Thursday 11 February 2016

Extinct petrels reunite

Well any day on the water is a good one, especially when it starts with sun shining and no wind.  We drove out to Sandspit after grabbing some lunch at a bakery, and spotted another buff-banded rail on the way.  Boarding the boat and greeting Brett from Assassin Fishing Charters, we headed off out into the channel and then off past Kawau Island.  We kept a keen eye out for little penguins, but alas no sign.  As we came out into more open water fluttering shearwaters started to stream past, and then we spotted a couple of little penguins, but they were feeding and not too keen on being social.

We carried on out a bit further, finding a feeding group of fluttering, Buller’s and flesh-footed shearwaters, but they were very mobile and moving around a lot, so we decided to carry on out.  The sea was pretty calm with less than 1m swell and almost no wind, so we made good speed, soon starting to pass the odd white-faced storm-petrel and then Cook’s petrels.  We decided to stop at a spot we have chummed at before, put down the anchor and started chumming.  Within seconds flesh-footed shearwaters were coming in as well as white-faced storm-petrels, and Cook’s petrels.  And within five minutes we had our first New Zealand storm-petrel!  Fantastic!  Over the next our or so we had up to at least six NZ storm-petrels coming to within just feet of us at the back of the boat.  Loads of white-faced storm-petrels came in as well, and lots of the usual Buller’s and flesh-footed shearwaters, Cook’s and a few black petrels.  A single short-tailed shearwater also made an appearance.

As conditions were so nice we decided to make the most of it and head out further.  So we upped anchor and headed out to Maori Rocks, where we found at least 50+ grey ternlets.  These guys were roosting on the rock stacks, and a few of them feeding amongst schools of trevally just off the rocks.  Having notched them up and had great views, we decided to carry on out further.  We pulled up a little while later at another spot, and chummed for a bit, and although there were not a lot of birds, we did have another NZ storm-petrel and a few white-faced, as well as flesh-footed and a good number of black petrels.  All of a sudden from down wind another bird appeared, and with whoops of joy a white-naped petrel appeared.  It gave several really nice close passes, before gradually heading off away from the bot – a great bird.

We decided to head off out a bit deeper, and chummed again, but with light winds there were few birds.  One of the Cookilaria petrels that turned up however could well have been a Pycroft’s petrel…one to think about.  We decided to head on in and make a couple of quick stops on the way.  And at one stop we had at least another 5 NZ storm-petrels and a few fairy prions.  Gradually making our way in, we called past Kawau Island to see if we could rustle up a rail, and there on the beach was a North Island weka.  Excellent.

Back on land we had a quick stop at the Motel and then on to another beautiful dinner.  Another excellent day!

Day total – Seen = 38 + 1 heard (Caspian tern); new for the trip = 14; total for the trip to date = 76

Bird of the day – New Zealand storm-petrel x3, white-naped petrel x2

A white-faced storm-petrel bounces off the surface of the water

Two New Zealand storm-petrels feeding with a white-faced storm-petrel

New Zealand storm-petrel in beaut light 

New Zealand storm-petrel bashing the water as a white-faced storm-petrel bounces up off the water behind

Roosting grey ternlets

Checking out the rocks for grey ternlets

White-naped petrel swinging past the boat

Brett chumming up a storm

Little Barrier - the known location for New Zealand storm-petrel breeding


  1. I'm so glad to have discovered this blog: these are the kind of trips I've only dreamt about and it's inspiring to see the variety of birdlife that can be relatively-easily observed. I did not know previously about the Takahe release you mentioned in the previous entry, will bear it in mind for when I'm next in the area. This looks like a perfect day on the Gulf. - Athene.