Friday 19 February 2016

Off to the South

As we packed the bags into the van, the drizzle started…oh dear!  Our first rain of the tour, but there could definitely have been worse days for this to happen.  We finished packing the van and started to head south, passing through Levin, and heading to a nearby lake.  We had a good assortment of waterfowl, with shovelor, grey teal, mallard, black swan etc as well as several species of cormorant and even a good group of Caspian terns.  But the prize were some splendid red junglefowl (!).

Carrying on south we encountered a few showers of rain, but nothing too serious, and picked up some lunch along the way and then made another sewage pond stop.  This revealed more good waterfowl, including our last New Zealand dabchick and some NZ scaup, as well as another black-fronted dotterel.

Heading on south we stopped at another wetland/pond area, and did a short walk, finding a cormorant colony with quite a few pied and little pied cormorants in the trees.  Also some lovely breeding plumage Royal spoonbill feeding close by were a nice sight, and we stood and watched them feeding through the scope, with lovely saffron blushes to their breast, and shaggy crests flopping in the wind.
We then carried on south and drove into Wellington city.  We made a stop at Te Papa and several of us enjoyed a wander around the exhibits there, whilst some of us enjoyed some time people watching on the very popular Oriental Parade.  It was then time to check in for our ferry which had been delayed a little, and we finished up lunch and then boarded the ferry.  We found a place on the outer decks which had a good view and some shelter, as rain continued to come in waves and it was really windy.  As we got out of Wellington Harbour it looked like it was gusting over 50 knots with wild spume and spray being whipped off the water.  But being from the north there was almost no swell and waves, so a very comfortable ride.  With all the wind we might have expected some birds, but the northerly direction was not helping.  Howveer, we did get a few Buller’s, fluttering, and flesh-footed shearwaters, our first Westland petrels, and two relatively distant white-capped albatross – our first albatross of the trip!  So no complaints.

As we entered Tory Channel and got into calmer waters the rain continued.  More fluttering shearwaters, a couple of Arctic skuas, and some white-fronted terns.  We saw a few spotted shags, and then had an awesome flyby of two King shags very close to the ship, giving great views.  We docked in Picton, and headed straight to the Motel which was very close, and then on to a beaut dinner.  After dinner it was off to bed for a good nights sleep with the rain pounding on the roof…what will tomorrow bring!?

Day total – Seen = 49; new for the trip = 5; total for the trip to date = 122

Bird of the dayWhite-capped albatross x4, Westland petrel x1

Feeding Royal spoonbill

A Royal spoonbill in flight

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