Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Birding Down Under: Campebell Island.

Perserverance Harbour

It was so nice to not be tossed around!

Campbell Island Shag

Southern Royal Albatross

This species nests high in the hills.

25th November & we were anchored in Perserverance Harbour in Campbell Island. It was nice to be calm for a while & not be tossed around so much. This is New Zealand's southernmost sub-antarctic territory lying 660 kms south of Bluff. 
The entire archipelago is volcanic with the main Campbell Island being by far the largest at 11,268 hectares.  other islands including Dent are tiny in comparison.
A few endemic Campbell Island Shags were around & Southern Royal Albatrosses could be seen flying high overhead.

Mount Honey, (569 m) the highest point,
 in the distance.

The old research centre, now sadly no longer used
 & in decay.

Inquisitive to the extreme!

Types of tussock grass dominate in some areas.

The only piece of the old homestead left -
 the cast iron stove!

Kelp Gull

A vagrant King Penguin tucked away in 
the grass, out of the fierce wind.

Campbell Island Pipit

By far the commonest passerine on the island.

Very tame & confiding.

After breakfast we did a zodiac cruise around the harbour, exploring little coves & sheltered bays. We saw the sight of an old homestead (not much to see now) & found a vagrant King Penguin in one of the bays.

Campbell Island Teal

Notice the green sheen on the head of this male.

The best of the morning was however our views of Campbell Island Teal. We saw two different males (the females are now sat on nests) & it was interesting to see the differences between this species & the Auckland Island Flightless Teal seen previously.

On the way to the loneliest tree in the world!

Here it is!
Siyka Spruce planted here in the early 1900's.

But to get to the tree one has to pass these boys!

On territory, inquisitive & fearless.
Not a good combination!

By now the weather was again deteriorating & we headed back to the ship for lunch.

Landing at Tucker Cove

Campbell Island Shag

The entire population is only around
 1,000 individuals.

Red billed Gull now lumped again with
Silver Gull

The old research centre.

This little beauty popped out!

Campbell Island (Sub-antarctic) Snipe

This is the chick: the parents kept well hidden!
Only discovered in 1997!

The weather was very mixed in the afternoon but we lowered the zodiacs & made a landing close to the jetty near Tucker Cove. We immediately set out on a snipe hunt & after nearly an hour found an adult with a three-quarters grown chick. This is a tough bird to see in these conditions!

I was heading up there!

Can you see the path?
As you leave the coast, the vegetation is at first 
lush, but quickly gets smaller.

These boys are surprisingly high up
 in the vegetation.

Silvereye is common here.
But look at the colours!

The view behind me, when I was half way up!

The panorama is vast, hard to convey the scale
 on a photograph.

Campbell Island Pipit

As you climb higher this species
 gets scarcer!

Presumably it is so windy on the tops
 they wouldn't be able to survive.

Still a way to go though!

As you climb higher, the mega-herbs
 dominate the scenery.

Campbell Island  is the Southern Royal Albatross's
 main breeding ground.

This is an established pair calling to each other.

Around 8,000 pairs breed here annually.

This chick was alone on the way up!
See later!

Me, with Dent Island in the background.

Here is the chick again, then this happened!

Being fed by the adult.

Peter Harrison enjoying the moment!

Dominique, Shirley & me.

Fat & happy!

The adult flies off to the ocean.

Further down the hill there was an area for 'gaming'.

Looking for a mate

Birds call in this area hoping
 to attract potential mates.

The calls are loud!

I am here!

Sometimes more than one bird arrives!

Meeting ritual.

I then climbed the hill on the boardwalk which took around an hour. Gradually I left the denser, taller vegetation behind, until I was high up on the bare hills in the midst of a Southern Royal Albatross colony. This was a wonderful surreal experience. I have never seen anything like it! The gale force wind the landscape & the wonderful birds all made for an amazing afternoon & the hours just flew by!

It was in bitterly cold conditions with sleet/snow showers as I made my way down to the jetty, only to be told it was too rough to land the zodiacs there & I had to cut across country to a more sheltered location. It was great to get back on board in the warmth!
Best birds were:

Male Campbell Island Flightless Teal

King Penguin, hiding away!

Southern Royal Albatross

Northern Giant Petrel

Campbell Island Shag

Campbell Island Snipe

Antarctic Tern

Brown Skua

Campbell Island Pipit

12 Mallard; 2 Campbell Island Flightless Teal; King Penguin; 100+ Southern Royal Albatross; 7 Northern Giant Petrel; 7 Campbell Island Shag; Sub Antarctic (Campbell) Snipe; 6 Antarctic Tern; Brown Skua & Campbell Island Pipit.

We left the sheltered harbour & we immediately plunged into the Sub-antarctic Pacific Ocean! And plunged was the word, as we bucked our way north into a north east gale! It was an interesting night!

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