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.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Hutton's Shearwater Get Predator-Free Home

The Minister, visitors, supporters and Trust members are welcomed to the Hutton's shearwater colony on the Kaikoura Peninsula

The Hon Kate Wilkinson cutting the ribbon to officially open the newly established predator proof fence with some of the Trust members, Nicky McArthur, Teri Sonal and Dennis Buurman

Minister of Conservation Kate Wilkinson and Trust Chairman Paul McGahan planting a tree within the new Hutton's shearwater colony on opening day

Great news for the Kaikoura Hutton's Shearwaters.

Wellington, Aug 28 NZPA- Kaikoura has celebrated the building of predator-proof fencing for a new colony of Hutton's shearwater -- a seabird species unique to Kaikoura.

Hutton's shearwater are one of the few seabird species that have survived on the mainland of New Zealand. Today only two colonies are left.

Minister Kate Wilkinson attended the celebration at Takahanga Marae and thanked the community for their help.

With only two remaining breeding sites on the Kaikoura Ranges' mountain slopes, Hutton's shearwater faced a precarious future, Ms Wilkinson said.

The Department of Conservation has been working towards building a third colony and the Hutton's shearwater charitable trust raised $220,000 to build a 563m predator-proof fence around it on the Kaikoura Peninsula.

Between 2005 and 2008 about 270 chicks were moved to the 2ha site.

They were fed and cared for there until they fledged, with the intention they would recognise it as their home and would return there to breed.

A number of chicks were killed by cats which made the fence essential, Ms Wilkinson said.

"It's great to see the Kaikoura community working together to achieve conservation goals."

Saturday, August 7, 2010

All day Pelagic Report

Hi All

Here is Gary's report from the all-day pelagic tour that took place on the 31st of July. It looks like it was a great success and we will look at puttin gon a spring all-day tour around the spring equinox.

Heading out at 0630 into the dark and headed 120 on the compass. The forecast was not good but that didn't deter the the regular deep sea commandos that have come on every deep sea pelagic that we have done so far. As we got out the North swell started to build but no wind and as it got lighter we witnessed a spectacular red sky which is usual with a nor west forecast. We arrived at 0745hrs at the 18 N.Miles mark off shore that we visited in March that went so well, put the bait in the water and waited with coffee and hot chocolate,chatting while the hard core keept a sharp look out.

We stayed for 3hours at the out side range and had Royals, Black-brows, Shy's, Bullers, but no Wandering and very few Cape petrel which seemed a bit strange. Some great views of Grey faced and westland petrels.

Wind still holding off so we worked our way inshore with a few more stops on the way.
Found a fishing boat off the Conway river and spent some time with them and had the big numbers but still very few Wanderings (2).

One more stop on the inside bank off the Conway and last chance to get a Grey petrel or
Antarctic Fulmar and just as we stopped the cry when up “Fulmar” but it was the only one. The reason that we didn't get many of the other birds was probably the off shore breeze but it was an enjoyable trip and the wind held off and no one was sea sick.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

All Day Pelagic Tour Saturday 31st July

Hi All

It has got to that time of year again when we are planning a deep ocean all day pelagic tour to see what unusual species we can spot off the Kaikoura coastline.

The check in time is 6.00am on Saturday the 31st of July (with Sunday 1st August as a backup for weather). The reason for the early start is to be well offshore for first light.

The cost is $175 andwe can provide a packed lunch for $10.

For more info or bookings email: or call

on 0064 3 3196777 or freephone 0800 733365

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Blue Petrel Beach Wrecked

Local bird enthusiast Bev Elliot brought a beach wrecked bird in to Gary on Thursday. Gary took some photographs (which I will try and post up this week) and sent them around to some of his expert friends, although the tail feathers were missing the i.d. was unanamous and it is likely to be a blue petrel. This species is very unusual for Kaikoura and something we will be looking out for on our July tours.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Banded Gull

Kaikoura regular and ardent birder Peter Langlands snapped this black-billed gull on the beach and managed to ID the tag number, as it turns out it was banded as a chick in 2004 at Bayswater on the Aparima River , Southland.

Its great to see the distance the gulls travel to come to Kaikoura, must be something to do with the very productive food web we have here as caused by the constant upwellings and very deep water close to land.

Photo: Peter Langlands

Monday, March 22, 2010

Photos from All-Day Pelagic

Peter Langlands has sent some photos from the all-day pelagic tour, I will post them up as he sends them to us.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Offshore Pelagic tour 20th March

Hi All

Peter Langlands was on the tour and posted this species list and report on the birding forum:

On Saturday seven birders went out on the Albatross Encounter extended offshore pelagic. Going as far as 20 nm miles SE off Kaikoura Peninsula the trip was an outstanding success- The highlight was the sighting of Cook's, soft-plumaged and mottled petrel with the additional sighting of a FOURTH Cookilaria which may very well be a Gould's Petrel ( I have photos and will post them tomorrow when I get home). This was our finest hour- they came through in a short space of time in morning.
The trip list for the day ( from 8am- 3pm) is as follows
5 Northern royal albatross
2 Southern royal albatross
1 Gibsons albatross
1 Antipodean albatross ( immature)
1 black browed albatross- Campbell Island 10 NZ white -capped albatross
3 Salvin's albatross
3 Southern Buller's albatross
5 northern giant petrel
5 westland black petrel
15 white chinned petrel
10 cape pigeon (nominate)
3 Diving petrel
2 Fariry Prions
50 Huttons shearwater
10 bullers shearwater
1 Sooty Shearwater
5 Short tailed shearwater
6 Wilsons storm petrel
5 Brown skua- chased wandering albatross - ambition !!!
1 Pomarine skua
3 arctic skua
3 black billed gull - 10 miles offshore
5 black fronted tern up to 20 miles offshore

Thanks to Gary for being the skipper- a great day. Took 16 GB of photos !!!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Great Shearwater??

Hi All

Gary spotted what appeared to be a great shearwater thisafternoon on the Albatross Encounter tour. He has shown the photographs around some other pelagic experts and the consensus is that it is indeed a great shearwater (usual range is the south Atlantic) if it is confirmed it would make it only the 3rd sighting in New Zealand.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Visually Impaired Paul with Guide Dog Taupo enjoy an Albatross Encounter

Paul Kibblewhite participated on the 9am Albatross Encounter tour with his guide dog Taupo. He has been blind for the last ten years and has a keen interest in birds. Although he could not visually enjoy the tour he commented that the commentary was superb and he would definitely be recommending the tour to the visually impaired. The skipper/guideprovided on board commentary in much greater detail than usual by advising what species were approaching the boat and what their actions and behaviour was. Paul stated that he particularly enjoyed the vocalization of the albatross as they entered the feeding frenzy at the back of the boat.

Taupo slept for the entire tour at the front of the boat!