Trip Report

Westport pelagic – 2 June 2002

Paul Scofield organised a trip out of Westport at very late notice with Kina Scollay (Ocean Answers – 0800 OCEAN ANSWERS). Six of us (Paul Scofield, Sav Saville, David Lawrie, Barry Hartley, Rebecca Boulton and myself) plus skipper, departed Westport wharf at about 1000 and headed straight out into a somewhat rolling sea. There was a 2-3m+ swell running, but not much chop, so although conditions were uncomfortable for one member of the group (no points for correct guesses) most managed to keep their lunch down. Several showers passed overhead, and conditions were cold.

The first bird to be seen was a skua, being a probable Arctic, chasing white-fronted terns. The bird just kept heading away from us and defied any attempts to get close to it. Several spotted shag were spotted on the water as we headed out over reasonably shallow water (around 30m). A juv giant petrel did a brief flyby and we were briefly accompanied by several Hector’s dolphins (including a mother and calf that surfaced right beside the boat), and a little further and we started to come across small groups of fluttering shearwaters. Westland petrels put in brief appearances in ones and twos as we got out further and then the cry went up for ‘prion’. As usual the first two seen were definitely not fairy, but defied identification at the time. They were very pale birds flying low and fast and at the time were suggested to be thin-billed, although we were hoping to get better views later….this didn’t happen. Post-trip consultation of the books suggests this to be the most likely. A Northern royal albatross flew past but didn’t hang around. A juvenile gannet from this past season flew over which was an interesting sighting, considering it must have left the colony at least 1 month ago.

Further out we saw small groups of flutterers, and then a Pterodroma came in very fast at about 70m. It had disappeared before anyone could get decent views, but we suspect it was the same white-headed petrel that then appeared at more of a distance, but giving longer views. The bird stayed well off but was in the area for probably 5 minutes or so. We were about 12 miles off Westport and stopped to chum a bit of tuna that we had on board and this brought in several Southern Buller’s albatross to the back of the boat, and several Cape petrel also came in. Diving petrels were zooming past in ones and twos and several birds were seen close up on the water. Another Northern Royal made a pass and several white-capped albatross were also seen.

We motored slowly around the area, and on three occasions had very distant and tantalising views of dark storm-petrels (with white rumps), possible Wilson’s SP.

We started to head back in. Calling in past the Steeples on the way, there were large numbers of spotted shags and fur seals on these rocks. We arrived back in port at about 1530.

Birds seen –

Black-backed gull
Red-billed gull
Arctic skua 1
White-fronted tern c.20+
Spotted shag 200+
Giant petrel sp. 1 juv
Fluttering shearwater c.200+
Westland petrel 30+
Prion sp. 2
Fairy prion 50+
Buller’s albatross c.20
Northern royal albatross 2
Common diving petrel c.20
Cape petrel 8
Unidentified storm-petrel 3
White-capped albatross 5+
Gannet 3 + 1 juv
Little blue penguin 1
White-headed petrel 1
Little shag 2
Large black shag 2