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Pterodroma pelagics New Zealand seabird expeditions

Hauraki Gulf (Auckland, New Zealand) and New Zealand's Far North Seabird Tours. Great itineraries for ship-based New Zealand Seabird Birdwatching Expeditions - Three Kings, NZ. South Pacific Seabird Expeditions and Oceanic Seabird Birdwatching Opportunities

Painting by Sarah McBeath

Trip Report

1 November2003

Another juicy forecast meant a fairly early start with the aim to cover some territory and see as many birds before the weather closed in from the north - ruling out the evening stop at Hen Island for the second trip in a row. A stunning morning and the happy prospect of a lot of time on the foredeck. Interesting to see how two weeks can make such a difference in the variety of birds.

Route for the day aboard HAWERE: Ti Point -> Leigh Reef -> Little Barrier -> Mokohinaus -> 200m Bathymetry north of Mokes -> Leigh Reef -> Ti Point.

Cape Rodney to Little Barrier
Wind 5 knots N clear skies
10s Fluttering Shearwater on the water and flying - scattered and in small groups
Fairy Prions - scattered individuals at first, then in small groups and larger flocks of 20-30 and 100+ further across on this run
10s Flesh-footed Shearwaters
20+ Buller's Shearwaters
10+ Common Diving Petrels
10+ White-faced Storm-petrels
2 Black Petrels
1 Blue Penguin
1 Little Tern
10+ A Gannets
Black-backed Gulls

1 Bryde's Whale (traveling) in much the same position as last trip

Decided to do the next leg while weather held - some high cloud starting to move over

Little Barrier to Mokohinaus
Wind up to 10 knots
Mob of 50+ Fluttering Shearwater and 10+ Buller's sitting on water just north of Little Barrier - resting; then more closer to Mokes.
10s Buller's Shearwaters
100+ Fairy Prions
5+ Flesh-footed Shearwaters
10s Diving Petrels - scattered groups
20+ White-faced Storm Petrel
1 Storm Petrel (sp ?) - very black/white with white rump St P in the midst of a loose flock of w-f stormies. Not easy to ID with the group moving away
10s Cook's Petrels - in the middle part of this leg. Birds flying through fairly consistently
2 Black Petrels
10+ A Gannet

Maori Rocks (Mokohinaus)
Close to Maori Rocks
A Gannets (on water sleeping), 5+ Buller's Shearwaters, 50-60 Fairy Prions, Bl-b Gulls and White-fronted Terns

On Maori Rocks
300 - 400+ Gannets in residence (nesting)
Red-billed Gulls
Handful of White-fronted Terns
No sign of Grey ternlets - with only a slight swell we could nose in very close and checked out all the rock faces.

Massed Red-billed Gulls and White-fronted Terns roosting on low rock platform, or making little forays out to sea

Between Maori Rocks and Burgess Island picked up a long drift line of algae, some driftwood and birds - predominantly Buller's and Fairy Prions along the line itself (about 1km) then a feeding frenzy with a big school of fish (we could smell first the fish then the birds as we approached upwind) - 500+ Buller's Shearwaters, 100+ Fairy Prions, 1 Black Petrel, 2 Sooty Shearwaters, 20-30 Red-billed Gulls, 1 Fluttering Shearwater

After that Brady (skipper) treated us to some fine maneuvering of the big boat through a narrow passage on the north side of Burgess Island. Sheer cliffs either side of the boat, Red-crowned Parakeets, Bellbirds and Welcome Swallows overhead. Also noted what appeared to be the breast feather of a kaka floating on the water!

Lunch in the lee of one of the islands with 3 Blue Penguins close to the boat as we anchored.

With the wind freshening to 20+ knots (still N) but weather holding we decided to try something new and plotted a course out to the 200m line to the north of the Mokes - 14nms.

All along this leg we picked up birds criss-crossing our path.
10s Buller's Shearwaters
10+ Black Petrels
3 White-chinned Petrels
10+ Flesh-footed Shearwaters
Fluttering Shearwaters
1 Little Shearwater
12 Sooty Shearwater
100+ Cook's Petrels
5 Pycroft's Petrels
1 Black-winged Petrel
Good numbers of gadfly Petrels (Cook's or otherwise)
50+ White-faced Storm-Petrels
100+ Fairy Prions
10+ A Gannets

Northerly Waypoint to Cape Rodney
Wind now over 25 knots and rising. Overcast.
Plotted a course for home, this time a long diagonal across the shipping channel. With time getting on and the weather deteriorating did this run in a series of 20 knot sprints and down-wind dawdles - the latter a chance to get up on the foredeck and really get close to some of the birds.

Fluttering Shearwater - more and more as we closed in Cape Rodney
10s Buller's Shearwaters
2 Little Shearwaters
5+ Flesh-footed Shearwaters
Sooty Shearwaters
Black Petrels
White-chinned Petrels
Cook's Petrels
Pycroft's Petrels
Black-winged Petrels
Common Diving Petrels
Fairy Prions
White-faced Storm-Petrels - at times the wild sea was alive with them
Storm-Petrels - different but seen while traveling at speed

At one area (across about 2nm) we came across a lot of birds feeding and flying across the very rough seas - Buller's Shearwaters, W-f Storm-Petrels, Fluttering Shearwaters, Fairy Prions and some Flesh-footed Shearwaters

On this run we also saw a bird with very smudgy head right down to the chest. Dark across the wings and back like a Flutterer. Hutton's? Flying more like a Pterodroma …. Too fast, and quickly too far to get a good ID

Back at Ti Point all smiles just before the weather really broke.

PS - Chris had run out to the airport to pick up a client at 1AM! - John, fresh from a successful trip short Aussie trip with Phil Mayer in search of the Plains Wanderer. Nice to say John's first NZ bird was a Morepork at 2AM feeding on moths here at the Lodge - makes a change from Auckland's usual daytime first-up offering for folks - Myna, House Sparrow, Blackbird, Starling…

--Chris Gaskin & Karen Baird
Pterodroma Pelagics - Hauraki Gulf Seabird Tours

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