Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Birding Down Under: the Chathams

These islands have been colonized for a long time.

Travelling to the last remnant of original forest
 habitat was challenging!

Very little original habitat remains.

Two of the rarest seabirds in the world breed here.

Without this fencing nothing would survive!

The petrels nest inside the woodland.

They are encouraged by playing
 their calls at night.

A petrel burrow.

Chatham Island Petrel

Magenta Petrel

Areas of native forest are once 
more being replanted.

Poison baits & traps are set widely 
to try & keep the numbers of 
introduced predators in check.


Chatham Island Pigeon, once down to 40 
individuals, but because of conservation measures
 is thriving again.

Chatham Island Gerygone.

This was the day! (30th November). The day we go ashore on Chatham Island to the famous Sweetwater Covenant. We were lucky with both Chatham Island Petrel & Magenta Petrel being in burrows. These are lone males looking for females, so we were not disturbing nesting birds. It was a brilliant few hours listening to the two guides, who were very knowledgeable. It was great to hear the story of their trials & tribulations of the project. An outstanding experience!

The rest of the day was spent in the pub, before we returned to the ship for dinner.

Northern Royal Albatross

Buller's Albatross

Northern Giant Petrel

Pitt Island Shag

Best birds were:

3 Chatham Albatross; 10 Northern Buller’s (Pacific) Albatross; 80 Northern Giant Petrel; 45 Cape Petrel; Chatham Island Petrel; Magenta Petrel; 1,000+ Sooty Shearwater; 10 Grey Backed Storm Petrel; 25+ White Faced Storm Petrel; 8 Black Shag (Great Cormorant); 10 Pitt Island Shag; 12 Swamp Harrier; 3 Weka; 7 Spur Winged Plover; 5 White Fronted Tern; 75+ Chatham Island Pigeon; 2 Chatham Island Red-Crowned Parakeet; 15 Chatham Island Tui; 2 Chatham Island Gerygone; 2 New Zealand Fantail & 2 Chatham Island Pipit.

The research station.

Chatham Island Shag

As soon as you leave the islands behind,
 the seabirds return!

Buller's Albatross

This species migrates east to west
 across the Pacific Ocean.
They had just returned to their breeding grounds.

It is White Rabbits Day: 1st December! Where did the year go? We are anchored off Manguire & Little Manguire Island. After breakfast we move off around the headland & see a few Chatham Island Shags.

Once chumming started it is a free for all!

Buller's Albatross

Northern Royal Albatross

Once the big boy lands, it dominates
 all other species.

Buller's Albatross

Chatham Island Albatross

Northern Giant Petrel & Buller's Albatross

White capped Albatross

Buller's & White capped Albatross 
& Northern Giant Petrel.

Northern Giant Petrel

White capped Albatross

Northern Royal Albatross

Northern Royal & Buller's Albatross

Chatham Island Albatross

Buller's Albatross

Three species of Albatross together!

Northern Royal Albatross

Buller's Albatross

Chatham island Albatross

Cape Petrel

We did a session of chumming, which was superb, but nearly ended in total disaster! People were on the tail gate at the stern, when a rogue wave engulfed them. Six people were knocked off their feet & many cameras ruined! I was OK. This could have been a total disaster: we were lucky!

Me, doing my stuff!

We then head out to sea for our return to the New Zealand mainland. I did a bit of sea watching but it was surprisingly disappointing. Tried again later, but same result, so retired to the bar!

Best birds were:

10 Northern Royal Albatross; 3 White Capped Albatross; Salvin’s Albatross; 25 Chatham Albatross; 100+ Northern Buller’s Albatross; 50 Northern Giant Petrel; 15 Cape Petrel; 20 White Chinned Petrel; 7 Sooty Shearwater; 30 White Faced Storm Petrel; 2 Pitt Island Shag; 3 Chatham Island Shag; 8 Brown Skua & 6 Chatham Island Tui.

White chinned Petrel

Soft Plumaged Petrel

Pycroft's Petrel
A difficult species to see!

Mottled Petrel

Difficult to photograph as they rarely
 come close to the ship.

The underwing pattern is exceptional!

Fairy Prion

2nd December & 3rd December I am all at sea! We made steady progress towards New Zealand, but still have a long way to go. I spent all of the day sea watching & it was a little challenging in the morning, due to the heavy seas, but calmed just a tad by afternoon. My final possible seabird for this trip was Pycroft's Petrel & I managed to see eight of them but all distantly. This is a tough species to see, so I was very pleased. 

Southern Royal Albatross

Northern Royal Albatross

Campbell Albatross

Showing the underwing pattern nicely.

Grey-headed Albatross

White capped Albatross

Salvin's Albatross

These are famous waters for seabirds & sea-birding so I was a little disappointed with my haul!

Best birds were:

Southern Royal Albatross; 3 Northern Royal Albatross; 12 White capped Albatross; 80+ Salvin's Albatross; 3 Campbell Albatross; Grey-headed Albatross; 2 Northern Giant Petrel; 7 Cape Petrel; 18 Fairy Prion; Black winged Petrel; 34 Mottled Petrel; 8 Pycroft's Petrel & 38 Grey-faced Petrel.

Otago Shag

As we neared the mainland Otago Shag & White-fronted Tern were noted.

First views of South Island NZ.

Sighted the New Zealand mainland on 4th December & the trip was over! It had been an excellent trip. I saw everything that I could have wished for. Till the next time Heritage!

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