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Seabirds at Kaikoura, New Zealand

Seabirds at Kaikoura 28-29/9/06

The drive from Christchurch to Kaikoura is 195 kilometer. Our Albatross encounter with Oceanwings were set to start at 8:50 am.
The alarm failed to go off so I had to do the drive at a speed I normally would prefer to avoid. It is not an easy task to get 3 youngsters and wife up that early for a long drive but somehow we managed to get there in time.
It rained and drizzled all the way though making me wonder whether the
trip would take place or not.

The people at Oceanwings whom I had been in contact with were all very accommodating and cheerful whether on the phone or through e-mail.
Now, face to face I was equally impressed with their services. Very friendly!

The skipper, Gary, came to pick us up with a van. We were warned rather strongly that the seas were rough and anyone liable to seasickness should think twice. This made my 11 year old back down but my older boy stayed with it.

Off we went in the misty conditions (not what I had hoped for from a photographic point of view). Waves were rolling and the boat banged against the high seas.

The ride didn’t last very long until we passed another boat with ‘frogmen’ playing with Dusky Dolphins. Not far from here our first Cape Pigeons started to appear.
It may be a common bird but for me it was a lifer and something I had awaited with anticipation. Lots and lots of endemic Hutton’s Shearwaters skimmed the water surface. These birds breed in the area in burrows onland and feed right outside Kaikoura bay.

Not much later we stopped and Gary let down the chum. (I didn’t smell a thing).

Several Cape Pigeons flew in to be the first to munch on the goodies. They were soon followed with up to half a dozen Northern Giant Petrels. These birds look more like juvenile reincarnations of the Dodo bird. They fought each other over the food but had to give away for a massive Wandering Albatross that soon controlled the ‘ring’.

Skipper Gary called out each species and helped with the ID-ing. This was a first pelagic trip for me so I was thankful for his presence.
Soon several wonderfully looking Salvin’s Albatrosses joined the party. Their faces looking delicately painted soon became my favorite. Only one White-capped Albatross showed up but even one was great as they all were lifers for me.

We went on to another spot and here both Northern and Southern Royal Albatross appeared. These are Shy Albatrosses and it seemed that they were accurately named as they slowly moved in for the feast.

A couple of Western Petrels came around to be the final pelagic for the trip.

We were also taken to some rocks where New Zealand Fur Seals were sunning.

My son got his first taste of being seasick as did another lady from Japan.
As for me, I simply loved the experience and felt richly blessed to have been able to go on such a remarkable trip.

The day following we went on a Dolphin encounter, this time with the 2 younger kids. Blue skies and calm seas, lots of dolphins but not many birds. Being a passionate birder I much preferred the Albatross encounter.

Oceanwings gave us excellent services and the people on the dolphin encounter were very enthusiastic and dedicated to their work and love for the sea creatures.

I hope these pictures somewhat will depict the experience. I would have preferred better light and calmer seas. As it was I had to use my 28-135 zoom lens with IS instead of my preferred 400mm F5:6.
Cape Pigeon
Cape Pigeon
Cape Pigeon
Cape Pigeon
Cape Pigeon
Cape Pigeon
Cape Pigeons
Cape Pigeons
Huttons Shearwater
Huttons Shearwater
Huttons Shearwater
Huttons Shearwater
Hutton's Shearwaters
Hutton's Shearwaters
Northern Giant Petrel
Northern Giant Petrel
Northern Giant Petrel
Northern Giant Petrel
Northern Giant Petrel
Northern Giant Petrel
Northern Giant Petrels
Northern Giant Petrels
feeding frenzy
feeding frenzy
Snowy (Wandering) Albatross
Snowy (Wandering) Albatross
Snowy (Wandering ) Albatross
Snowy (Wandering ) Albatross
Gibson's (Wandering) Albatross
Gibson's (Wandering) Albatross
Snowy  (Wandering) Albatross
Snowy (Wandering) Albatross
Snowy (Wandering) Albatross
Snowy (Wandering) Albatross
Antipodean (Wandering) Albatross
Antipodean (Wandering) Albatross
Snowy (Wandering) Albatross
Snowy (Wandering) Albatross
Northern Royal Albatross
Northern Royal Albatross
Southern Royal Albatross
Southern Royal Albatross
Southern Royal Albatross
Southern Royal Albatross
Westland Petrel
Westland Petrel
White-capped Albatross
White-capped Albatross
Salvin's Albatross
Salvin's Albatross
Salvin's Albatross
Salvin's Albatross
Salvins Albatross
Salvins Albatross
Salvin's Albatross
Salvin's Albatross
White-capped Albatross
White-capped Albatross