Tuesday 25 February 2014

Finally a yellowhead!!

Up bright and early and checking in for the Stewart Island ferry back to the Mainland.  Hard to believe our time on Stewart Island had come to an end, but we had had an excellent pelagic and despite missing yellowhead on Ulva Island, had seen everything else we had hoped for.

We boarded the ferry and it slowly cruised out of the harbour, and we again scanned the rocks for signs of Fiordland crested penguin, but no luck this time.  Thankfully we had gotten great views of the bird yesterday.  As we started to come out into the open water there was a little bit more motion in the ocean and the swell and chop steadily increased to a point where there was the odd wave crashing into the bow of the ferry and spray coming right over the back deck.  It made for an interesting ride, with a large number of people onboard looking decidedly green, but all of us were quite chipper having gotten our sea-legs yesterday!  The crossing was actually quite good for birds as well, with the usual albatross and shearwaters, but quite a number of mottled petrels and even a broad-billed prion.  Always nice to see both of these species from the ferry!

Back in Bluff we packed the van again, and then headed northwards.  We had a plan…  Yellowhead hadn’t beaten us yet!  So we headed to a spot where we hoped our luck would change.  The forest looked perfect, although was again relatively quiet.  However, good numbers of tomtit and calling parties of brown creeper increased our hopes, and then a little distantly we heard the characteristic call of yellowhead.  This time they appeared to be on the move, and as we moved along the road, we were able to get to a point where they flew over the road above us and called from some tress on the opposite side.  They showed themselves briefly, but relatively well, and most of us were able to finally get a look at these evasive little so-and-so’s!  Unfortunately, they didn’t hang around, and although we again had a big flock of brown creeper, fantails, tomtits, and silvereye around us, the yellowhead again became evasive.  At least we had gotten a look!

We headed on further north, grabbing some lunch on the way, and then stopping in at a local beach to have a walk and see if we could find a New Zealand sealion.  Wandering along the beach we could see several of them hauled out, and as we got closer we realised that there were actually seven of them, including some relatively large sub-adult males.  So we were able to get great views, keeping our distance from these surprisingly fast and agile mammals, and taking a few photos.  Wandering back along the beach we were able to take in more sunshine, and get a little fresh air before heading off to the north, through Dunedin, and on to Oamaru.  We headed to a spot where we hoped we would see more yellow-eyed penguins, and we had only just set up the telescope when we spotted a juvenile lying on the beach in the shade.  It basically just sat there, doing not a lot really, and so we were keen to see an adult come in out of the water.  So we sat watching the beautiful view along the coastline, as Stewart Island shags and the odd Hutton’s shearwaters flew past.  Several fur seals were sleeping on the beach as well, and after about half an hour an adult yellow-eyed penguin was spotted heading into shore through the surf.  We watched as it slowly came in through the crashing waves, getting rolled around and knocked over a few times, before it leapt out of the waves and waddled up the beach.  It slowly walked up towards the high tide line, stopping to preen a little as it went, before preening intently near the cover of the shrubs just above the high tide line.  Pretty happy with our views we decided it was time to head to our accommodation and checkin, and we then headed to dinner for another sumptuous feast!

Day total – Seen = 52; new for the trip = 1; total for the trip to date = 157

New Zealand sealions hauled out on the mainland

A beautiful coastline

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