Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Birding Down Under: Invercargill to The Snares

This trip to the sub-antarctic islands south of New Zealand is one of the great birding trips in the world! This is a real expedition trip, to see some of the most abundant & diverse wildlife on this planet. And I cannot wait!

The route, taken from the Heritage Expeditions

We are doing an anti-clockwise route, first heading south to the Snares, then the Auckland Islands; Campell Island & Macquaire Island. We then head slightly north -east to the Antipodes Islands; Bounty Islands & finally a thorough exploration of the Chathams.

After my little experience in Christchurch
 this was in my room!
Maybe a tad late!

We all meet up on the evening of 16th November in the Kelvin Hotel, Invercargill for dinner & a briefing. 17th November in Invercargill & it is raining. I suspect that this is not an uncommon occurrence! We all walk to the museum & visit to Tuatara live exhibition. Not only did I see a live animal (which was excellent) but we also were privileged to witness a great mini lecture by Lyndsey, the guy responsible for breeding them in captivity. He told us all about the trials & tribulations of his efforts, before final success.

Lyndsey doing his stuff!

The breeding enclosure.

The star of the show!

My last view of the NZ mainland at Bluff.

He was very entertaining & informative: a great start to the day. After a look around the Roaring Forties Exhibition (which was excellent) we went back to the hotel for a quick lunch & then caught the bus to Bluff, where after formalities, we departed in late afternoon. We are off, heading out to sea for The Snares. 

Southern Royal Albatross

White capped Albatross
Salvin's Albatross

Northern Giant Petrel
White Chinned Petrel

Cape Petrel

Broad Billed Prion

Fairy Prion

Common Diving Petrel

Best birds included:

Southern Royal Albatross; 200+ White capped Albatross; 25+ Salvin’s Albatross; 2 Northern Giant Petrel; 10+ Cape Petrel; Broad Billed Prion; 4 Fairy Prion; 4 Mottled Petrel; 2 White chinned Petrel; 450+ Sooty Shearwater; Hutton’s Shearwater; 80+ Common Diving Petrel, 5 Fouveau Shag, & 6 White fronted Tern.
The Snares

Thickly vegetated, one is not allowed to land.
One has to zodiac around the islands.

Getting close is the key.
A colony of the Snares Crested Penguin
Only found nesting here.

Getting ready to enter the water.

Charismatic & wonderful!

It was a topsy turvey night on the ocean & the morning dawned overcast & windy. We were anchored off The Snares & went to investigate in zodiacs. It was a great few hours touring around the coastline sometimes very close in! (One is not allowed to land). The Snares are the only home for the Snares Crested Penguin & we enjoyed fantastic views of these great birds.

The Snares consist of one main island & several smaller islands, some forming what is known as the Western Chain. All are part of a World Heritage Site & receive special protection from the NZ Government.

Snares Fernbird
Recently split as a full species.
Viewed from the zodiac, so not that sharp/
 as we were being tossed around a bit!

Snares Tomtit
 Adult feeding young.
Not quite in focus, as I was bouncing around
 in a zodiac!

We also had good views of the Snares Fernbird & The all black Snares Tomtit.
We had to cut our visit short because of the increasing swell & getting off the zodiacs back into the ship was quite interesting!

Salvin's Albatross

Light mantled Sooty Albatross

Broad Billed Prion.
Nice to see a prion that one can identify!
Black Bellied Storm Petrel

We spent the rest of the day at sea in quite rough conditions. Taking photos was a bit of a challenge!

Best birds included:

3 Gibson’s Wandering Albatross; 15+ Southern Royal Albatross; 5 Campbell Albatross; 350+ White capped Albatross; 75+ Salvin’s Albatross; Light Mantled Sooty Albatross; 35 Northern Giant Petrel; Southern Giant Petrel; 200+ Cape Petrel; 100 Broad billed Prion; 750+ Fairy Prion; 30 Mottled Petrel; 3 White headed Petrel; 120+ White chinned Petrel; 1,000+ Sooty Shearwater; 2 Grey backed Storm Petrel; 300+ Black bellied Storm Petrel; 150+ Common Diving Petrel; 3 Antarctic Tern, 7 Brown Skua; 5 Snares Island Tomtit; Snares Island Fernbird; Silvereye & 2 Common Redpoll.

Nat; Nancy; Jacqui, Giselle & Eden.
Eden was not on the scholarship prgramme
 but here as a trial for a staff position.

Heritage Expeditions run a very laudable scholarship programme & this year these girls were lucky enough to be selected for this trip of a lifetime. All were great people to travel with & all in conservation work of some type. Good luck to you all girls!

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