Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Birding Down Under: the Chathams

It is 30th November & we are exploring the main island of Waitangi.

Please note, these posts are only published to keep the correct chronology. Full details will be written up in December on my return to Australia.

Birding Down Under: at sea & Pyramid Rock

It is 29th November & we are at sea heading towards Pyramid Rock.

Birding Down Under: Bounty Islands

It is 28th November & we are cruising by zodiac around various granite stacks & rocks which make up the Bounty Islands.

Birding Down Under: the Antipodes Islands

The 26th November is spent at sea.

27th November is spent on Antipodes Island which is the largest island in this isolated group.

Birding Down Under: Campebell Island.

We spent all day of the 24th November at sea heading northbound to Campbell Island.

Birding Down Under: Macquaire Island

The 21st November was spent at sea, heading south to Macquaire Island.

We have two days to explore the wonders of this superb island.

Birding Down Under: the Auckland Islands

Spirit of Enderby, offshore at Enderby Island.
My home from home!

It was a bit of a rough night until we entered more sheltered waters in the ley of Enderby Island. It was 19th November & I was excited about the days programme: a full day on Enderby Island! I elected to do the full circumnavigation of the island on foot & it was a brilliant day!

Our landing & our welcoming committee!
Shirley - now behave!
Male Hooker's Sea Lion protecting his patch.
Two males sparing for beach territory.
The one on the left proved to be the winner.

The pale one is a female who has arrived early
 on the beach.

Brown Skua patrolling the beach.

I landed in Sandy Bay with attendant Hooker’s Sea Lions. Most were males, staking out territory & waiting for the females to arrive, which will happen over the coming weeks. There were a couple of females on the beach which had arrived slightly early.

Peter Harrison talking about the day
 before we set off.
The Western Cliffs
Me at this brilliant place!
Looks peaceful, but very windy!
Hooker's Sea Lion
They re curious & do come close!

A couple of pairs of 
Light- mantled Sooty Albatross
breed on these cliffs.
The nest is on the green bit!
These birds are streamlined, so can nest on cliffs.
Banded Dotterel of the Auckland Island race
.A little paler than the mainland form.
The coast here is quite beautiful.
Part of the group exploring the island.
Eden taking me to the Shag colony.
I am so happy to be here at the bottom of the world!
Auckland Island Shag
This species is not that common, 
nesting in small scattered colonies
 around the islands.
This colony is probably the only one
 at the top of the cliffs!

Part of the blue eyed group.
A young bird.

Lower down on the rocks was this young
Yellow- eyed Penguin
Getting ready for its first venture into the sea.
An adult pair much further up the cliff.
This is the rarest penguin in the world!

Northern Giant Petrels were nesting in low numbers
 on the upland areas.
These birds struggle for take off!
Notice the red spot on the tip of the bill.

These birds feed on anything & are totally fearless.
Cute, but not for long!
Totally fearless!
Most of Enderby Island looks like this.
Brown Skuas nest in small numbers in this habitat.
Antarctic Tern

This always seems to be a low density
 nesting species, very different from its 
northern counterpart.

Rata forest also covers some of this island.

In the more open areas, parakeets occur,
Red Crowned Parakeet
Auckland Island  (Sub-antarctic) Snipe
This is a species I have wanted to see for sometime.
Totally awesome!
Auckland Island Pipit
An abundant species on the island.
Like many species here, totally fearless.

I walked the boardwalk to the Western Cliffs & then walked clockwise around the island. It was very open & windswept with all four seasons sometimes in one hour! Everything from sunshine to rain & even hail. Exhilarating stuff!

Best birds included:

Auckland Island Flightless Teal
A bit of a mega!

2 Auckland Island Flightless Teal; 15+ Yellow eyed Penguin; 12 Southern Royal Albatross; 5 Light mantled Sooty Albatross; 40+ Northern Giant Petrel; 50+ Auckland Island Shag; 7 Auckland Island Banded Dotterel; Auckland Island Snipe; 8 Ruddy Turnstone; 5 Antarctic Tern; 60 Brown Skua; 30+ Red crowned Parakeet; 7 Auckland Island Tomtit; Auckland Island Pipit were very common & 80+ Common Redpoll.

We had a re-arrangement of the schedule as a lady had fallen on the ship during the previous nights rough seas & it appears she had broken her hip. So we stayed in sheltered waters.

I stayed in bed on the morning of 20th November. We stayed in place waiting for the helicopter to arrive & it duly did although a little later than anticipated, around 1pm.

Due to oncoming severe weather we stayed in the shelter of the island & made another landing to where coast watchers lived during World War Two. Several of these men became prominent New Zealand naturalists in later years. It must have been quite a tough life though.

We climbed to the top of the hill & enjoyed fantastic views over this amazing sub antarctic landscape.

Due to the bad weather, we stayed at anchor in a sheltered bay & only set sail heading south down the main island during the night.

I was on deck early on the 21st November. It was quite rough, with lots of spray but not too bad. There were a lot of White capped Albatrosses about & I managed to find a Sub Antarctic Shearwater. Had fairly good views through the binoculars & managed a couple of record shots.

As we entered Carnley Harbour (which is a huge entrance to a sunken caldera) I spotted a diving petrel. The very striking white underwing & white scapular markings confirmed it as the so called South Georgia Diving Petrel. I say this because current research will almost certainly prove this to be a new species for science & called Sub Antarctic Diving Petrel!

We then made a landing in Tagua   Bay & walked through the rata forest to another lookout with a grand vista.

Early afternoon we headed south into the ocean. The weather was bad but according to the forecast should improve! It is a long sea haul of 360 nautical miles to Macquerie Island our next amazing destination.

I tried to get photos but it was impossible to be outside for safety reasons! I joined the other birders on the bridge but very quickly that number became reduced! It was a time for battening downs the hatches & for many taking to ones bed. I remained on the bridge for the next six hours. It was exhausting twisting & turning with the huge waves & sideways swells. But I stuck it out & was rewarded with a truly fantastic days birding.

Best birds included:

5 Gibson’s Wandering Albatross; Antipedian Wandering Albatross; 18 Wandering Albatross; 13 Southern Royal Albatross; Campbell Albatross; Grey Headed Albatross; 250 White Capped Albatross; 10 Light Mantled Sooty Albatross; 15+ Northern Giant Petrel; 15 Cape Petrel; 200+ Antarctic Prion; 10 Fairy Prion; 14 Mottled Petrel; 450+ White Headed Petrel; 10 White Chinned Petrel; 3,000++ Sooty Shearwater; 28 Subantarctic Little Shearwater; Grey backed Storm Petrel; 45+ Black bellied Storm Petrel; 23 South Georgian Diving Petrel; 25 Diving petrel sp; 10 Auckland Island Shag & 2 Antarctic Tern.

It was a terrific days seabirding but I had to leave the bridge in fading light & even worse sea conditions. It was bed time for me at 9 pm!