Thursday 21 February 2019

Day ten - crossing the Strait

A bit of a sleep in!  What a treat! We were off southwards, our last night on the North Island.  Heading south we stopped in at a lake to see what we could find.  Lots of waterfowl out over the lake and a few cormorants as well. But nothing stuck out as unusual, so it was on to the next spot.
A bit further down the coast we stopped for coffee and then to a sewage ponds – what would a birding trip be with out at least one sewage pond!  Again, a good selection of waterfowl, including a few male shoveler that still had traces of breeding plumage, and our last dabchick (New Zealand grebe), probably for the trip.  Scaup were good to see again, and lots of grey teal.
Onwards and we called into a nice little wetland area, where we had some time up our sleeve, and a few waterfowl.  So we enjoyed the sun and spent an hour at leisure wandering around.  The dabchick at the sewage ponds hadn’t been our last, there were a few more here as well.  Which was nice.
We then grabbed some lunch and headed south, stopping at a little way south where we had nice views of the coast and a pretty decent flock of white-fronted terns. We checked the terns to see if we could find anything different, but a good mix of various aged white-fronted terns. A few juveniles amongst which was nice to see.
After lunch we drove through to the Ferry Terminal where we cued for the ferry, looking out into the harbour.  We boarded, found a place on the ferry as we departed, seeing a few fluttering shearwaters as we cruised through the enclosed waters.  More white-fronted terns, red-billed gulls, etc.  As we came out into open water it was apparent the winds were pretty high, but from the north.  So, we scanned, and started to pick up more fluttering shearwaters, and then a good number of flesh-footed shearwaters as well.  One or two sooty shearwaters as well, and then our first albatross of the trip – distant, but recognisable as white-capped albatross. We did see a couple more over the time in the strait, but hard to ID at the distance they were – certainly white-capped or Salvin’s…more to come!
We also had a couple of common diving petrels fly with us, good to see after the very brief one we had seen on the Hauraki Gulf.  As we entered the Tory Channel we got a little more shelter, with a few gannets and red-billed gulls.  We got a few more spotted shags along the way, and then a brief Parasitic jaeger, before we docked.  We headed into Picton, but a slight hiccup has us in Blenheim, and dinner at a great restaurant before a well earnt sleep.

Bird of the day– White-fronted tern x4, common diving petrel x1, spotted shag x2, white-capped albatross x1
Good bye North Island (in the distance through the gap), hello South Island

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