Friday 22 November 2019

Day eleven - parakeets + shoveler!!!

We woke to another beautiful morning.  Almost no wind at all and high cloud greeted us as we headed out on to the water for our morning in the Marlborough Sounds.  Lovely calm conditions and the sun was shining, and our first little penguin was waiting just outside the harbour.  Nice start!
We headed out on to the water, and having not been keeping up with the news, was surprised to see the masts and rigging of the replica ‘HM Bark Endeavour’ ahead.  We closed in on it, and the various other boats around it to have a look.  A beautiful ship, which was built over a five year period from 1988, she is in New Zealand currently for the 250th anniversary of Cook setting foot on New Zealand.  We had a nice close view of her, and then headed off out after our main quarry, the NZ King shag.  In fact, we managed to get a photo or two of our first King shags, with the Endeavour in the background!  We had two King Shags, an adult and an immature, surrounded by about 20 spotted shags, so nice views of them also.  We enjoyed them for a bit, and then headed off in to the outer part of the sound.
On the way we came across a lot of fluttering shearwaters, a few Australasian gannets, and a number of small pods of dusky dolphins.  Great views of them, which is always nice.  There were scattered little penguins along the way, but we pressed on.
We approached a small predator free island, and took the boat in, and disembarked on the beach.  A pair of weka were there to great us and welcome us to the island.  We headed up to a location that we knew had been successful before, and within about 30 seconds of being there had an orange-fronted parakeet in view, but it flew and could not be found.  We waited and could hear them nearby, and then suddenly a bird appeared, then flew out onto some dead branches, but was partly obscured.  It paused there for maybe 20 seconds or so, but then flew off and disappeared.  Most had seen it well, a couple not so well.  So, we stayed put and continued the vigil.  We heard more nearby, but only the odd flight view briefly.  Then it happened, there appeared a pair of them, feeding low in a tutu bush quietly, and we had absolutely epic views of them for about eight or more minutes.  Just spectacular and probably some of the best views I have ever had!  Eventually they moved off, and we headed to the beach a little earlier than our suggested pickup time, so we signalled and the boat came back in for us.  Climbing back aboard, we then headed off to a spot we have been lucky with Hector’s dolphins before, and although this is not a great time of the year for them, why not give it a go.
We pulled up and stopped the boat, and poured so cups of tea, etc.  And then a few minutes later we spotted distant rounded dorsal fins.  There were plenty of dusky dolphins around, but these distinctive Hector’s were our target.  We slowly moved towards them, and got reasonable views, before they all just suddenly vanished.  Not of sign of them again, but everyone had had reasonable views.  We finished our cups of tea, and then slowly started to make our way back to the dock.  On the way another ten or more small groups of dusky dolphins, really amazing to see this number here – and lots more fluttering shearwaters.  We also had another swimming King shag.
Back at the dock the Endeavour was along side a wharf and there were hundreds of people on the shores.  We made a bee-line for the local bakery, grabbed our lunches and then headed off out into the countryside.  We enjoyed our lunch (!) beside a sewage ponds, where we did a short walk and managed to see a lot of Royal spoonbill, and finally one glossy ibis.  Next stop was a small lake, with a big target – Northern shoveler.  This was going to be a New Zealand tick for me, so the pressure was on!  We parked in the carpark, walked 10m and BOOM!  There is was, a stunning male Northern shoveler, in full breeding plumage, paddling amongst the Australasian shovelers.  After so much searching after the last few years, this was almost surreal!  We searched the lake for other birds, finding Australasian coot, Australasian crested grebe and a couple of dabchick, but no hoary-headed grebes which have been here.  Oh well!
We headed on further south towards Kaikoura.  On the way we stopped to look at a massive raft of Hutton’s shearwaters just off shore, clearly feeding in close to the beach.  We were enjoying watching them when Eliot spotted a couple of Hector’s dolphins.  For the next ten minutes or so we had an awesome display of them frolicking in close to the beach and a couple really put on a show with huge leaps from the water.  Very nice!
We carried on, checking in to our accommodation, and then had a beautiful fish and chip dinner in the garden.  Nothing better than massive fillets of blue cod and chips, with a couple of beers and wines.  After dinner as the sun went down, we went out and found a couple of little owls, getting really nice views of one perched on a road-side fence post.  What a great way to end the day, a spectacular red sunset reminding us of the terrible fires in Australia.

Day total – Seen = 54 inc 1 heard, (peafowl); new for the trip = 6; total for the trip to date = 135
HMB Endeavour replica

King shags and old ships

Watching dusky dolphins

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