First thing after we had parked the van was a little explore. Our Fish & Chip shop where we had eaten on our last trip south was closed for repairs as was a few others. A casuality of the 2016 earthquake. The township was alive with tourists which was good to see. One of the prayer requests on the church newsletter was for an increase in tourists. There is also an area of about seven temporary houses for those displaced in the earthquake. Overall though businesses seem to have survived and are recuperating.
We did our washing at the BP Service Station. Big modern machines with dryers to match. $4.00 for each machine. We stocked up with food at New World super market while the clothes were washing and while they were drying we had a coffee next door to BP. Next was a trip to Encounter Kaikoura to book into the Albatross Encounter trip. This would be our second trip out having done so on our last trip here. This would be the best place in the world to see Pelagic (feeding in the ocean) Birds.
Gibson’s Wandering Albatross and Cape Petrel
It was an early start Saturday morning, the boat leaving at 0545, so early to bed with the alarm set for 0500. Our little group of bird watchers were all there on time and we set off for the boat. Judy and I plus the skipper and seabird expert Gary were the only Kiwis out of the eight.
The sea was calm with a 1/2 metre swell and vertually no wind. It couldn’t have been better. The birds were with us in minutes swooping and gliding past us. When we stopped they landed right beside us. I could have reached out and touched them but have you seen the beaks on those albatrosses? I would not recommend it. We moved on close to a fishing boat in 50 metres of water and then over the trench. That’s a depth of 1 km beneath us and the reason for the number of pelagic birds, whales, dolphins and seals.
Over the trench.
Our pelagic count was 24 albatrosses and mollymawks (5 types), 28 petrels (4 types), 12 shearwaters (2 types), There were also 330 gulls both red billed and black backed. I was disappointed that we only saw 2 Hutton Shearwaters. They are endemic to the Kaikoura area only breeding in the Seaward Kaikoura Ranges. Limited to two valleys. I asked Gary about them and he said that there had not been any in depth survey of them after the earthquake but it was thought that they were down by 20%. I hope they recover.
From the sea a slip in the Seaward Kaikoura Ranges has produced this owl on its hills
A trip then into an island just off the coast highway. Here there were some baby 2 week old seals and their grown up protectors. Seals normally birth one pup once a year, then a routine of 5 days feeding and 2 days with their pup. Weaning is about 9 months. During their mothers absence the older seals look after them.
Also seen at the island rock were about 25 White Fronted Terns and some Black Backed Gulls and their young. On the way we out we passed an Australasian Gannet, apparently a not very common bird here.
The trip was about 2 1/2 hours and I would recommend it for anyone interested in birds. People come world wide to experience this. I thought the cost was very reasonable especially as they limit the amount of people so a good view and photo opportunity is available and Gary is a world renown expert on identifying pelagic birds.