Trip Report

Milford Sound to Auckland cruise – 1-10 December 2005

Recently back from working on a cruise ship between Milford Sound and Auckland. Some good areas covered, but often had to be in places other than outside birding at the best times, although saw some good birds along the way. A brief outline of the highlights below –

As we hit the sea at the entrance to Milford Sound small pod of dusky dolphins and amongst them were several Fiordland-crested penguins. One lone FCP was standing on one of the boulder beaches near the entrance also. Further out to sea 10s of white-capped and 1-2 Southern Royal albs, amongst 100s of sooty shears.

Nice to see so many variable oystercatchers, several with young chicks, whilst zodiac cruising around Pickersgill Harbour and Indian Island area in Dusky Sound. As we departed Dusky Sound and head around towards the Foveaux Strait in the early evening a lot of bird activity with 3m+ swell and 25 knot winds. Southern Royal albs 2+, white-capped albs 100s, Salvin’s alb 1+, giant petrel sp 10s, sooty shears1000s, Cape petrel 10s, Cook’s petrel 10s, Westland petrel 2, MOTTLED PETREL 10s, SOFT-PLUMAGED PETREL 1, prion sp 5 distant, common diving-petrel 10s, Australasian gannet 1, Arctic skua 1. A bit of a different feeling seeing soft-plumaged and mottled petrels whilst wearing a suit and sipping G&Ts!

Royal spoonbill feeding near shipping channel heading into Dunedin up the Otago Harbour. Stewart Is shags common in open sea as we arrived and departed. At least one Hooker’s sealion on Pipikaretu Beach on the Otago Peninsula.

Two Arctic skua in Akaroa Harbour.

Rounding Cape Palliser and heading north along the Wairarapa coast a good selection of birds. Royal alb sp 1, wandering alb (prob Gibson’s) 1, white-capped alb 5, Salvin’s alb 1-3, CHATHAM ALB 1 with another possible imm bird, grey-faced petrel 5-10, Westland petrel 1, Buller’s shear 5-10, fluttering shear 10+ (alas no Manx!), and a small pod of dolphins distant, probably bottle-nosed.

INTERMEDIATE EGRET seen roosting right beside road near the Ngaruroro River mouth near Napier.