up and out the door with great expectations.  The wind had dropped and the sun was shining as we headed out to the end of the Peninsula to take a look at the ocean.  And it too had dropped, and was looking pretty good.  Even from land there appeared to be a fair few birds flying past, and the light on the mountains was looking pretty nice as well.

We then headed across to South Bay to wait for the boat.  We jumped onboard and Gaza (from Albatross Encounter) arrived with a couple of others and we were off.  There was still a little bit of wind, but the sea was pretty good.  As we headed out it wasn’t long and we started to get into a lot of shearwaters – Buller’s and flesh-footed mostly – which was a real surprise.  A few of each might be normal at this time of year, but not hundreds like this.  We slowed and checked out a few of them, and watched a few Hutton’s cruise through as well.  We then carried on out into deeper water to a chumming location, where we put out the chum and waited.  And it wasn’t long before birds were landing – New Zealand wanderers sailing in on their 11ft or so wingspans, and a number of Northern Royal albatross, plus the other usuals.  There were a lot of white-chinned petrels, but only one Westland called past, but more of the Buller’s and flesh-footed shearwaters and the odd Hutton’s and sooty flying past.  We then relocated to another spot, where we continued chumming, but had much the same species, although we did get a single Cook’s petrel, and a flyby Pomarine skua.

We then headed in towards the coast, seeing a couple of leaping dusky dolphins on the way, and checking out Barney’s Rock where there were hundreds of red-billed gulls roosting and lots of fur seals hauled out laying in the sun.  Heading back along the coast we looked for little penguins, but no luck.

We arrived back at South Bay and headed to grab some lunch before the afternoons activities.  Some were heading back out on the afternoon Albatross trip, whilst others headed out on the Sperm whale watching trip.  The albatross trip visited much the same sites, and although a little slower, we still got a great range of birds and some great light made for good photography.  The whale watch trip got views of two very good close sperm whales and hundreds of dusky dolphins leaping from the water, so an excellent afternoon for all.

A great dinner that evening and then early to bed to rest up for the next day.

Day total – Seen = 37; new for the trip = 9; total for the trip to date = 136

Bird of the day – Salvin’s albatross x2, New Zealand (Wandering albatross) x3

Clouds and rocks at the end of the Kaikoura Peninsula

More clouds and rocks at the end of the Kaikoura Peninsula, a couple of reflections too

Looking across at the Seaward Kaikouras

Close-up of '512' a banded New Zealand wandering (Gibson's subs) albatross female who is 19 years old

A beautiful New Zealand wandering albatross up close

Barney's Rocks with bull kelp

New Zealand fur seal peering up from the surf

A New Zealand fur seal sitting on the rocks

Northern giant petrel rushing in for chum

New Zealand wandering coming in for landing

A Salvin's albatross dips its wing in a wave

Northern Royal albatross swinging past

New Zealand wandering albatross motion blur

New Zealand wandering albatross motion blur, take two

New Zealand wandering albatross coming in to land, motion blur

Checking out Barney's Rock in the afternoon

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