Wednesday 28 November 2018

Day eleven - albatross!

A little bit of a sleep in, and then we were back out there into a still damp Kaikoura. But the wind had certainly dropped and the seas hopefully with it.  The call from Gazza, our awesome skipper, was that we were going to head out and see what it was like.  So that is what we did.  We slowly made our way out, and it was a little bumpy, but certainly not too bad. And before long there were a few Northern giant petrels and Cape petrels following the boat.  A bit further and our first wandering albatross showed up, and then a bit further and it was time to stop and put out some chum.  We were just at the start of the canyon, so not that far out, but we were already into the thick of the birds!
With the chum out it didn’t take long for a small group of Northern giant petrels and Cape petrels to arrive and settled at the chum – squabbling and arguing.  The first big wandering albatross did a couple of passes and then came in and landed behind the boat.  Over the next couple of hours we had a steady stream of birds to keep everyone interested, with a few Salvin’s and white-capped albatross swinging by (but never landing), at least 5 New Zealand wandering albatross, probably 4 Northern Royal albatross and 3 Southern Royal albatross.  Pretty impressive to see these gigantic birds so close.  We also had good views of both Westland and white-chinned petrel, sometime side by side in flight, which was great.  And Hutton’s shearwaters made moderate to distant passes of the boat throughout the morning.  A couple of other birds new to the trip cruised through as well, with an immature black-browed albatross doing several passes, a single grey-faced petrel taking one pass, and we also had a single Buller’s shearwater and sooty shearwater do a couple of passes.  So over all a great pelagic with some good diversity.
The rain actually eased during most of the morning, and the light and visibility improved. But as we neared time to leave, it closed back in on us.  We slowly made our way back to South Bay, and with our group having not succumbed to sea-sickness, everyone was pretty chuffed with the morning.  We headed to Albatross Encounter where we had a lovely café lunch and relaxed for a bit, before heading back to the Motel to await news on our Whale Watch trip this afternoon.  Unfortunately, Whale Watch cancelled their trip – understandable – but not quite so understandable was why they didn’t both to contact us! Grrrrr! So we headed out anyway, deciding to check out the Seal colony.  A few individuals around, but the rain was very wetting and after a few images, it was time to go.
An excellent dinner – this time Thai – before an early night!  Up early for another pelagic in the morning!

An immature Northern Royal albatross comes in to inspect the chum

A Northern Royal arcs up against a cloud draped Kaikoura coast

A Southern Royal angles in towards the boat

A New Zealand wandering albatross comes past for a closer look

A very young Southern Royal albatross (left) and a New Zealand wandering albatross (right) fly past in unison

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