3-12-2004

Time to make the step to South Island. The weather luckily was a lot better
than yesterday with blue skies and only a fair bit of wind. We boarded the Wellington
Picton Ferry Interislander (NZ $ 280,- for the car and two adults, should be booked in
advance, see the Interislander site). This ferry is a great opportunity to see seabirds. The
harbour offered a few Spotted Shags (Phalacrocorax punctatus, Gevlekte Aalscholver).
It took a while before the seabirds started to come. My first life albatross flew passed the
boat…. unidentified. Luckily I found about 10 albatrosses of the Shy type, of which I
could identify 4 as New Zealand White-capped Albatross (Thalassarche cauta,
Witkapalbatros) and 1 Salvin’s Albatross (Thalassarche salvini). At least 5 Westland
Petrels (Procellaria westlandica, Westlandstormvogel) were close enough for
identification. But the most impressive were not the Albatrosses but the huge numbers of
prions in the Cook Strait. There must have been hundreds. Sometimes I counted 30 birds
in one binoc sight. Some followed the boat pretty close. With my lack of experience I
could only identify Fairy Prion (Pachyptila turtur, Duifprion) with certainty.
In Picton we had only just over an hour to get some food before boarding the boat for a
Queen Charlotte Sound Trip. We went with Dolphin Watch Ecotours, with a friendly,
knowledgeable and fanatic crew. Even at the afternoon trip -where they don’t visit the
Rough-faced/King Shag colony- they can nearly guarantee one of these very rare shags.
On board we met Brent Stephenson from Wrybill Tours with his two clients Ron Hoff
and Dollyann Myers. The first Rough-faced Shag (Phalacrocorax carunculatus,
Wrattenaalscholver) was found by the crew and that bird showed very well. We were
treated with great views of 4 Hector’s Dolpin (Cephalorhynchus hectori) and a bunch of
Dusky Dolphins (Lagenorhynchus obscurus). This all in the best weather man can wish.