Wednesday 15 January 2014 73 °F
Today was an action-packed, awesome, seabird-full day of birding at sea, known by birders as pelagic birding. Disclaimer: It is EXTREMELY hard to snap photos of active birds while on a constantly moving boat, especially when you are quite a distance from them, so most of the photos shown today will be pretty blurry.
At about 9 in the morning, we boarded our boat at the local wharf for an all-day tour of the Bay of Islands, focusing on the history of the area, the seabirds, and other marine creatures.
One of our first stops was at a colony of Australasian Gannets, however my first true seabird passed by our boat just before we arrived there. It was a BLUE PENGUIN! It is amazing that these penguins can survive in a subtropical climate, similar to western California, where the daily high temperatures rarely get lower than 60 degrees, even in winter. Here is a cruddy photo of the penguin:
Then we arrived at the gannet colony. Here are a few shots:
The colony itself:
Australasian Gannet parent and chick
Australasian Gannet adult in flight
Also present at the gannet colony was a flock of WHITE-FRONTED TERNS. Here is a picture of one:
Then, we headed out of the bay and into the open ocean, and we saw a plethora of shearwater and petrel species. It was a birding extravaganza! The species I positively identified included BULLER'S, FLUTTERING, SHORT-TAILED, and FLESH-FOOTED SHEARWATERS along with SLENDER-BILLED PRION, and petrel species such as COOK'S, BLACK-WINGED, CAPE, and SOFT-PLUMAGED PETRELS. Buller's Shearwaters and Cook's Petrels are threatened species, so it was quite a treat to see them. Here are the photos:
Buller's Shearwater (threatened species)
Cook's Petrels (threatened species)
After the venture into the open ocean, we went back into the bay and stopped at a very peaceful island. When I looked into the water, I happened to see this Snapper fish:
There were a few good birds on the island, also, such as the ones below:
Black-billed Gull, a threatened species
Then, while we were heading back to the wharf at Paihia, the skipper spotted a pod of Bottlenose Dolphins (Coastal subspecies), so he directed the boat over to the pod and I was able to snap a few photos of them.
All of the marine non-bird animals seen today were Sting and Eagle Rays, Snapper Fish, Bottlenose (Coastal) Dolphins, jellyfish, and more. Marine non-bird animal of the day goes to the pod of Bottlenose (Coastal) Dolphins. Bird-of-the-day goes to the Buller's Shearwater, which, despite being a threatened species, was one of the most common and obliging pelagic species present today.
World Life List: 467 (up from 457 yesterday)