Tuesday 19 April 2011

"It's supposed to be pretty rough!"

Up and away we headed down to the Stilt Ponds at Miranda again to see whether there was anything new.  We didn’t see the sharp-tailed sands we had seen the day before, but there were still large numbers of pied stilts about, and it was awesome to see the wrybill flock wheeling around over the shellbanks.

The weather was a little breezy, and with a pretty horrendous forecast we started to head across to Whitianga.  We headed through Thames and then up the western side of the Coromandel Peninsula towards Coromandel Town.  We were on the hunt for spotted shags, and after a bit found a nice group roosting out on a rock.  We walked back along the road and had great views of them and a reef egret, before then heading on to Coromandel Town for second breakfast...or was that elevenses?

Crossing over to Whitianga the weather had deteriorated with heavy rain and some pretty strong gusty winds, but we were pretty sure we could still get out on our planned boat trip.  We checked into the accommodation, sorted our gear, grabbed a bit of lunch and then headed to the marina and boarded our boat.  Andy and Ian our skippers gave us the run down and then we headed out.  And surprisingly, despite the gale force winds forecasted it wasn’t too bad.  Due to the direction we had shelter as we headed out along the coast to the south of Mercury Bay and then out.  As we got out from the coast we started to see a few birds, and dragging some chum we soon had a good flock of grey-faced petrels and flesh-footed shearwaters following us.  As we got into deeper water the numbers of birds increased, and we soon had several albatross also following, with at least two white-capped albatross, a black-browed and at least two Campbell albatross (plus an immature black-browed/.Campbell).  At least four different Wilson’s storm-petrels were also see, but no other storm-petrels.  In the end we had at least 40+ grey-faced petrels (probably the best photographic opportunities and light I’ve had with this species), 20-30 flesh-footed shears, 5-10 black (Parkinson's petrels), the odd Buller’s shearwater, and passing fluttering shears and common diving-petrels.  There was a pretty strong 40+ knot SW wind blowing, but the sea was only 1-2m at the most and often it felt like a lot less.  The Campbell and black-browed followed the boat for at least several hours giving awesome views and photographic opportunities, so a very nice display.

We kept eyes peeled for other passing Pterodromas, but only glimpsed 1-2 birds in the distance and nothing significant passing.  We turned back into the wind and headed back towards the land, still towing some chum and keeping the birds with us, but again, even as it got later we didn’t attract any Pterodromas.

As we got into shallower water we headed back in towards Mercury Bay, and as the light started to fade, headed back for towards Whitianga.  We encountered a couple of feeding flocks of white-fronted terns and fluttering shearwaters, with a few little blue penguins, before getting back to the Marina.  All in all a pretty good day considering the weather.

Day total – Seen = 57; new for the trip = 3; total for the trip to date = 109

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