Kawhia Pelagic Report (Aug 5)

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RussCannings
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Kawhia Pelagic Report (Aug 5)

Postby RussCannings » Mon Aug 06, 2018 6:19 pm

Hi all,

Yesterday--Sunday, August 5th--10 birders included myself braved the wet weather (including Oscar who was in shorts...) and hopped in "Venturer" for a day of pelagic birding. While the skies to the east certainly looked grim, there were actually blue skies in several directions as we steamed out of Kawhia Harbour around 7am. Fortunately, by heading around 22 miles offshore, we avoided the heavy rains on the mainland--instead experiencing high cloud with little to no rain during our transit out and back, but also some persistent light drizzle through much of our chum time. Fortunately the boat was comfortable with good overhead cover, however unfortunately wind often blue the mist into the boat which made keeping optics dry a bit of a challenge. But we're birders right? So it was about the birds--not being "dry" or "warm". So how did it go?

The strategy was pretty simple--head out to at least the 100m depth mark (about 18 miles west of Gannet Island or 22 miles west of Albatross Point on the mainland), and chum for a while, then get back before dark.

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Karioi flanked in cloud as we escape a drenching to the east--spirits high and buttocks dry...

After clearing Albatross Point, the first Fluttering Shearwaters started cruising by. I had worried that the relatively low winds might mean we wouldn't have many birds in the air but this turned out to be a non-issue it seemed. A few Common Diving-Petrels also buzzed past, as did White-fronted Terns and Australasian Gannets. Once we had left Gannet Island behind us the first Fairy Prions and mollymarks started to make regular appearances. The adult White-caps were all in primary moult, and an adult Campbell Albatross also gave us great views as it sat on the water. Prion numbers started to increase as we moved out deeper. We scanned each one hungrily for other species but couldn't confirm anything other than Fairy. Things seemed to be shaping up for a 'prion day' and this certainly turned out to be the case.

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Campbell Albatross--seen on the way out

Just as we were pulling up to our one and only chum site, a few people spotted a large swarm of prions to the south. We cruised up to what was easily over 4,000 prions feeding on what must have been a large about of plankton. Try and we might however, we could not turn ANY of them into anything other than Fairy. Ah well, chum out and wait! And wait... and wait.... certainly got visits from many prions, with steady numbers of them approaching from the south (mostly going to join the feeding frenzy that drifted away from us), along with various mollymawks and other bits.
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Prions prions everywhere, nor any a non-Fairy

Finally around 2pm, as the skipper was getting antsy to leave--David Riddell shouts, "THERE'S ONE! Right in front of us! GOTCHA!" Indeed, the closest bird---one that had been muttered on many a birder's lips that morning--a gorgeous Thin-billed Prion who stuck out like a... Thin-billed Prion with it's tail tip lightly dipped in brown, weak M marking on the wing, frosted edges to the wing coverts, extensive white in the face, and---thin bill! This little beauty stayed right beside the boat for around 10 minutes until we really did have to go. Even better was confirming at least TWO Thin-bills around the boat at the same time. So just in the nick-o-time, many on board (including myself) snagged a lifer.

I had written up a detailed eBird report which I was going to use for numbers but out of nowhere I was confronted by a "server error" message and all my copious notes and collated lists were deleted. I still have the raw data but don't have time to tabulate it all again therefore am presenting unofficial but roughly accurate numbers below (off the top of my head). More exact figures will appear on eBird soon.

*I will let others post their superior photos of the Thin-billed and others* :D

Buller's Albatross--5
White-capped Albatross--40+ (Minimum of 8 at the chum site, with regular singles drifting past elsewhere)
SALVIN'S ALBATROSS--1 immature at chum site and also followed us in for a while
Campbell Albatross--8+ (all adults)
Northern Giant Petrels--3
Cape Petrel--1 (Snares type)
Grey-faced Petrel--2 (Surprisingly few given they nest on Karioi and we had a bunch on the previous Kawhia trip in April).
Fairy Prion--7,000 (Mostly out around our furthest point but around 500 seen in transit)--this count also includes many "unidentified prion"
THIN-BILLED PRION--2
Fluttering Shearwater--60
Common Diving-Petrel--6
Australasian Gannet--850 (About 800 of these were seen distantly on Gannet Island, which we didn't have time to visit)
Kelp (Black-backed) Gull--12
Red-billed Gull--1
White-fronted Tern--50+

Non-birds: 3 NZ Fur-seals, 1 Blue Shark

So der ya go. Another interesting day on the water, and the mystery of "where do all these non-Fairy Prions hang out when their not dying on a beach" continues...

Russ C
Morrinsville, NZ
Tim Barnard
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Re: Kawhia Pelagic Report (Aug 5)

Postby Tim Barnard » Mon Aug 06, 2018 6:42 pm

Thanks Russ great report. Sco comments in his book that Thin bills are not great boat followers and don’t usually feed on offal or chum. But these birds were obviously very hungry, they were active feeders and among the closest to the boat... given the numbers Oscar found the day before on Muruwai beach it would suggest they have had a tough time lately.
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David Riddell
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Re: Kawhia Pelagic Report (Aug 5)

Postby David Riddell » Mon Aug 06, 2018 7:22 pm

Yes Tim I think that's probably right. The thin-bills seemed almost frenetic compared to the fairies, dipping down and bobbing up very rapidly, reminded me of a bird bathing in a freshwater puddle. Annette and I are going out to do a beach patrol on Waikorea (between Raglan and Waikato Heads) tomorrow so it will be interesting to see what we find.

Here are a few thin-bill shots from yesterday to get the ball rolling, don't know if they qualify as "superior". Be interesting to know how often has this species been photographed around the NZ mainland - were there any photos taken of the bird seen off Tutukaka a few weeks back?
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phil hammond
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Re: Kawhia Pelagic Report (Aug 5)

Postby phil hammond » Mon Aug 06, 2018 8:44 pm

It's one thing trying to identify Thin-billed [Slender-billed] Prions from the deck of a moving ship in a rolling ,tossing, southern ocean with plenty of sea spray and the birds whizzing past 50m or more away.

No such problems yesterday though, standing on a steady platform just above water level with the birds literally only 2m or less away they really were VERY different to the Fairies. They really stood out with the field marks described above clearly seen.

Thanks again Russ for organizing the trip, and thanks to those who have already posted photos---looking forward to more

Phil Hammond
Wrybill Birding Tours NZ
Great Birds, Real Birders
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Oscar Thomas
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Re: Kawhia Pelagic Report (Aug 5)

Postby Oscar Thomas » Mon Aug 06, 2018 10:59 pm

Thanks again Russ, and great shots David. Here is Matthias photo of the Thin-billed prion seen off Tutukaka last month. Looks a little different doesn't it. Plus a few of my favourite photos taken yesterday (Thin-billed, Salvin's albatross).
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https://www.instagram.com/oscarkokako/ - NZ List (205) Glossy Ibis, Hauraki, Waikato
Bexie at Karioi
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Re: Kawhia Pelagic Report (Aug 5)

Postby Bexie at Karioi » Tue Aug 07, 2018 1:57 pm

Very cool to see. I was sent this link by my dad in the States, who is a birder and knows that I work for the Karioi Maunga ki te Moana Project in Raglan - just a disclaimer as I am more of a birder's daughter than a birder myself so excuse any of my lack of knowledge! I would love to hear any info or data you guys have about seabirds around Whaingaroa. We are monitoring the Grey-Faced Petrel burrows on the Raglan/Karioi coastline. After last year's seven Oi chicks ( a surprising success!), we're hoping for another successful breeding season this year. We have many active burrows and birds on eggs at the moment as far as we can tell from non-invasive monitoring techniques such as field cameras and looking for sign (feathers, poo) at burrow entrances. Great to know that you saw some GFPs out there this week. Keep in touch! I've just joined up so will keep an eye on here and keep you all updated. - Bexie Towle - bexie.towle@arocha.org
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Neil Fitzgerald
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Re: Kawhia Pelagic Report (Aug 5)

Postby Neil Fitzgerald » Tue Aug 07, 2018 3:21 pm

Welcome to the site Bexie. We will have to get you out there so you can see your birds at sea. Not much is known about who is flying around off that coast.
Tim Barnard
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Re: Kawhia Pelagic Report (Aug 5)

Postby Tim Barnard » Wed Aug 08, 2018 9:07 pm

Thought I'd post some photos ... just for the record ... nice comparison.
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phil hammond
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Re: Kawhia Pelagic Report (Aug 5)

Postby phil hammond » Wed Aug 08, 2018 10:02 pm

More great photos! I Think this one of the Slender billed is the best yet from a species identification point of view, not least the number of retrices with dark tips
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Neil Fitzgerald
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Re: Kawhia Pelagic Report (Aug 5)

Postby Neil Fitzgerald » Thu Aug 09, 2018 9:21 pm

A few more photos. I haven't been getting out much lately and it was especially nice to get out on the water close to home. Thanks for organizing it Russ.

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Campbell black-browed mollymawk
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White-capped mollymawk
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Thin-billed prion
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