As my first blog posts were all a long way from home I thought I’d now introduce you to my backyard. I live in Picton, it is the top of the South Island in New Zealand and the gateway to the Marlborough Sounds. The Queen Charlotte Sound is rich in history from pre-European conflicts between Maori Iwi, then Captain Cook arriving on the Endeavour to more recently gold mining, and whaling. All around the top of the South Island place names reflect the early exploration days, as each man claimed a stake in this new found land.
Before humans arrived the Sounds were already full, the abundance of nutrients and calm waters make it a brilliant place for marine mammals to shelter from the weather or to give young animals a rest from the wicked Cook Strait. The bird song was said to be deafening and is still an absolute highlight, we are spoilt with an array of bush birds, waders and seabirds all calling the area home.
The best way to view the Sounds is by boat, and my personal favourite is E-Ko Tours. Their ethos sits well with me, and the tours are always organised in a way that you get so much for your money. The series of photos in this blog have all been taken on E-Ko Tours trips.
They run a brilliant afternoon boat tour out to Motuara Island where you can walk among the curious robins and colourful Kakariki. You can also climb to the top of the island where Captain Cook claimed New Zealand for the crown. Sometimes I will walk up the hill with everyone else, otherwise on hot days it is nice to sit at the bird bath (the only water source on the island) and watch all the birds cooling off, there is nothing cuter than a robin having a bath – as creepy as that sounds.
If you are lucky (or simply ask) they will detour past the King Shag colony where you will get to see one of the rarest seabirds in the world. The numbers are stable at approx. 800 birds however they will always be vulnerable when they have such a small distribution. The Spotted Shags although abundant are also a wonderful sight, especially while in breeding plumage. A sneaky detour past the salmon farms almost guarantees you a nice close look at a NZ Fur Seal as they are always trying to find a way into the cages for an easy snack.
This year E-ko Tours have started a wonderful trip to the Perano Whaling Station and out into the Cook Strait to look for migrating Humpback Whales. Sadly I haven’t spotted a whale yet, however those who know me well know I have the worst luck with large cetaceans so I have probably jinxed the trips I have been on! Having such easy access to the Strait also gives us the chance to spot pelagic birds with White-Capped and Black-Browed Albatross being our most common large seabirds in the area as well as Fluttering Shearwaters, Cape Petrels, Fairy Prions and Flesh Footed Shearwaters. The Gannets although common can't be forgotten, they are awesome to watch when they are diving for fish that the dolphins round up.
It is possible to see 5 species of dolphin in the Sounds depending on the time of year, the tiny Hectors with their Micky Mouse ear dorsal fin, beautiful two-toned Duskys, the large and boisterous bottled-nosed and our not so common common dolphins. Our final dolphin species are the beautiful Orca, they come into the warm, shallow Sounds waters during summer to feed on stingrays however my aforementioned cetacean curse means I seem to miss them every time they visit.
We are just so blessed to live in this beautiful area and I would love to share it with you. Whether you are interested in birds, marine mammals, nature or just want a relaxing day out on the water E-Ko Tours are a fantastic option. I think I need a 10 trip ticket!!
*Please note that I am not sponsored or paid to promote E-Ko Tours, I just think they are awesome.