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