Trip Report

Auckland to Milford Sound cruise – 30 January – 8 February 2006

I just completed another cruise along the East Coast of New Zealand from Auckland to Milford Sound. Some interesting birds, with some interesting weather also.

Jan 30 – departed Auckland with rather dark, misty conditions in the evening. Of note were several Cook’s petrels that came onboard, and after dark birds could be heard following the boat calling to each other. Also one white-faced storm-petrel came onboard, but unfortunately no little black and white stormies! Guess I should have been eating Lasagne rather than fillet steak!

Feb 1 – on the way down the coast past Portland Island and heading into Hawke Bay. Small numbers of white-faced storm-petrels, Buller’s, flesh-footed, and fluttering shearwaters, Cook’s petrels, and of course gannets.

Feb 2 – heading around Cape Palliser on the way into Wellington. Started to see a few albatross – white-capped, Salvin’s, Buller’s, and at least two different Gibson’s types. Also one white-chinned petrel and one Westland petrel, and at least one giant petrel.

Feb 3 – spent the day on Motuara Island in the Marlborough Sounds and lucky enough to see a falcon on the island, apparently they have bred there this summer. Good numbers of the usual suspects, with several family parties of saddleback with the rather ‘odd’ looking juvenile ‘jackbirds’ (with little or no saddle present). Also one, possibly two reef herons in the area.

Feb 6 – Taiaroa Head and Dunedin. Awesome display by at least three Royal albatross sweeping around Taiaroa Head in the wind as we exited the Otago Harbour and then headed down the coast.

Feb 7 – heading south-west through Foveaux Strait towards Dusky and Doubtful Sounds. We encountered 30-40 ft seas and winds in excess of 50 knots so a little uncomfortable at times. The birds were having more fun than a lot of the passengers! Big numbers of sooty shearwaters and Buller’s albatross, with lesser numbers of white-capped and Salvin’s albs. Ones and twos of Southern Royal alb, Cook’s petrel, mottled petrel, and fairy prion. One small dark petrel which fleetingly headed past the ship (no real idea what that one was?!), and one possible Antarctic tern seen at a distance. However, perhaps the most notable birds of the morning were two grey-backed storm-petrels. They were still feeding in the 50+ knot winds!

Feb 8 – back in Queenstown, saw a juvenile falcon flying over the central city and land in one of the tall conifers just up out of the centre of town. Pretty hard to miss with all the squawking it was making!