Wednesday 4 June 2014

New Zealand sub-antarctic islands for the first time

Well, it has been a while since I updated my blog, life has just been too damn busy!  Halfway through 2014 already almost, and I thought I had better pull finger and post a few photos and thoughts from my first trips to the New Zealand sub-antarctic islands during late December 2013, early January 2014.

Despite being lucky enough to have visited South Georgia and the Falkland Islands several times, and accessing the Antarctic Peninsula, I had not been south of Stewart Island from New Zealand.  So getting the opportunity to see the places I had read and heard so much about was a real win, and also meant that there would be a good handful of bird species I could add to my New Zealand list.  Many of them would also be life birds!  So it was pretty exciting to board the ship on my birthday and set sail for the Chatham Islands.

The Chats are an outstanding place, and I've spent a little bit of time there, so didn't anticipate too many new things there, but it was great to get back there and of course to once again see the Pyramid and those damn sexy albatross - Chatham albatross!  We had an awesome zodiac cruise around South East and even managed to see shore plover with chicks (!), and then a sunset cruise past the!

The Bounties were a bit bouncy, so we managed to circumnavigate in the ship, which was great an enabled some great views of the birds, and the rocks...that is all they are - rocks!  What an incredible place.  The Antipodes were next, and we were exceptionally lucky with weather, arriving with a superb sunset on Christmas Day, and then the next day zodiac cruising right into the islands and getting amongst the penguins, managing to spot the parakeets up amongst the tussocks, and just having an amazing day.  What a place, I'd love to get back there and land...maybe I could take my mouse traps?

Then it was on to Campbell Island to get ashore and hike, with it being pretty misty, but still an incredible experience.  Lots of snipe footprints and probe marks, but no birds sighted (by me at least).    And then onwards south to Macquarie.  Of course part of Australia, this island is renowned for being a tricky landing, and it was.  No chance on the main beach by the station, other than to snatch and grab the rangers, but we did land further down at the Royal and King colonies and had a great time with the birds.  What a place, and I have to say Royal penguins really are one of the coolest penguin species!

The back up to Auckland Islands, and landing on Enderby Island, with the real highlight being the fact it was New Years day and three life birds - a shag, a snipe, and a duck!  Pretty nice - of course the snipe was the best of the bunch - what a cracking little thing.  And then it was over - with a day or so at sea.  But the next trip did a shortened version - visiting Fiordland, Stewart Island and then the Snares (too rough to zodiac cruise), Auckland Islands, Campbell Island, and then Akaroa, Kaikoura and the Marlborough Sounds.  A real shame we didn't get to do anything at the Snares, but the weather was just so rough and there was just no lee.  The Auckland Islands, landing on Enderby, was again great, but this time no snipe, but managed to get the Campbell Island snipe when we got there - what a little ripper.  Great views and some pretty good photos of a bird in amongst the Dracophyllum scrub.  Very very cool.

All up during the two trips I managed to get 15 new birds for my New Zealand list (11 lifers), but there were some surprising omissions during the trips - no grey petrel, no blue petrel, no Southern giant petrel!  So it meant I finished my 2013 year list on a frustrating 206 species - the same as my tally which set the record in 2006, and the same as the tally that Phil Hammond also got for 2013!  Maybe 2014 will be the year!

Below are some of my photos from the first trip, and I will post more from the second in early January in the next blog.

A buff weka peers out from the vegetation on Main Chatham

What a great place - all the ingredients for an awesome weekend in one street!

Chatham albatross near the Pyramid, what a stunning bird!

New Zealand fur seal after almost being washed off the rocks on South East Island

Female shore plover in the background with a chick in the foreground

White-fronted tern fishing

The Pyramid on sunset

White-capped alb (left) and Chatham albatross flying together

The Pyramid on sunset

Chatham albatrosses in flight

Dark morph soft-plumaged petrel in flight between the Chathams and the Bounties

Chubby little fulmar prion in flight

Sunset on Christmas day as we pulled in to the Antipodes

Light-mantled sooty albatross zipping over the waves

Rockhopper penguin shaking whilst swimming off the Antipodes

Erect-crested penguin swimming off the Antipodes

A pair of light-mantled sooty albatross courtship flying along the cliffs of the Antipodes

Erect-crested penguins in the water off the Antipodes

Penguin trail on the Antipodes with both erect-crested and rockhopper penguins

Erected crested penguin pair

Jumpin' in!

Awesome cave on the Antipodes

Kelp hanging in the entrance to the cave

An 'Antipodean' albatross at the Antipodes!

Campbell albatross in flight

New Zealand wandering albatross near the Antipodes

Porpoising yellow-eyed penguin at Campbell Island

Campbell Island shag in flight near the island

Southern Royal albatross on the nest in the mist

Black-bellied storm-petrel in flight on the way south

Macquarie Island shag just off the island

Royal penguin coming ashore at Macquarie

Scrapping it out between two Royals

Coming out of the surf

King penguin preening in the waves

Auckland Island shag on New Years day...and look at that blue sky!

The ship in the distance and part of the boardwalk on Enderby Island

Auckland Island dotterel in flight

Big old bull NZ sea lion looking grumpy

Subantarctic snipe on Auckland Island - what a cracker!

Auckland Island teal on Enderby Island

Auckland Island shag roosting


  1. Wonderful photos! Maybe one day.......

    1. Thanks Barbro - yes, save your pennies, it really is a great trip! Hope all is well with you and are getting lots of nice photos as the summer starts up there!

  2. Stunning images and a cracking read!