Thursday, 27 November 2014

Otago Peninsula Wildlife Cruise

We took a wildlife cruise with Monarch Wildlife Cruises this morning. We had booked online overnight after checking the weather prediction was for clear skies and light winds in the morning - not the best for albatross but good for general photography. The first tour of the day is also scheduled to go for longer than the others so we expected to get further out to sea enabling sighting of more seabirds. The cruise departs from a small dock in a sheltered bay in Otago Harbour a few km south of Taiaroa Head. We arrived there early so took the chance to revisit the lookouts at Taiaroa Head to see if we could get better views (and photographs) of the Spotted Shags seen on our previous visit on Sunday afternoon.

Spotted Shag, Taiaroa Head, Otago Peninsula, NZ
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x2 adaptor), ISO 400, f/5.6 1/3200
Spotted Shag, Taiaroa Head, Otago Peninsula, NZ
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x2 adaptor), ISO 400, f/7.1 1/500
Spotted Shag, Taiaroa Head, Otago Peninsula, NZ
Pentax K-3, ISO 400, Sigma 300mm f/2.8, f/2.8 1/1600
Spotted Shag, Tairoa Head, Otago Peninsula
Pentax K-3, ISO 400, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x2 adaptor), f/7.1 1/500

We also spotted a New Zealand Fur Seal frolicking in the water just off shore (the water surface is indicative of how calm it was - nothing like the 50+ kmh winds of Sunday).

NZ Fur Seal, off Tairoa Head, Otago Peninsula
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x2 adaptor), f/8 1/640
NZ Fur Seal, off Tairoa Head, Otago Peninsula
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x2 adaptor), f/5.6 1/1000

...and then there were two...

NZ Fur Seal, off Tairoa Head, Otago Peninsula
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x2 adaptor), f/5.6 1/2500

Back at the Monarch Cruise office, Jo was negotiating a deal to combine the morning cruise with an evening visit to the Penguin Place (more on that in the next post) while I was more interested in the Little Shags and White-Fronted Tern on the dock outside.

The Little Shag is the same species (Phalacrocorax melanaluecos) as the Little Pied Cormorant in Australia but the New Zealanders have dropped the 'Pied' from the name as this species in NZ is highly variable in colouration, with some birds having white faces and fronts, similar to the Australian birds, while others have only white faces and some have only a small patch of white under the chin.

Little Shag, Otago Harbour, NZ
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8, ISO 400, f/11 1/320
Little Shag, Otago Harbour, NZ
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8, ISO 400, f/11 1/400
Little Shag, Otago Harbour, NZ
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8, ISO 400, f/11 1/320
Little Shag, Otago Harbour, NZ
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8, ISO 400, f/4 1/3200

The White-fronted Tern is a native of New Zealand and breeds in spring and summer all around the coast and several offshore islands. It is seen in Australia in winter but I have never seen it in breeding plumage in Australia so it was great to see so many looking resplendent in their black caps while were were in NZ.

White-fronted Tern, Otago Harbour, NZ
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8, ISO 400, f/5.6 1/2000

The first birding opportunity on the cruise is the colony of Stewart Island Shags on the sheltered side of Taiaroa Head.

Stewart Island Shag, Taiaroa Head, Otago Peninsula, NZ
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8, ISO 400, f/4 1/1000

This species is also variable in plumage with a pied phase (black with white front and white 'stripe' on upper wings) and a bronze phase (all dark brown-black).

Stewart Island Shag, Taiaroa Head, Otago Peninsula, NZ
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8, ISO 400, f/4 1/1600
Stewart Island Shag, Taiaroa Head, Otago Peninsula, NZ
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8, ISO 400, f/4 1/1250

The cruise provides great views of the lighthouse perched on top of Taiaroa Head

Taiaroa Head Lighthouse, Otago Peninsula, NZ
Pentax K-5, Tamron 80-200mm f/2.8, ISO 400, f/6.3 1/800

and the white heads of Northern Royal Albatross can be seen on nesting sites in the protected colony.

Northern Royal Albatross, Taiaroa Head, Otago Peninsula, NZ
Pentax K-3, SIgma 300mm f/2.8, ISO 400, f/4 1/1600

New Zealand Fur Seals were easily found basking on the rocks all around base of the cliffs

New Zealand Fur Seal, Taiaroa Head, Otago Peninsula, NZ
Pentax K-5, Sigma 300mm f/2.8, ISO 400, f/4 1/640

and the Spotted Shags nesting on the cliffs could be seen from a different angle,

Spotted Shag, Taiaroa Head, Otago Peninsula, NZ
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8, ISO 400, f/4 1/400

with some flying close past the boat.

Spotted Shag, Taiaroa Head, Otago Peninsula, NZ
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8, ISO 400, f/3.5 1/1/5000

Once further out to sea, we spotted a small flock of Sooty Shearwaters resting on the water.

Sooty Shearwater, off Taiaroa Head, Otago Peninsula, NZ
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8, ISO 400, f/3.5 1/6400
Sooty Shearwater, off Taiaroa Head, Otago Peninsula, NZ
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8, ISO 400, f/3.5 1/3200

as well as a Northern Giant Petrel and Cape Petrel (I can't quite bring myself to use the local common name of Cape Pigeon) taking turns trying to feed from a dead bird in the water.

Cape Petrel, off Taiaroa Head, Otago Peninsula, NZ
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8, ISO 400, f/4 1/3200
Northern Giant Petrel, off Taiaroa Head, Otago Peninsula, NZ
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8, ISO 400, f/4 1/6400

We spotted a fishing boat returning to port with a train of seabirds following it, so we headed closer to see what we could find.

Off Taiaroa Head, Otago Peninsula, NZ
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8, ISO 400, f/3.5 1/6400

First to arrive at our boat was a Southern Royal Albatross, first circling the boat,

Southern Royal Albatross, off Taiaroa Head, Otago Peninsula, NZ
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8, ISO 400, f/3.5 1/6400

then landing in our wake,

Southern Royal Albatross, off Taiaroa Head, Otago Peninsula, NZ
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8, ISO 400, f/3.5 1/4000

soon to be joined by several White-capped Albatross, a score or more Cape Petrels and a Northern Giant Petrel.

White-capped Albatross, off Taiaroa Head, Otago Peninsula, NZ
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8, ISO 400, f/3.5 1/8000
White-capped Albatross, off Taiaroa Head, Otago Peninsula, NZ
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8, ISO 400, f/3.5 1/3200
Cape Petrel, off Taiaroa Head, Otago Peninsula, NZ
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8, ISO 400, f/3.5 1/6400
Cape Petrel, off Taiaroa Head, Otago Peninsula, NZ
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8, ISO 400, f/3.5 1/8000
White-capped Albatross, off Taiaroa Head, Otago Peninsula, NZ
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8, ISO 400, f/3.5 1/4000
Northern Giant Petrel, off Taiaroa Head, Otago Peninsula, NZ
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8, ISO 400, f/3.5 1/4000

We, of course, wanted to stay much longer but, all too soon, the cruise had to head back for port.

Taiaroa Head, Otago Peninsula, NZ
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8, ISO 400, f/3.5 1/4000

2 comments:

  1. I'll resist making comments about the importance of avoiding all spoonerisms when spotting spotted shags on rocks... oh wait... no I won't...

    ReplyDelete

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