Saturday, 22 February 2020

Day eighteen - windy windy

The weather was looking pretty good for a pelagic, so everyone was smiles as we left the dock.  We were lucky enough to have Ty as our Skipper and Matt Jones joined us as ‘Chum-meister’ extraordinaire.  We headed out in sunshine, our first stop to find a Fiordland crested penguin…and that was probably the easiest thing we did all day!  Straight on to three birds in a cave out and around the coast, and then another two at another spot nearby.  Really nice views of these great crested penguins, and some pictures added to the collection.  We then headed off towards some islands to see if we could find another penguin…and spotted one on the way in the sea, but as we turned the boat it disappeared, and despite searching for 10 minutes or so, it was never refound!  Damn!  But a Buller’s albatross – the first of the trip – landed nearby and was a nice consolation, and several white-capped albatross came in to join it.  An excellent start!
We checked the shoreline of some of the islands, but no penguiny shapes, although lots of fur seals and a few wekas were spotted.  Tomtit and bellbird were heard in the forest and a Northern giant petrel was feeding on something in the waves crashing on the shore.
We carried on our way, spotting a couple of brown skua, and they came in for a look at the boat and us, as did more white-capped and Buller’s albatross.  We decided to continue on, with a fairly calm sea, just a slight NE swell.  We soon started to pick up good numbers of sooty shearwaters, passing several large rafts of these birds feeding on the surface, and then a few common diving petrels as well.  Nice to finally get these little guys, as we had failed to find them at other pelagic locations on the trip thus far.
We got out to our chumming location and started with a bit of salmon burley in the water and some cod frames, and before long good numbers of white-capped albatross, with a few Salvin’s, Buller’s and Southern Royal albatross were at the back of the boat.  The wind was almost nothing, but after about 30 minutes started to pick up a little.  We started seeing Cook’s petrels, and these made good passes of the boat, with a fairly constant trickle of birds passing by.  A call went up for mottled petrel, and two distant birds showed, but not as well as we would have liked.  Then a storm-petrel appeared, nice!  A grey-backed storm-petrel, and before long a second bird, then a third, and we probably had up to five, along with a few white-faced storm-petrels as well.  The surprise of the morning however, was a subantarctic little shearwater which whizzed in and out, showing reasonably well to those looking that way.  A white-chinned petrel came in and circled the boat for a bit as well, but by then it was starting to get really windy, and the predominant swell from the NE was starting to be added to by the swell and wind from the west.  So it was getting a little uncomfortable.  We decided that is was safest to head in to shelter and see if it dropped off a bit later, in which case we could come back out.
We bumped slowly in towards the island, directly into the ever increasing chop.  In the shelter of the island we checked out a number of bays and beaches, looking for penguins, but coming up blank.  The scenery was stunning though, and the little beaches and coves a pleasure to cruise.  We also picked up some Hooker’s sea lions lazing on beaches, nice to see this marine mammal.
We cruised slowly along the coast, and the wind was still blowing over 35 knots, whipping up the water in places.  We poked our nose a little out from the island and did a bit more chumming, bringing in a good number of albatross, but just the smaller white-capped, Buller’s and Salvin’s.  Great light and beautiful views of them.
We then decided to continue along the coast, checking out a couple more beaches.  More sea lions, a white-tailed deer, but no penguins!  We headed back in to Oban in the late afternoon, checked out a few Foveaux shags, and docked.  It was definitely beer o’clock, and then dinner.  After dinner some of us headed back out to look for long-tailed bats, and had pretty nice views of one very close to us, so well worth it!  A kiwi calling in the distance was a nice end to our wonderful day on Stewart Island!
Day total – Seen = 48; new for the trip = 5; total for the trip to date = 152
Bird of the day – Buller’s albatross x4, common diving petrel x3, grey-backed storm-petrel x1
On the way out

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