Trip Report

Whitianga pelagic – 6 November 2003

Departed Whitianga Marina at 1345, arriving back 2055, onboard ‘Infinity’

PARTICIPANTS: John Neighbours (Skipper), Andy Kerr (deckie), Ross Silcock (organiser – part of his NZ tour with American clients), Steve Dinsmore, Steve’s Dad, Dave Ponds, Kirilee, Brent Stephenson, Sav Saville, and Tim Barnard.

WEATHER: Beautiful fine and sunny day, small amount of high cloud early on, coming and going, making viewing conditions great. Very light breeze to start with, barely ruffling the surface (<5 knots). Slowly built to about 5-10 knots by late afternoon. Sea almost flat as we headed out, a little worrying with the lack of birds to start with. However, <0.5m swell picked up at depth to c. 1m swell, still very comfortable and nobody felt ill.

We headed out in a fairly straight line from Whitianga Harbour, out past Ohinau Island towards the 100m mark. We reached this around 1500 (S36°42’41.18″ E175°58’48.04″), and followed it roughly north for about 3.5 kms, then drifted whilst chumming from 1525 until 1400 (from S36°41’03.15″ E175°59’47.83″ to S36°41’07.78″ E176°00’13.56″), drifting along the 100m line. We then motored out further and again drifted whilst chumming from 1625 until 1901 (S36°39’22.11″ E176°05’09.11″ to S36°39’14.85″ E176°07’59.13″). We then motored directly back to Whitianga.

On the way out to the 100m mark we saw remarkably little. Most birds were seen around the two chumming positions, and towards evening large numbers of Pycroft’s petrels were obviously heading back past us towards the Mercury Islands. Birds recorded throughout the day were –

Australasian gannet c30

White-fronted tern

Red-billed gull

Fluttering Shearwater – many hundreds, and lots were a long way offshore.

Flesh-footed shearwater – c100

Buller’s shearwater – c50

Sooty shearwater – c10

Short-tailed shearwater – at least 2

Little shearwater – c 25

Arctic skua – 1

Black-browed albatross – 1 immature (possibly a very young bird showing prominent grey mantle towards the nape and sides of neck)

Salvin’s albatross – 1 immature

White-capped albatross – 1

Northern giant petrel – 2

White-faced storm-petrel – c150

Common diving petrel – c1000

Grey-faced petrel – c30

Black petrel – 2+

Fairy prion – 2

Little blue penguin – c15

Pycroft’s petrel – c200

Cook’s petrel – 2 early on when we hadn’t quite got our eye in, were possibly Cook’s and one late on certainly seemed to fit plumage-wise, and seemed sleeker (less round-headed), longer-winged and shorter-tailed. Given the known variability of Pycroft’s plumage we think that it is unsafe to claim any Cook’s outside the Mercury Island’s purely on plumage – though the Pycroft’s did seem much less variable at this time of year in fresh plumage. We’d be interested to hear the thoughts of those that have extensive experience of Pycroft’s at the breeding sites.

We finished off the day between Whitianga and Kuaotunu, where we heard 2 male Brown kiwi and several morepork.

Sooty shearwater

Short-tailed shearwater

White-faced storm-petrel

Buller’s shearwater

Cook’s petrel