Monday 26 November 2018

Day nine - dabchick and Buller's shearwaters

When you hear rain on the roof all night, you know it is probably going to still be raining in the morning…and it was.  Oh well, let’s just get on out there!  We drove back out to the Estuary, stopping at a couple of places and checking things out, and using the van as a mobile hide.  We managed some nice photos of some new species for the trip photo list, and the rain couldn’t dampen spirits!  Now let me just tell you that this is not normal!  Three days of near constant rain at this time of the year is pretty darn unusual, and I have never in 15 years had a streak of weather like this…especially when the forecast for the next week is for constant rain!  Jeepers!
So, the rest of the morning we hit a few good spots down the Wellington coast.  We stopped in at a spot for black-fronted dotterel which we got scope views of, before then doing a spot of shopping! Then a couple of wetland areas where the rain eased a little and we got some nice views of NZ scaup, Australasian shoveler and black swan…all waiting for us to take photos of them.  We searched and searched for dabchick, something we had seen a few times, but not good photo opportunities…and wouldn’t you know with about 25 minutes to spare we had cracking views of a single bird! Excellent!  Shutters were clicking and all was right in the World!
We then headed for the Ferry Terminal, basically drove straight on to the Ferry and it left…phew…Dabchick in the bag!  The crossing was looking pretty good weather wise – some wind, but reasonable seas.  As we left Wellington Harbour a couple of shearwaters flew past, fluttering, and then hang on!  Buller’s shearwater!?  No wonder we didn’t see any in the Hauraki Gulf…they are down here.  We ended up seeing about 6-8 of them on the crossing, so everyone was happy.  A few more fluttering shearwaters and even a few Hutton’s shearwaters for comparison. Looking much darker above and the longer bill obvious with more contrasting underparts.  Excellent.  Also a few Northern giant petrels, our first Westland petrels, and two Salvin’s albatross – our second species of albatross for the trip.  We had a sprinkling of fairy prions and sooty shearwaters to round things out.
Into Tory Channel and the cloud was so low there was no sign of the tops of the mountains. A couple of Parasitic jaegers around, as well as the usual gannets, fluttering shearwaters etc.  And the first spotted shags.  But the most incredible thing was the colour of the water in close to Picton – brown!!! It was the colour of the Amazon – amazing – they must have had some horrendous rain here, and it isn’t letting up.
We docked in Picton, drove off the ferry and 4 minutes to our accommodation before an excellent dinner and then a great nights sleep!

Entering the Tory Channel

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