|Hi folks, |
Here is part the first of Birding Downunder, including a trip to Macca, a place every birder should try and get to at least once in their lifetime.
Birding Downunder: Subantarctic Islands of Australia and New Zealand
Dec 13-31 2005
by Phil Gregory
Birders on board included Tony Marr, Steve Howell, George Armistead, Debbie Shearwater and Steve Holloway. Run by Heritage Expeditions of Christchurch.
I was lucky enough to get invited onto the above trip, and here is a summary of the highlights. I strongly recommend it to anyone with an interest in seabirds, photography or the history of the subantarctic islands. The ship was the “Spirit of Enderby” aka “Professor Khromov” a Russian owned Finnish built 1982 vintage ice-breaker, carrying just 48 passengers and mercifully with none of the usual cruise ship /dress for dinner captains/ table stuff, all very informal and painless. Nathan and Rodney Russ and Shane Hunniford were excellent team leaders and we were in very competent experienced hands. They clearly love the area and enjoy sharing it with others, not just some faceless corporate-greed enterprise.
The strict quarantine measures taken should prevent transfer of noxious invasive plants; we scrubbed our boots both before and after the landings and dipped them in some seed killing substance whose name I forget.
At sea to Snares: Broad-billed Prion 1, thousands of Common Diving-petrels
Snares Islands Dec 14
Heavy fog blanketed the top of the islands but we were able to get in close to the penguin colony at Station Cove which was clear.
Snares Crested Penguin 350, Buller’s Albatross (southern), Antarctic Tern, Snares Is. Fernbird, Snares Is Tomtit (all black!)
Auckland Is (Enderby) Dec 15
Enderby has had all the feral animals eradicated and there are no longer cats or rabbits, so the megaherbs are regenerating wonderfully. Amazingly rats never got here.
Southern Royal Albatross, Light-mantled sooty Albatross, White-capped Albatross all nesting, Auckland Is Flightless Teal 8, Auckland Is (Subantarctic) Snipe 4, Auckland Is Shag, Red-necked Stint 1, Auckland Is Double-banded Dotterel common, Subantarctic Pipit (aka NZ Pipit. Australasian Pipit, Richard’s Pipit but a likely split) now common.
Also what looked like a dead Grey Petrel with its head caught in a tight fork in the shrubby trees there, an unusual record here apparently.
NZ Falcon one on Adams Is and one over the ship as we were leaving, amazingly grey looking and very different to birds on either N or South Island.
One of the most incredible sights here was when my mate George Armistead said he could see an octopus in the surf- I peered over the cliff edge and it was a huge giant squid, a veritable kraken washing about in the surf and looking very much the worse for wear, sinking from sight then resurfacing periodically. I reckon it was around 10m long with the body at least 3m in length. Just unbelievable and boy was I glad not to be swimming there…….
Snowy Albatross type one sat on the sea in Carnley Harbour between Adams and Enderby, it looked like a Mute Swan it was so white!
* Beware of Hooker’s Sea-lion, Shirihai states they are tamer than other sea-lions, well at this time of the year the young males are dead stroppy and we had several exciting stand-offs on Enderby and Campbell. Stand your ground is the advice, not so easy with several hundred kg of sea lion hurtling at you, though interestingly splashing them with a paddle works wonders if they try to stop you boarding your zodiac.
At sea NZ waters: Hundreds of White-capped Albatross, 70 Gibson’s Wandering Albatross
Macquarie Is Dec 18 and 19
A sad contrast to the NZ islands where so much has been done to restore the habitat. Here the cats have now been eradicated, but the rabbit population has boomed and there is severe damage to the plant communities, with much dead tussock right by the penguin rookeries and badly nibbled megaherbs by the walkway. Erosion is becoming a problem as a result. Plans exist to eradicate the rabbits, but need funding from Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife and/ or the federal government.
King Penguin, Rockhopper 6, Royal and Gentoo penguins, the Kings and Royals numbering thousands, Antarctic Tern 4, Light-mantled Sooty Albatross, Northern Giant Petrel, Southern Giant Petrel including several white morph.
Redpoll has had a big setback in a severe storm a couple of years ago and is now hard to find, our group only heard one fly over, being seen as a dot by one person! Listers take note. Starling 1
At sea Australian waters Dec 17 and 19: Grey-headed Albatross 1 imm. Black-browed Albatross few, Light-mantled Sooty Albatross, Soft-plumaged Petrel 1, White-headed Petrel quite common, Mottled Petrel fairly common, White-chinned Petrel few, Black-bellied Storm-Petrel common, Grey-backed Storm-Petrel fairly common, Common Diving-Petrel 2, Antarctic Prions abundant, Kerguelen Petrel 3
Prion identification seems to be largely a theological matter, requiring much faith even after you get photos……..I adopted a conservative course. Dozens apparently came on the ship one foggy night but none of us birders got to see them.