Trip Report

Tolaga Bay pelagic – 4 December 2004

Participants : Bert Lee (skipper), Tim Barnard, Steve Wood, Roger McNeill, Eric Preston (USA) and Sav Saville (Wrybill Tours – organiser).

Another excellent day on the water out of Tolaga Bay aboard MV Osprey, in light westerly winds and a slight swell, which made viewing conditions near perfect. We were off to a good start with 2 Arctic skuas (one light and one dark phase) almost as we cleared the bar. Over the next few minutes, and still well within the Bay, we slowed for a large, fragmented pod of common dolphins, perhaps 120 animals, which gave excellent views.

Steaming out to the reef, at about 17 nm offshore, there was a steady stream of birds – mostly flesh-footed, fluttering and Buller’s shearwaters, but including a young black-browed albatross, a Buller’s albatross, a giant petrel sp and at least 5 little shearwaters. White-faced storm-petrels were also in evidence with at least 8 on the outward journey (recent arrivals in the area, with the first one of the season only a few days ago). Another skua several miles offshore may have been a pomarine rather than Arctic.

We anchored at the reef for about 4 hours with the following birds in attendance for most of the time:

Wandering Albatross 3 – all presumed Gibson’s, including one immature
Salvin’s Albatross 3
White-capped Albatross max 5 – 3 ads, 2 imms
Northern Royal Albatross 2
White-faced Storm-petrel c20
Flesh-footed Shearwater c200
Buller’s Shearwater c100
Little Shearwater 1
Sooty Shearwater 2+
Short-tailed Shearwater c10 (NB Short-tailed outnumbering Sooty by about 5:1
Black Petrel 1
Common Diving Petrel 5
Grey-faced Petrel 3+
Cook’s Petrel 3 (plus another 3 too distant for id but probably this sp)
Bert told us that Cookilaria petrels have been scarce so far this summer, arriving later than normal as well.

Including the “split” White-capped/Salvin’s this gave us a total of 20 pelagic species for the day, a diversity that is hard to match anywhere in New Zealand. Many thanks to Bert for once again allowing us an insight into “his” birds off Tolaga. The next trip is scheduled for Sunday 27 Feb – right in the period where Bert has had white-naped petrel for the last several years, and a time when the place should be alive with pterodromas and who knows what else…….