Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Welcome Home Huttons Shearwater

An event to celebrate the return of the Hutton's shearwater is planned for Saturday 24th September 2011.

The event kicks off at 2.00pm at South Bay Recreational Reserve with a karakia and welcome by Te Runanga O Kaikoura followed by kite flying and refreshments.

From 4.30pm there is a Rugby World Cup street festival at West End, Kaikoura and at 6.30pm all are welcome to attend the Mayfair Theatre for a special Wildlife Film, just a gold coin entry donation.

For further information, please click on the following link:

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Report from our last full day pelagic trip

If you are contemplating joining us for our all day pelagic trip on 30th July then you may be interested in what happened on our last trip in April.

Our regular team of Rob Lawrence, Igor Debski, Steve Wood and Peter Langlands were joined by Andrew Crossland, Niall Mugan, Philip Crutchely, Robbie Hewson and Ian Jury for our post equinox deep-sea trip.

We met at Albatross encounter at 0530 and were on the water by 0600, pitch black and a flat sea, no wind but light rain. After an hour of heading straight out at first light someone spotted a Storm petrel so we stopped and put the chum in and waited.

The feeling is always electric at this time and it wasn’t long before people were calling birds as they arrived, royals, white chinned and Westland petrels. The list continued Arctic Skua, Brown Skua and then some-one yelled “LONG-TAILED SKUA” and there it was with a great tail but almost tern sized (it is the smallest of the Skua’s). One flight though and gone but what a buzz. It was a lifer for many of us and a first for Ocean Wings. Pete Langlands got a great shot. Three species of Skua on the one trip is another record for us.

We shifted camp after seeing several grey-backed storm petrels and headed out to the 18nm line where we encountered a Wilsons storm petrel, grey-faced petrel and lots of fairy prions. There was a noticeable absence of cape petrel, giant petrel and wandering albatross on the outside.

We headed back towards South Point being followed by a brown skua, the heaviest of the skuas where the females are larger than the male which is the opposite of gulls, albatross and petrels. Not much happening there so onto Shearwater ally where we found a rather thin looking yellow -eyed penguin and a few little blue penguins.

There was some hope that we might see a great shearwater after Sav and I had seen one a couple of weeks ago but alas that was not to be though we had a great upwelling with 1000’s of gulls and shearwater’s feeding on the red krill with schools of cuta leaping out of the water to end what was one of our best deep water pelagic trips.

There was also a white-faced storm petrel, Salvin’s albatross and an Australasian gannet seen by Andrew that I had missed so three different species of storm petrel on one trip is another first for us.

If you are tempted then please contact our reservations team as spaces are still available but are limited. Should you wish to book this tour you can make a reservation by either calling us on 0800 733 365 or by emailing Encounter Reservations on

Gary's Kermadec Trip onboard RV Braveheart

On the 9th of May Gary was fortunate to go on a scientific expedition to the Kermadec Islands with Te Papa, Auckland Museum, Department of Conservation, Australian Museum and Radio N.Z. The trip was fortunate with the weather so a lot of work was possible and a great result was achieved.

The Kermadec's are our most Northern most islands and there are sub-tropical as well as tropical birds many of which breed there. There were some marvellous views of red tailed tropic birds, wedged tailed and little shearwaters. One afternoon, Gary watched a frigate bird catching small fish alongside the ship by dipping whilst still on the wing and was successful time and time again. They also chase the boobies like a skua would.

During my night time watches I would go around the ship and find the birds that had landed on the decks, scoop them up and have a bird in the hand experience. The white faced storm petrels were very common along with the wedge-tails and I also saw either a Phoenix or a Tahiti Petrel fly through but it was a brief sighting so I was not sure which one it was.

One thing that was a big surprise was when Clinton caught a large kingfish and three little shearwaters were found in its stomach all at the same level of being digested. This fish had specialized the art of birds for breakfast and it makes you wonder how many birds go this way. When you think about it the birds would be highly visible to these large and fast fish and I have attached a photo of these birds.

The expedition was mainly about the underwater side and amazing it is. I have dived a lot of the South Pacific but the Kermadec's stands out as one of the best places and I heard some of the professional divers say that some of these dives were the best in their lives. I always feel privileged every time I go there as it's not easy to get there but "Braveheart" goes quite regularly and some times they have room for one or two people. Check out their website and also the Auckland Museum for the Kermadec site with lots of video footage

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Full day pelagic bird tour in July

We are running an all day pelagic bird tour. The plan is to head about 20 miles offshore from Kaikoura on Saturday 30th July 2011 (with Sunday 31st as a back-up). We will get an early start to the day and head off at first light usually around 7am. We do need a minimum of 7 people and the cost is $175 per person which includes hot drinks and a packed lunch. We hope to see a wider range of species of pelagic birds and lots of albatross.

Spaces are limited, and should you wish to book this tour you can make a reservation by either calling us on 0800 733 365 or by emailing Encounter Reservations on

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Unknown Shearwater

On the 1pm tour on the 7th or March (and his birthday incidently!) Gary spotted this very unusual looking shearwater, we are not sure what it is yet but will keep you posted as the theorys arise! please comment if you have any clues.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Weeks Report from Brent Stephenson

One of New Zealand's premier bird watchers, Brent Stephenson of Wrybill Tours and Eco-Vista photography was down in Kaikoura for the week and has posted his report on the birding New Zealand forum:

Hi all,
Just heading home from a great 9 days in the South Island, with most time spent in Kaikoura. In all I managed to get out on six trips during this time. Good numbers of the usual suspects with the most common albatross being NZ wandering (all probably Gibson’s with no classic Antipodean seen) and Salvin’s. Over the six tours we did have a single Buller’s alb and latterly several black-browed, with white-capped seen in small numbers and one or two Southern Royals on most trips. Lots of Northern giant petrels, but no Southerns, Westland petrels were common, but only one or two white-chinned petrels per trip, and lots of Cape petrels of course. Sooty shearwaters put in an appearance in big numbers last week, obviously being held up after one of the southerlies, and then small numbers on most trips with ones and twos of short-tailed shearwaters on most trips also. Yesterday (Tues 19 Oct) we had the first Buller’s shearwater during my stint down there, and an ANTARCTIC FULMAR which made a brief pass of the boat before disappearing.
Today (Wed 20 Oct) we had 50+ fairy prions after the southerly last night, with no different prions amongst them – I checked a lot of them and took a lot of photos too, but yet to check those. The star of today however, was a GREY-BACKED STORM-PETREL which came in whilst we were pretty close in and fed in the slick for more than ½ and hour, at times being within 5m of the boat. Excellent views of this great little bird.
A big thanks to Dennis and Lynette at,
and Jo and Alex for their hospitality. Thanks heaps guys!
I will post some photos here in the next day or so.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Gary helps with albatross rescue

On Saturday Gary helped with the rescue of an old friend of his. A local charter fisherman, Ian Croucher saw a female Gibsons wanderer with close to 100m of braided fishing line wrapped tightly around her legs. He immediately called Gary who encouraged him to 'have a go'! at retreiving the bird onto his boat. Other than a knock on the head from one of her wings Ian managed to get the bird onto his boat and bring her into the marina. Gary met him there and the pair of them preceded to cut the line off her and were pleased to see the blood return to her leg and no apparent permanent damage.

Once the bird was cut free Gary took her back out to sea on Lissodelphis (one of the Dolphin Encounter vessels) where he released her and after a stretch of her wings she was happy to use both feet to sim off.

This female is special to Gary as she is the most sighted banded bird in the Kaikoura region. She is a 15 year old female Gibsons who is known to have had 3 different attempts at courship with no success (she is still single!) - Gary thinks it is because she knows how beautiful she is!

There is no doubt that without the keen eyes of Ian Croucher and both the skippers freeing her she would not have lasted long, so a great story.

See the Marlborough Express article.