Sunday, 9 February 2020

Day six - Cookilaria spectacular

We were up and out the door early and back to Miranda.  The light was beautiful and the waders were all gathered.  We met up with a few local birders at one of the hides and started to scan the wader flock in front of one of the hides.  There were several thousand bar-tailed godwits, red knot, and over a thousand wrybill, so a lot to search through.  But we again managed to find a few sharp-tailed sandpipers, the broad-billed sandpiper and a Hudsonian godwit – thanks David Thomas!  We enjoyed the beautiful light and the great birds and then decided to head back to pack the van.  On the way three Far Eastern curlew flew over and out of sight.
We packed the van and then headed off towards Whitianga.  After a coffee stop we made a quick stop at another wetland site. There was a good number of pied stilts and a few South Island oystercatchers, barwits and wrybill.  But nothing out of the ordinary.  A swamp harrier plucking a juvenile pied stilt was a gory testament to these birds hunting ability.
We carried on, driving over the beautiful Coromandel Range, with stunning sunshine and beautiful forest.  The views out over the ocean once across showed that we should be up for an excellent afternoon.  We made it to Whitianga, checked in to the accommodation, had a quick lunch and then joined our boat for an afternoon on the water.
We headed straight out of Mercury Bay, seeing a couple of little penguins on the way, a few gannets, and then the first fluttering shearwaters.  A bit further out we started to see the first Buller’s shearwaters, then a few flesh-footed shearwaters.  But the conditions were spectacular, flat seas and light breezes.  A brief glimpse of common dolphins on the way.
We got out to our chumming location, and after passing a few small groups of birds, we stopped in a location with no birds at all.  But let’s see what happens…. We started to put chum in the water, and there was nothing in sight.  Very light breezes, that seemed to change direction continuously.  But then a Buller’s shearwater arrived, then another, and before too long a few more birds.  The first Cookilaria petrel came through, probably a Cook’s, the next maybe a Pycroft’s…. Black petrels showed up, then flesh-footed shearwaters, and the odd white-faced storm-petrel.  With more Cookilaria petrels coming past, many of them seem to be Pycroft’s, some giving quite nice views.  With Hadoram Shirihai on the trip, it was fun to compare the consensus, and almost always we were on the same page.  We also had several short-tailed shearwaters and a sooty shearwater come in to the chum and show themselves really well, and a single fly-by little shearwater.  Finally, towards the end of our chumming session we had a New Zealand storm-petrel arrive and show really well, and then a mako shark arrived and put on a good show as well.  Over the course of the afternoon we had 25+ Pycroft’s and about 10 Cook’s, plus a few others that were not positively ID’d.  So, an absolutely awesome afternoon with some great birds, some great learning, and in beautiful conditions.
We headed towards port, with a few more Cookilaria on the way, and as we got closer a nice dark morph Arctic skua.  Pizza for dinner and another excellent day was done!
Day total – Seen = 57; new for the trip = 6; total for the trip to date = 97
Bird of the day – Hudsonian godwit x1, Pycroft’s petrel x?
Ready for action

No comments:

Post a comment