Up early, and looking out the window…oh yeah! No rain, and the wind looked reasonable. The forecast had a little wind in it for later, but I reckon we will be ok. So, breakfast and then on the road, grabbing lunch on the way to the dock. We snagged two buff-banded rails on the way which was nice, and then on to the boat. After a slow cruise out through the channel, spotting pied cormorants along the way, we kept an eye out for little penguin, but no luck.
As we came out of the channel things started to pick up with regards to birds, with fluttering shearwaters zipping past, and a brief pass by some bottlenose dolphins. Cook’s petrels and flesh-footed shearwaters started to come past, and the hurried wings of common diving petrels gave them away as they zipped past like little auks. We kept going, with a freshening wind and light swell we wanted to get into the zone before the weather deteriorated at all. A juvenile black-browed or Campbell albatross whipped past, but just didn’t show well enough at a distance to work out identity.
We arrived at our first chumming location, with two huge flocks of fairy prions and smaller numbers of fluttering shearwaters in attendance, very very impressive to see. Two white-caped albatross also seemed not to realise that they and most of their brethren should be further south! We started chumming and before long a good mix of birds coming past, with prions, flesh-footed shearwaters, and a couple of Buller’s shearwaters coming in. Numbers of white-faced storm-petrels steadily increased and then our first NZ storm-petrel zipped in and past to feed on the slick! Excellent! We kept chumming for a while, with good numbers of Cook’s petrels wheeling around as well.
We decided to head further out, with the weather still reasonable, so headed out to another location. As we neared the spot a Northern giant petrel zipped past, and then at the location small numbers of fairy prions were in the zone, but nothing like we had seen at the previous stop. We started chumming, and this time it was all a little slow, but then birds started to appear, both white-faced and NZ storm-petrels, more prions, and then the first larger bird came in – black petrel! Yes the other target bird and reason for moving came on in giving a great view. We had several more, along with more flesh-footed shearwaters, and good numbers of Cook’s petrels. Amazingly, despite the close proximity of where we were the other day, 100-fold more Cook’s petrels and NO Pycroft’s petrels! We decided that we had pretty much seen it all, as the swell started to increase, so we decided to head for shelter.
We had a bit of a respite in the shelter of Little Barrier, hearing and seeing kaka and tui, and getting a snatch of long-tailed cuckoo call. A nice cup of tea, something to snack on, and then back out. We made another chumming stop near another large work up of prions and shearwaters, and there were literally hundreds of Cook’s petrels wheeling around. And then out third albatross of the day, a juvenile Salvin’s albatross flew in and landed! What! Craziness. Another juvenile albatross flew past, probably a young white-capped, and got lost in the hundreds of Cook’s petrels.
We decided enough was enough and beat a track for home. The seas were not too bad, but the wind was fresh and we kept an eye out as we went. Back in sheltered waters we checked out a calm bay and found a couple of peafowl, and several weka, before heading back to the dock. A pretty awesome say on the water, with all the usual suspects and a few ‘vagrant’ albatross. Always nice to see masses of birds and of course the star NZ storm-petrel.
|So close a phone captures the moment
|The spectacular Little Barrier Island