Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Birding Down Under: the Antipodes Islands

26th November & I stayed in bed until eight am. I had a look on deck, but not much doing, so retired to the library. However the weather deteriorated steadily throughout the morning & by lunch time it was impossible to do anything at all! So I went to bed & stayed safely tucked up to ride out the storm. Others were not so lucky: a broken collarbone & a sprained ankle happening to two people! For the first time on this trip next to no birds recorded!

Southern Royal Albatross

This pair were calling to each other at sea.

Gibson's Wandering Albatross

Notice the capped appearance.

Sooty Shearwater & Gibson's Wandering

Antipodean Wandering Albatross.

The vast majority of the world's population 
of this species breeds only here.

This species feeds right across the Pacific Ocean
 as far as Chile. before returning here to breed.

White Capped Albatross


Grey headed Albatross

Salvin's Albatross

Salvin's & Gibson's Albatrosses.

Northern Giant Petrel

White Chinned Petrel

Fulmar Prion

This is a rare species which is not frequently seen
 never mind photographed.

Notice the stubby bill & high forehead.

The shade of grey can change according
 to the available light.
See this photo & below.

This is a typical good view of a Fulmar Prion,
 exhibiting all the identification features.

According to the literature, their centre of breeding
 distribution is on the Bounty Islands.

However, we saw plenty here!

Fairy Prion (left) & Fulmar Prion (right).

Same individuals but they have changed places!

Fairy Prion.

Soft Plumaged Petrel

Quite a pale individual.

Grey Petrel

Lucky to see this species as most are further south 
at the edge of the pack ice at this time of year.

Sub-Antarctic Shearwater

Some of my best views.

27th November was bright & sunny & although the sea was frisky, it had calmed down enough to go up on deck. It was a time to hang on, but I got some great photos & two new species to boot: Fulmar Prion & Grey Petrel! It was a great mornings sea watching! Brilliant stuff!

Antipodes Islands.
We concentrated our efforts around Ring Dove Bay
 in the south-east of the main island.

My first sighting of Antipodes Island

There are no natural harbours here.

One cannot land because of its status
 as a nature reserve.
But how would you land & climb those cliffs?

The Antipodes Islands are around 800 kms from south island New Zealand. There is a main island & ix smaller islands + numerous islets & stacks. As you can see from the above photographs, cliffs rise up to 150 metres from the sea. It is an imposing landscape! Dense grasslands are predominant. Forest has never established here, mainly due to the ferocious westerly winds which constantly batter these islands. 

It was a little rough going into the bay.

It turned out to be a brilliant afternoon, 
although bitterly cold!

Sub-antarctic Fur Seal

Male on the left, female right.

Young pups.

Cape Petrel nesting on the cliff.

It is unusual that this bird is nesting
 out in the open, probably because there are few
 predators around.

Light mantled Sooty Albatross

There is plenty of rainfall here & this
 enables large waterfalls to become 

Erect-Crested Penguins nest in scattered,
 loose colonies.

They nest further up the slopes
 than most other penguin species.

Erect-Crested Penguin

Numbers of this species have dropped
 from 115,000 nests in 1978 to 
34,000 nests in 2011.

Scattered among these colonies are a few
 pairs of Eastern Rockhopper Penguin.

Even though there are smaller than the
Erect-Crested, they are more aggressive
 & boss them around.

Rockhopper Penguins are also declining 
at an alarming rate.

The hair style & those eyes really stand out
 from the crowd!

In the afternoon we had a zodiac cruise around Ring Dove Bay just off the Antipodes Island. We were very lucky with the weather & we were able to close close in to shore. First call was an Erect-Crested Penguin colony & we managed to find a few Eastern Rockhopper Penguin as well. It was a tremendous experience bobbing around in the surf just watching these great birds.

Reischek's Parakeet

Often feeding close to the wave splashed rocks.

The closest I came!

This is the difficult one to see!

Antipodean Parakeet

They don't come much harder than this species!
Ridiculously remote location, bobbing about on a
 zodiac & birds hiding away in  tussock grass,
in a gale force wind, before one gets smashed to pieces
 on the wave lashed rocks!

Piece of cake!

We then turned to parakeet hunting, there being two endemic species here: Reischek’s & Antipodean Parakeets. The former were quite easy to view just above the wave lashed rocks but the Antipodean proved more of a challenge until I saw a bird flying by but just over a cliff! We raced around to the next bay in the zodiacs & there it was, feeding in the grass! We later found another two birds a little further along the cliff.

Best birds were:

20+ Eastern Rockhopper Penguin; 500+ Erect Crested Penguin; 5 Antipodean Wandering Albatross; 2 Gibson’s Wandering Albatross; 15+ Southern Royal Albatross; Black Browed Albatross; 3 Grey Headed Albatross; 3 White Capped Albatross; 5 Salvin’s Albatross; 25+ Light Mantled Sooty Albatross; 3 Northern Giant Petrel; 10+ Southern Giant Petrel; 50 Cape Petrel; 10 Fairy Prion; 150+ Fulmar Prion; Grey Faced Petrel; 2 Soft Plumaged Petrel; 3 Grey Petrel; 70+ White Chinned Petrel; 50 Sooty Shearwater; Sub- Antarctic Little Shearwater; Grey backed Storm Petrel; 15+ Black Bellied Storm Petrel; 10 Antarctic Tern; 8 Brown Skua; 10 Reischek’s Parakeet; 3 Antipodes Parakeet; 2 Antipodes Island Pipit & an amazing female House Sparrow sat on an offshore stack! What the hell is that doing here?

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