Monday, 11 May 2015

The Western Pacific Odyssey: Hauraki Gulf & north towards Norfolk Island

Arrived in Auckland around mid-day on 5th April. This is a new country for me (number 112) but not going to get much chance to see much of it, as just staying overnight & then boarding The Spirit of Enderby. 

This boat is a bit of a legend in wildlife expedition travel. Going to some of the most exciting & adventurous places in the world! This trip up the western side of the Pacific Ocean promises to be one of the very best trips I have ever done. To say I am excited is an understatement! 

 Looking across the bay at Tauranga.

Red billed Gull (Silver Gull)
This is the day I had been waiting for, for quite some time! It is the 6th April & the start of the Western Pacific Odyssey! I awoke in my bed & breakfast in Tauranga to a beautiful New Zealand morning & enjoyed breakfast on the terrace, overlooking the impressive bay. Then it was time to get down to the meeting point & complete immigration formalities. Then we were on the boat. We departed at around 4.30 pm & almost immediately started seeing seabirds:

Grey-faced Petrel

A Grey-faced Petrel crossed our path. This has been split from the Great-winged Petrel by some authorities. Fluttering Shearwaters numbered around 105, but stayed distant, out of photographic reach. 
Flesh-footed Shearwater

A few Flesh-footed Shearwaters were noted.
23 South Island Pied Oystercatchers & 2 Variable Oystercatchers were on a distant beach. While at least 35+ White-fronted Terns sat on distant jetties.

Common Diving Petrel

Just before dusk a lone Common Diving Petrel shot past the bow of the boat. We went inside & undertook the usual briefings & compulsory lifeboat drill & then turned in, in anticipation of the morrow.

The end of the first day.
Mokoinau Islands

Up at dawn on the 7th April, to find myself just off the Mokoinau Islands. Our main quarry here was Grey Ternlet at their sole NZ colony. We saw around 45 birds, but they were out of photographic range.
Our first dawn on the boat.
Colony of Australian Gannets
Australian Gannet

500+ Australian Gannets were nesting on the top of the islets.

Part of the large flock of Buller's Shearwaters.

 Buller's Shearwater
 Surely, one of the most beautiful 
of the Shearwaters?

Flocks totaling over 120 Buller’s Shearwaters dotted the sea. A Common Diving Petrel tore past.

 New Zealand Storm Petrel
What a start to the trip!

We dripped a fish oil slick, to attract New Zealand Storm Petrel & it worked! Throughout the day we saw this devilishly difficult species & by the day’s end had recorded a whopping 15 individuals.

Grey-faced Petrel

 Black Petrel

Both Grey-faced Petrels (10+) & upwards of 45 Black Petrels followed the boat, as we headed north.

 Wandering Albatross

 These individuals are of the gibsoni race.

Shy Albatross

In mid-afternoon, at least 4 Wandering Albatrosses of the gibsoni race & 2 Shy Albatross of the steadi race were seen.

Cook's Petrel

Around 14 Cook’s Petrels were also noted throughout the day. Late afternoon was very quiet & we went inside and enjoyed an excellent evening meal.

 Sav holding a Black-winged Petrel
It flew away strongly.
The first thing that greeted me on the dawn of the 8th April was a Black-winged Petrel in a box! It had flown into the ships windows in the night, but seemed none the worse for its confinement & flew strongly away when released. This species was noted throughout the day with at least 40 birds recorded.

 Black-winged Petrel

The Three Kings

First light was around The Three Kings, which are isolated sea mounts, surrounded by deep water.

 Campbell Albatross
Notice the pale eye.

 Two Campbell Albatross were seen, which by most authorities is a recent split from Black-browed Albatross.

Grey-faced Petrel

Grey-faced Petrels were much in evidence throughout the day, with a minimum of 20 birds noted.

 The wonderful White-necked Petrel

At least five White-necked Petrels were seen & a few Cook’s Petrels.

Fairy Prions.

Buller's Shearwater

Fairy Prions & Buller’s Shearwaters were quickly left behind as we ploughed endlessly northwards.

 Red-tailed Tropicbird

A lone Red-tailed Tropicbird was sat on the sea, the forerunner of many others to come in the next few days.
Black Petrel

The end of the second day.

The afternoon proved to be rather slow, with little new recorded.

Black-winged Petrel
9th April saw one or two Black-winged Petrels close to the ship. We eventually totaled 15+ for the day.
Black Petrel

A lone Black Petrel was still following the boat, thereby adding one species to my Australian list, as we had crossed into Australian territorial waters overnight!

 Red-tailed Tropicbird

One, two & then eventually three Red-tailed Tropicbirds flew around the ship, at one point trying to land on the mast!

Kermadec Petrel

Two Kermadec Petrels were noted, one in the early morning & one much later on in the day.

 Tahiti Petrel

However, the highlight for me was the periodic Tahiti Petrels, which kept flying around, albeit at a distance.
Gould's Petrel

Later on we saw two Gould’s Petrels, although they proved difficult to photograph.

Chris Collins & Sav Saville - 
our bird guides for this voyage.

The afternoon was again rather slow, with a scattering of Masked Boobies of the dark eyed Tasman form! And two distant Grey Ternlets and a few White Terns. These birds should all get much commoner in the coming days.

Part of the birding group on the ship.

Early to bed this evening as the morrow brings a landing on Norfolk Island!

No comments:

Post a Comment