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  • Matt

Stomach for the south

I finished June's post with a lifer and am beginning this instalment with another one!

During the shoulder season, the Aurora (the boat that I guide on pelagics in summer) is often chartered to take hunting parties to remote parts of Stewart Island.  Hunting parties range in size with anything up to a dozen guys "going bush" for a week or more in search of Virginia White-tailed Deer and the less common Red Deer.  

Ty, skipper of the Aurora asked if I wanted to join him on a trip down to Port Pegasus with one such hunting party so we loaded up with about 8 large tubs of gear and their dinghies, for the four hour journey south.

As they say down in this part of the world, the sea was a bit sloppy.  The group started to turn a shade of pea green and a few lost their breakfast.  Some lost their dinner from the night before too.

It was perfect conditions for birds so I was out on the back deck scanning for anything unusual that we might encounter.  The unwell came outside, although for different reasons, so I left them feeding the fish and went into the wheelhouse.  Among the hundreds of Buller's Albatross was a lone Sooty Shearwater heading south.  Not sure where he was going or what he was up to but all his relatives are in the Northern Hemisphere feeding in the Bering Sea off Alaska and off the coast of California.  I also picked up a lone White-headed Petrel flying south.

About half way into our journey I saw a small bird heading straight towards us, my first thought was that it was a Broad-billed Prion.  The waves were about 3-4 metres high and it kept disappearing behind a wall of water but it had a very noticeable dark collar and the stand out feature was an obvious white tip to the tail.  Alarm bells started ringing - I knew this bird but had never seen one before.  The bird did a full circle of the boat to give us a better look and after checking the field guide we keep on the boat, it was a confirmed lifer … a Blue Petrel!  What a smart bird - and the bonus of a Stewart Island tick.  

Not common around New Zealand's main three islands so I'm pleased to get this on my New Zealand list.

In the company of Alberts! Kayaking around Ulva Island, Stewart Island NZ
In the company of Alberts!

We've had some real cold snaps this winter but one particularly bright crisp chilly day I was offered an opportunity I could not refuse.  My mate Phil and his wife Annett own guest accommodation and a sea kayak business here on Stewart Island and they asked if I'd like to join them for a paddle around Ulva Island.  I spend a lot of time here; I've walked around Ulva Island, seen it from the air; and been around it on various boats but this would be a very different and special way to see 'my office'.  

Bottlenose Dolphin
Bottlenose Dolphin

The sea was clear and calm, hardly any wind, and we took around four hours to circumnavigate Ulva Island.  It was an awesome trip plus the bonus of close encounters with a few White-capped Albatross loafing around the eastern tip of the island.

Talking of close encounters, I was very fortunate to 'meet' the resident pod of Bottlenose Dolphins.  I haven't had my camera out very much recently, but very glad I did on this occasion.

While pottering around the garden, a visitor had me rushing for my bins, in the shape of a lone Brown Creeper.  This is only the second time I've seen one in my garden; the first time was three years ago and there were three birds - on both occasions they chose the same tree.

On the work front, the 2015/16 season looks to be heading for another busy one with bookings already coming in.



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