Tuesday 20 November 2018

Day three - New Zealand storm-petrel and a day at sea

It was up early, grab breakfast and some lunch at the local Bakery, and then to Sandspit. On the way we made a brief stop and had a look for buff-banded rail in the mangroves. We managed to see a bird several times, and although not photographable distance, we got reasonable views of this little skulker.
We then headed to the boat and board, with the sun shining and light winds. On the way out we searched for little penguin in the Kawau Channel and had about 6 birds, with good views of three rafted up.  A nice start with this being some peoples first penguin species!  We then continued out into the open ocean, and things got a little bumpy, but not too bad.  We headed out to the west of Little Barrier, on the way seeing common diving petrel, a few fluttering shearwaters, and the first flesh-footed shearwaters. After a few hours of steaming arrived at our first chumming location.  We started to drift and chummed as we went, and within seconds had birds streaming in.  Flesh-footed shearwaters were the first in, with white-faced storm-petrels close behind, and a lot of fairy prions.  These were the main contenders for the day, but after maybe twenty minutes we had the first New Zealand storm-petrel, which disappeared without most getting on to it! No worries, a steady stream of New Zealand storm-petrels came past the boat for the rest of the day, with probably 15 or so individuals being seen.  Awesome!
We had small numbers of fluttering shearwaters visit the chum, a couple of sooty shearwaters, and several black petrels.  After lunch we decided to relocate back to the start of our drift, and although this brought more of the same, shortly after we arrived and started chumming again we had a white-capped albatross (the first albatross for many) come past the boat. Probably the strangest thing all day was the total lack of Buller’s shearwaters – not a single bird seen all day!
But an amazing day nonetheless, and late afternoon we headed back to land, with a happy group!  Massive rain showers that looked to have been passing the mainland throughout the day were building, but still we managed to dodge them as we searched (fruitlessly) for kookaburra on the way back to the accommodation.

Little penguins at sea

Fairy prion as it flies past the boat

Flesh-footed shearwater, the quickest to the chum, and the noisiest bird of the day

Cook's petrel against the sea

Little Barrier Island, the location for the majority of breeding Cook's petrels and only site we currently know for breeding New Zealand storm-petrel

Black petrel, not many seen, but a couple of good views of some

Black petrel in amongst the gathering

Cook's petrel swings by the chum slick

Cook's petrel banking up high

Fluttering shearwater pattering over the surface

New Zealand storm-petrel, undoubtedly the star of the show...ok I am biased!

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