Well, another beautiful morning to wake up to. Sun shining and not a lot of wind, so looked promising! We had breakfast and then headed to grab lunch and then to Sandspit. At Sandspit there was a bit of activity going on, it is Waitangi Day after all and a lot of people clearly heading out on the water. But I doubt many were planning to head to where we were!
We boarded our boat and headed out, a little wind making small waves on the Kawau Channel, but that didn’t stop us finding a couple of little penguins on the way. One adult that looked like it was ready to start moulting, and a couple of youngsters that looked fresh out of the nest. Pretty good views of these great little birds before continuing out towards the open ocean. A brief flyby Arctic skua on the way.
There was a pretty stiff breeze of about 15 knots blowing already as we got out, coming from the south. It was supposed to freshen a little in the mid-afternoon and swing to the SW, so we wanted to get out and in place without too much delay. We started to see a few fluttering, then flesh-footed shearwaters, and then some Buller’s shearwaters and Cook’s petrels. As we reached our chumming location there was a marked increase in bird activity, and so we slowed up. We started to ready the chum, and bingo! Within a minute or two and without chum there was a New Zealand storm-petrel – star of the day! It spent quite a bit of time around the back of the boat in quite nice light really showing off. The Cook’s petrels, flesh-footed and Buller’s shearwaters all looked a little disappointed they were not the focus of our attention!
Funny thing was, even when the chum was in the water there was not even a single white-faced storm-petrel that showed. And in fact they were a little stand-offish even when we finally found a few later on in the day. But we managed to pick up a single sooty shearwater that showed briefly, and a number of black petrels that showed really well, and a few white-faced storm-petrels that showed pretty well also. But New Zealand storm petrels were definitely the star of the show!
We changed location a few times, and then decided that with the weather forecast and the way the wind was already that perhaps it was better to start heading in. We slowed a couple of times for things, but a large flock of gannets sitting on the water was in fact just that, and there was no activity to be observed. We did however, head in to a bay, and managed to pick up three weka feeding along the shoreline. Being the rarer North Island subspecies a nice bird to see.
We headed back to Sandspit, drove back to the accommodation checking for kookaburra, but again struck out. Another delicious dinner, a few good wines, and conversation, and a good night’s sleep!
Day total – Seen = 36; new for the trip = 10; total for the trip to date = 76
|Happy New Zealand storm-petrel hunters!