Cook Strait seabirds, 23rd February

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Nikki McArthur
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Cook Strait seabirds, 23rd February

Postby Nikki McArthur » Sun Feb 28, 2016 3:50 pm

Hi all,

Had an interesting trip across Cook Strait on the evening of the 23rd on the Interislander ferry Kaiarahi.

Instead of entering the sounds via Tory Channel the ferry continued right around to the northern entrance of Queen Charlotte Sound, giving passengers great views of The Brothers Islands and White Rocks.

Sea conditions were pretty calm most of the way across, so there wasn't a huge diversity or number of birds around in Cook Strait (fluttering shearwaters, several W-C albatrosses, Westland petrels and one very distant Diomedea albatross).

However, the highlights of the trip were all associated with the unusual detour that the ferry took - we got quite close views of several dozen diving petrels on the water as we passed The Brothers, and good, but distant views of the king shag colony on White Rocks. Just past The Brothers we entered a patch of rough water & strong currents with bit of associated bird activity - lots of flutterers, a couple of sooty shearwaters and a few more Westland petrels.

Cheers,
Nikki
Paul G

Re: Cook Strait seabirds, 23rd February

Postby Paul G » Mon Feb 29, 2016 7:40 am

What a super opportunity Nikki !
Any idea why the ferry did this detour? If the sea was so calm, I'm guessing that it
wasn't weather-related ?
I wonder if there's any way of knowing when they might do it again ? It would be good
to know which crossings will be diverting that way, then sightseers / birders could
make a point of booking for that particular trip.
Thanks for reporting this. Very useful.
Paul
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Nikki McArthur
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Re: Cook Strait seabirds, 23rd February

Postby Nikki McArthur » Mon Feb 29, 2016 3:55 pm

Hi Paul,

Yes, it really was a nice surprise! I don't really know why we took that route - one of the officers announced that we'd be going that way, due to "piloting requirements". From this I wonder whether the ferries need to make a minimum number of trips via this alternate route each year to maintain some sort of certification?

It might be worth contacting Interislander to see whether these detours are scheduled in advance or not - I'd certainly recommend this route to other birders - not only does the ferry spend substantially longer out in Cook Strait proper, but it also greatly improves your chances of seeing King shag as well.

Cheers,
Nikki
Davidthomas
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Re: Cook Strait seabirds, 23rd February

Postby Davidthomas » Mon Feb 29, 2016 5:04 pm

They went that way the morning of the 23rd also as my parents were on the ferry. They had a very similar seabird list to you, some giant petrels, smaller petrels and albatrosses, most likely white-caps and maybe one or two of the diomedea i think. (They werent confident with ID so im just speculating based on their descriptions of birds seen).
Paul G

Ferry Routing Schedules

Postby Paul G » Wed Mar 02, 2016 9:03 am

Please, if anyone manages to find out when/why Interislander do these routing deviations, may I ask that
you post details on this thread? I'm sure it would be useful to birders all over New Zealand to know the best dates
to book travel in order to take advantage of any future unusual routes, especially if this is something that
the Interislander company undertake regularly.
cheers
Paul
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Neil Fitzgerald
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Location: Hamilton, New Zealand
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Re: Cook Strait seabirds, 23rd February

Postby Neil Fitzgerald » Tue May 17, 2016 1:43 pm

Since it appears no one actually followed this up, I emailed the question to the contact address on the Interislander website and 17 minutes later got the answer: "Our ships are required to go out through the Northern Entrance as part of Maritime NZ regulations, it is not something that we schedule into our schedule. So I am sorry I cannot tell you when we take it."
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Nikki McArthur
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Re: Cook Strait seabirds, 23rd February

Postby Nikki McArthur » Wed May 18, 2016 11:34 am

Thanks for looking into this Neil. I've just spoken to someone who knows one of the first officers on the Interislander - apparently the ferries take this more northern route whenever there's a navigational hazard in Tory Channel, or when there's something going wrong with the ferry itself (e.g. not all engines operational). Obviously in both scenarios this route change isn't planned very far in advance, so there's probably not much scope for birders to take advantage of these unfortunately.

Apparently Interislander has in the past scheduled special crossings via this more northerly route for tourists/sightseers, but these tend to be run on fine, calm days so perhaps not on the days that are best for birding.

Cheers,
Nikki
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David Riddell
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Re: Cook Strait seabirds, 23rd February

Postby David Riddell » Tue Oct 08, 2019 7:50 pm

Annette and I and our daughter Iris are on the ferry at the moment heading ultimately for Karamea and Stewart Island and have just taken this route. I was on the wrong side of the boat and didn't realise until we were past the Brothers, but we had distant views of the king shag roost just inside Motuara Island with about 7 birds in residence. Also many sooty Shearwaters and diving petrels at the mouth of the sound. Otherwise not much to see on the way across, best was a little shearwater among the flutterers at the entrance to Wellington Harbour.

Crossing fingers for wood ducks tomorrow!
Colin Miskelly
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Re: Cook Strait seabirds, 23rd February

Postby Colin Miskelly » Fri Oct 11, 2019 8:07 pm

Hi David

Shane Cotter and I were on North Brother Island with three DOC staff 8-11 Oct, surveying and tracking diving petrels. We were rather surprised to see the ferry sail past each evening!

Cheers
Colin
Cricketer8for9
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Re: Cook Strait seabirds, 23rd February

Postby Cricketer8for9 » Fri Oct 25, 2019 7:35 pm

I crossed on Thursday 24 October, in what felt a rather stiff southerly. Lots of Fluttering Shearwaters in Queen Charlotte Sound, a few on the Wellington side. Salvin’s Albatross (at least 3) and one Northern Royal Albatross. One Cape Petrel. Where this visiting British border hits problems was with the other petrels/shearwaters. Some were dark above with some limited white on the lower wing, some were dark above and below. The former were in small groups, the latter always solo. The former were small (c the same size as Hutton’s when seen off Kaikoura) the latter were rather bigger.

Also some Cormorants, including Spotted.

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