Trip Report

Hauraki Gulf – 8 February 2004

MV Assassin – Skipper :Brett Rathe

Participants: Barry Hartley, Chris Cooke, Glenn Wilken, Patrick and Andy Lannan (USA), Bill Johnston (USA), Tony Palliser (Aus), Phil Hansbro (Aus), Mike Carter (Aus), Sean Dooley (Aus), Sav Saville (Wrybill Birding Tours – Organiser).

Weather: Fine, very light S – SW winds, little swell, slightly choppy.

The trip was organised solely to look for NEW ZEALAND STORM-PETREL (NZSP), with any other birds looked upon as a bonus. Brett took us straight out to a point north of Little Barrier, virtually ignoring (at our behest) 3 Arctic Skuas, several Buller’s and Flesh-footed Shearwaters, 50+ Cook’s Petrels, a Short-tailed Shearwater and many White-faced Storm-petrels.

Once we had stopped, it took less than 5 minutes for the first NZSP to arrive, greeted by whoops of joy from more than one participant!! The 4 Australians had made a rare “International Twitch” across the Tasman just for this bird.

Over the next hour or so we were treated to about 10 sightings of NZSP, and there were, at the very least, 3 different individuals. The sky was also effectively alive with Cook’s Petrels all this time, and although we spent most time on the NZSPs there was much debate about possible Pycroft’s as well.

Around lunchtime we pressed on out to Maori Rock to take a quick look at about 40 Grey Ternlets, had a very brief stop for a bite of lunch, and then headed back towards a spot that Brett thought might provide stormies in the prevailing conditions.(He was right!)

For the next couple of hours we had a non-stop feast of cookilarias and stormies. Numbers are very hard to judge at the best of times, but there were something between 500 and 1000 Cook’s Petrels, 5 or 6 claims of Pycroft’s (I’m certain enough of 2 of them) and 30 or 40 sightings of NZSP (of, we think, at least 10 individuals). The views were outstanding in excellent conditions. Though probably not quite as close as Brent’s 18 Jan trip, our birds were often less than 10m from the boat.

A huge day for all of us, and a novel experience for me – seeing a NZSP and knowing that it was one!!

Estimates of numbers:
Arctic Skua 3
Pomarine Skua 1
Fluttering Shear 1 (only)
Flesh-footed Shear 50+
Buller’s Shear 60+
Short-tailed Shear 1
Sooty Shear 3
Little Blue Penguin 9
White-faced Storm-petrel 80+
Cook’s Petrel 500+
Pycroft’s Petrel 2+
Grey Ternlet 40+
Black Petrel 10+