Tuesday, 22 October 2013

A welcome break from wader watching... a pelagic!

I haven't had much luck with pelagics over the years. I am not the best of sailors and the thought of hours at sea do not apeal to me. I was on the very first Chalice trip to the "Wilson's Triangle" NOT to see the Wilson's Petrel, leading to us all wearing our free badge upside down for a while. I then went on one of the early Scillonian III pelagics that were having some success with the Wilson's, but again no luck. I have been on a couple of whale watching trips in the USA and Australia, and not seen a single cetacean, so you can see, I'm not that lucky on these trips. I was delighted then to find that the Kaikoura Albatross Encounter trips in New Zealand were right along our Wader Quest route and they only go out a mile or so and get surrounded by birds. Sounded good to me, and so it was!

We nearly didn't go because of fog, but eventaully it was decided the trip could go ahead and Elis and I were joined by  Kathy Hughes who works for the WWF and off we went. We ploughed through the seemingly constant stream of Hutton's Shearwaters as we left the harbour and headed out to sea.

The first bird we came acros loafing randomly on the sea was a superb White-capped Albatross (once a subspecies of Shy Alabatross).
White-capped Albatross.: Thalassarche steadi.

Soon after we encountered a small fishing boat that had attracted hundreds of bird, we stopped the engines and placed the bait over the stern of the boat. This was a new thing for me, no more horrible, gut-turning, oily chum, just a small cage with fish livers in it that didn't trouble the nose of even this delicate sailor.
Feeding flock of seabirds.
Little and large: Northern Giant Petrel and Cape Petrel.

We were soon surrounded by birds, we hardly knew where to look first. Perhaps the most obvious by their numbers were the Cape Petrels. This is a bird I had long desired to see and here I was now surrounded by them, I think I prefer the other names like Cape Pigeon or Pintado Petrel, but the bird can't be beaten, fantastic.
Cape Petrel, Cape Pigeon, Pintado Petrel, take your pick: Daption capense.

The noisiest and certainly the most beligerent of the birds were the Northern Giant Petrels, told from the Southern by the dirty brown bill tip which is green in the latter species. These bird squabbled and fought noisyly the whole time and at times would display agression by raising their tails and fanning them, stretching their head forward, spreading their massive wings and charging!
Northern Giant Petrel: Macronectes halli

Boistrous youngsters

Adult Northern Giant Petrel. Note the brown bill tip. As the birds get older they
get lighter and their eyes go from brown to whitish.

There were a few Westland Petrels that came and sat around the boat and we had one fly-by Fairy Prion.
Westland Petrel: Procellaria westlandica.

But the stars of the show undoubtedly were the five species of Albatross we saw up-close-and-personal. We saw more of the White-capped...
White-capped Albatross

some of the most attractive Salvin's Albatross, another split from the Shy Albatross whose subtle grey head colouring was set off by the eye and bill marking was so striking.
Salvin's Albatross: Thalassarche salvini.

Salvin's Albatross.
There was one Black-browed Albatross that put in an appearance...
Black-browed Albatross: Thalassarche melanophrys.
a single Royal Albatross, identified by the black line on the bill where the mandibles meet...
Royal Albatross: Diomedea sanfordi or epomophora.

and the most agressive and rapacious of all the Wandering Albatross.
New Zealand Wandering Albatross: Diomedea antipodensis.

We enjoyed this spectacle for some time and then set off to return home, this gave us the chance to see some of the species at their best, in flight.
New Zealand Wandering Albatross.

Salvin's Albatross

Salvin's Albatross

Salvin's Albatross.





No comments:

Post a comment