I should be up front, and let you all know this is definitely a ‘less words, more pictures’ blog. This trip was absolutely incredible but not too many words are needed.
I usually head to Kaikoura when I need an albatross fix, the team at Encounter Kaikoura are fantastic and I would hang out with them permanently if I could. However due to the earthquake in Nov 2016 it now takes 7 hours instead of 1.5 to get around to visit them. I will definitely be driving down there for my birthday in November but I was starting to have serious seabird withdrawals, so when Tony Fluerty https://boneywhitefoot.wordpress.com/ said he was organising a pelagic birding trip from Wellington I confirmed my spot right away.
I worked until 2pm on the Saturday, jumped on the Bluebridge ferry and sailed over the Strait ready for an early start in the morning. I was keen to see if there was a difference in species between winter and summer trips, but also to compare the behaviour of the birds around a small vessel vs Otakou (the commercial trawler in one of my previous blogs) Bravely I purchased a new 5D IV just before the trip so these pics are the cameras first outing. It was a big learning curve but I am pretty happy so far!
We met Jonathan and his crew from Cook Strait Fishing Charters at 7:45 and jumped on board Seafarer II, the vessel is absolutely perfect for photography and the weather was shaping up to be pretty good too. Steaming out into the strait, it didn’t take long before birds started to gravitate towards the boat. There was an abundance of juvenile black-backed gulls but excitement quickly grew when the first big bird was spotted. A Black-Browed Albatross, globally common but so beautiful with their pink beaks and smoky eyes. We settled into our spots on the deck and braced ourselves against the Cook Strait roll, cameras purred away as we filled cards and drained batteries from hours of amazing birding.
Even though there were no new species for me, the list was still impressive; Southern and Northern Royal Albatross, Gibson’s Wanderers, Salvins, Black-Browed, White-Capped, and Bullers Mollymawks, Giant Petrels, Cape Petrels, Westland Petrels and Fairy Prions. It was a fantastic day out with some awesome bird nerds. I think Tony is planning another trip for November 12th, so give him a bell if you are interested.