Tuesday 27 November 2018

Day ten: parakeets and shags

We were up and the rain was easing.  We wandered down to the Picton waterfront, and after a quick introduction to the area and the birds we hoped to see, we climbed aboard our boat with Skipper Andy and off we went.  The wind was much reduced from the night before, but there was a little wind over the water, so we headed straight out to where we hoped we might find some King shags.  The rain had certainly eased off and it was looking a little brighter.
We started to see a few fluttering shearwaters, and then a few gannets, but we wanted the prize, so kept going.  We stopped for a good look and some images of spotted shags that were roosting on a small cliff.  They were all spread out and their chicks had already fledged, but there were a mixed bunch of juveniles, immatures and adults around.  Such a beautiful shag, even in the post breeding plumages.
We then carried on out to where we hoped we were going to find King shag…and bingo! There were eight, mostly adult, with a couple of juveniles.  Andy brought the boat in nicely and we had excellent views of these very stocky and powerful cormorants.  The shutters clicked and we all got some images we were happy with, before we moved out slowly and headed on our way.
There was a bit of wind out in the outer sound as we got close to an island we planned to land on, and certainly although the rain had eased right off, it was going to be tricky to find our target of orange-fronted parakeet.  They can be difficult at the best of times, let alone when it has been raining.  We landed on the beach and a weka was there to greet us, so we spared a moment and took some images.  We then headed up to a location where we had had some success previously, and watched and waited.  We moved around a bit, exploring different corners, and then decided on a little overlook area.  We heard a little bit of chattering, and then an orange-crowned parakeet swooped into view. It landed inside a bush, and was barely visible, then moved to another perch and we could see it jumping around inside the bush.  It paused for a bit and then zipped out the back and out along the coast!  Gone!  It was brief, but everyone had seen it!
We spent a bit more time in the same place, and then check another couple of locations, before it was time to call Andy back in with the boat to board and start heading back.  Andy had heard there was a pod of bottlenosed dolphins so we started to head towards them. Pretty soon we found a large pod of around 50+ individuals, with some huge adults and even a few small calves with mums!  They cruised along the coast beside us, and some even came right in to the boat! Awesome!
We followed them for a bit and then broke off and left them to their thing.  WE spotted another couple of King shags on the way back, and as the light had improved even more spent a bit more time with the spotted shags and then with some little penguins bobbing around in the water. What a beautiful morning!
Back on dry land we grabbed some lunch, and then ate it amongst some vines, with some local fresh cherries to boot!  We looked for the long-staying black kite, but it hadn’t shown after a while, so we continued on our way.  It was pretty windy near the coast, but we did manage to see a female cirl bunting at one location, and then at a lake we had a distant pair of hoary-headed grebes and a pair of great crested grebes.  Of surprise was at least two nests with spoonbills sitting on them! Very cool!
As we hit the Kaikoura coast the weather deteriorated significantly, with very strong winds and torrential rain.  So, we made a bee-line for the Motel in Kaikoura, witnessing the huge amount of destruction and uplift the earthquake a few years ago has wrought on the Kaikoura area. At the Motel we settled in, and then had a beautiful dinner before a good night’s rest.  Hoping tomorrow the seas will have dropped to allow us to do our thing!

A spotted shag looks bored with our attempts to photograph it

King shags roosting

Immature King shag in flight

A weka comes in for a closer look

Bottlenosed dolphins getting playful

Of all sizes

Throwing themselves around

A King shag in the water

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