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|A Report from birdtours.co.uk|
Antarctica and Subantarctic Islands of Australia and New Zealand, February 10 – March 10, 2009,
An excellent trip with Heritage Expeditions, offering a fair share of drama and adventure to go with the wonderful scenery and excellent birding. The expedition was led by company founder Rodney Russ, with Alecs Teraud and Adam Walleyn guiding and driving the zodiacs.
10/2. Departed the southern New Zealand port of Bluff aboard the Spirit of Enderby after overnighting in Invercargill and clearing NZ customs. During our first afternoon at sea, Shy Albatross (cauta and salvini) was by far the commonest albatross.
11/2. Arrived off Snares Islands, the shoreline of which we cruised in zodiacs. Most chicks among the large numbers of Snares Crested Penguins were almost fully fledged, and many adults were moulting.
12/2. Arrived Enderby Island in the Auckland Islands group. Another zodiac landing and a 10km hike around the island through heath-like fields of megaherbs and tussock grass.
13/2. Sailed into Carnley Harbour in the south of Auckland Island. Visited the disbanded World War II coastwatch station at Tagua Bay.
14/2. At sea, with the Roaring Forties buffeting the vessel but plenty of seabirds in tow.
15/2. Awoke off Macquarie Island, with the Spirit of Enderby surrounded by King Penguins. After picking up Tasmanian National Parks and Wildlife Service officers, we made two landings at Buckles Bay. Action at the King Penguin colony included a group of Southern Skua tearing apart a small chick, and Giant Petrels were busy patrolling the edges of the King and nearby Royal Penguin colonies.
16/2. Visited the Australian National Antarctic Research Expedition (ANARE) base, where King and Gentoo Penguins roamed freely among the buildings. Southern and Northern Giant Petrels were often together, with one group gorging on a dead elephant seal. Late in the afternoon, we sailed past Lucitania Bay, where the rusting boilers that once processed penguins for oil were surrounded by tens of thousands of King Penguins.
17/2. At sea. We were fitted with our Antarctic jackets as sea conditions worsened, with waves to 8m and the boat tilting to 40 degrees.
18/2. At sea. The day was marred with the death of one of the 48 passengers – Barbara Johns, 93, the daughter of one of the Robert Scott expedition members, who fell in her cabin in rough seas, striking her head. That evening, our first iceberg was spotted.
19/2. At sea. Icebergs through the porthole at first light. We crossed the Antarctic Circle at latitude 66, celebrating on deck with mulled wine.
20/2. At sea, with surprisingly few icebergs and plenty of Snow and Antarctic Petrels following the boat.
21/2. Our first sighting of the Antarctic continent at Cape Adare. We motored through the pack ice, marvelling at the shapes and colours of icebergs and floes, but there was too much ice to make a landing.
22/2. We sailed down the western shore of the Ross Sea, flanked by the Transantarctic Mountains. A huge flock of Antarctic Petrels, many thousands strong, appeared to be floating around the summit of a giant iceberg. We arrived in a swirling snow storm at Franklin Island. With the help of the zodiacs we touched foot on Antarctic soil for the first time, in -6 degrees. Typical of these latitudes we saw just three species today – Snow Petrel, South Polar Skua and Adelie Penguin.
23/2. After passing Cape Royds, the magnificent Mt Erebus and Cape Evans, where we could see Scott’s Terra Nova hut in the distance, we arrived at the bottom end of McMurdo Sound. – as far south as boats can travel on Earth Although just 5km from McMurdo Station and Scott’s Discovery hut, which we could see, ice conditions and the cold (-22) prevented us from getting there. Regular blood splashings on the ice told tales of orca and leopard seal predations.
Our first emporer penguins were seen along the McMurdo Channel and 53 were on the ice near where our vessel was moored. They swam to the boat and went ashore to check out the Russian crewmen. Late in the evening, a pack of 20 orcas arrived while the penguins were fishing; just 49 remained the next morning.
24/2. We landed at Cape Evans and visited Scott’s hut, a memorable experience 100 years after the Terra Nova expedition.
25/2. After passing Cape Bird we sailed the northern coast of Ross Island before reaching Cape Crozier at the western end of the vast Ross Ice Shelf.
26/2. Landing at Cape Royds and a 4km hike before reaching Shackleton’s hut, which was surrounded by Adelie Penguins. In the evening, some of us took the Polar Plunge, jumping into the world’s coldest sea water.
27/2. Heading back north through the Ross Sea, we noticed how much the sea ice had developed during our short time down there. Many Adelie Penguins were on ice floes. We were unable to reach Cape Hallett.
28/2. Landed at Cape Adare, the first time in Antarctica that the temperature went above zero. Visited Borchgrevink’s hut in its stunning setting. The 1 million-strong Adelie Penguin colony was much depleted at the end of its nesting season, with many dead young.
1/3. We caught the last glimpse of the continent as we headed north.
2/3. We tried to reach the Balleny Islands but were stopped by surprisingly heavy pack age. We again crossed the Antarctic Circle after 11 days around Antarctica.
3/3. At sea in unremittingly rough conditions.
4/3. At sea, with plenty of albatross and petrels for amusement.
5/3. At sea, with waves to 10 metres and Force 10 winds.
6/3. At sea, arriving off Campbell Island at dusk, with large numbers of Royal and Black-browed salvini Albatross on the water behind the boat.
7/3. A marvellous day on Campbell Island, sailing into Perseverence Harbour and hiking to the Col Lyall saddle and the Royal Albatross colony, where birds with small chicks allowed close approach. A short hike across to Tucker Cove failed to turn up Campbell Island Teal, which I had seen on Codfish Island in 2002. Hooker’s Sea Lions were plentiful and aggressive.
8/3. At sea heading north.
9/3. At sea, with the vessel 400 tonnes lighter that at the beginning due to reduced fuel, water and food.
10/3. Arrived Bluff.
+ denotes new for Australian list
Bird distributions heading north on the return journey equated generally those heading south at latitude level, although different routes were taken.
*Snares Crested Penguin (common Snares Is, where nesting),
Yellow-eyed Penguin (common Auckland Is & Campbell I; nesting),
*+King Penguin (abundant Macquarie I where nesting),
*Emporer Penguin (several along McMurdo Channel; large group at end of McMurdo Sound; singles at Cape Bird and near Cape Hallett),
*+Royal Penguin (abundant Macquarie I where nesting),
+Gentoo Penguin (common at ABARE, Macquarie I where nesting),
*+Rockhopper Penguin (several near ABARE on the cliff rocks and a large colony in the distance at Lucitania Bay, Macquarie I),
*Adelie Penguin (common around continent where nesting Bird & Franklin Is, Capes Royds & Adare),
Wandering Albatross (first appeared before Auckland Is, then regular to well beyond Macquarie I – exulans most numerous, gibsoni common around Aucklands Is, 2 antipodensis off Auckland I),
Royal Albatross (2 sanfordi between Bluff and Snares Is, epomophora common, at times abundant, especially around Auckland Is and Campbell I, where nesting),
Shy Albatross (commonest albatross to beyond Auckland Is – cauta widespread, salvini common around and before Snares Is),
Buller’s Albatross (common to beyond Auckland Is, especially around Snares Is, where nesting),
Black-browed Albatross (melanophris fairly common from beyond Auckland Is to south of Macquare I; impavida common especially around Campbell I),
Grey-headed Albatross (small numbers to beyond Macquarie I),
Light-mantled Sooty Albatross (the most widely distributed albatross, appearing before Auckland Is, where nesting, and extending to the Ross Sea),
Cape Petrel (australe common to beyond Macquarie I, capense common to the Antarctic continent),
*Antarctic Petrel (common beyond Antarctic Circle but uncommon in Ross Sea),
+Mottled Petrel (common and widespread – from near Bluff to the Ross Sea),
*+Soft-plumaged Petrel (1 between Macquarie & Auckland Is; 1 off Macquarie I; 1 north of Campbell I),
Kerguelen Petrel (1 off Macquarie I),
White-chinned Petrel (common to beyond Macquarie I),
*+Grey Petrel (1 between Auckland and Macquarie Is; fairly frequently encountered over a couple of days approaching Campbell I),
White-headed Petrel (common south of Macquarie I),
Antarctic Fulmar (common south of Macquarie I),
Cook’s Petrel (2 between Bluff and Snares Is),
Fairy Prion (common from Bluff to beyond Snares Is, some around Macquarie I),
*Fulmar Prion (apparently inseparable at sea from preceding species but prions presumably of this species were common around Auckland Is),
*+Antarctic Prion (common from beyond Auckland Is to the continent),
*Broad-billed Prion (a few around Snares Is),
*Blue Petrel (1 only just north of the Antarctic circle),
Northern Giant Petrel (common to beyond Macquarie I)
Southern Giant Petrel (common from Macquarie I to Cape Adare),
*Snow Petrel (confusa common in Antarctic waters; several nivea while approaching the Balleny Is),
Short-tailed Shearwater (common south of Macquarie I and around Antarctic convergence),
Sooty Shearwater (common to beyond Auckland Is),
Little Shearwater (elegans fairly common around Campbell I),
+Common Diving-Petrel (common to beyond Auckland Is; 1 off Macquarie I),
Black-bellied Storm-Petrel (common to beyond Auckland Is),
Grey-backed Storm-Petrel (uncommon between Auckland & Macquarie Is),
Wilson’s Storm-Petrel (common from south of Macquarie I to the Ross Sea),
Red-billed Gull, Kelp Gull, White-fronted Tern,
Southern Skua (common to Macquarie I),
*South Polar Skua (common around continent),
*+Antarctic Tern (small numbers around Snares Is, Campbell I & Macquarie Is),
*Subantarctic Snipe (1 seen scrambling through low vegetation on Enderby I),
Double-banded Dotterel (several Enderby I), Turnstone,
*Auckland Island Teal (1 in kelp at Enderby I),
Australasian Gannet, Stewart Island Shag (Bluff), Spotted Shag (Bluff),
*Auckland Island Shag (common Auckland Is),
*Macquarie Island Shag (common Macquarie I),
* Campbell Island Shag (common Campbell I),
Red-crowned Parakeet (Enderby I), New Zealand Falcon (1 Auckland I),
Fernbird (common Snares Is), Tomtit (common Snares Is), Tui (Auckland I), Bellbird (Auckland Is), Australasian Pipit (Auckland & Campbell Is),
Dunnock, Common Redpoll, Blackbird.
65 species (21 lifers)
New Zealand Fur-Seal (Enderby & Snares Is),
*Hooker’s Sea-Lion (common Auckland, Snares & Campbell Is),
*Southern Elephant-Seal (common Macquarie I; 1 Campbell I),
Humpback Whale (common Antarctica),
Orca (common Antarctica; small numbers elsewhere),
Southern Bottle-nosed Whale (1 Ross Sea),
*Antarctic Minke Whale (common Antarctica),
*Hourglass Dolphin (small numbers around convergence),
*Crabeater Seal (common on Antarctic pack ice),
*Weddell Seal (common Antarctica),
*Leopard Seal (2 McMurdo Channel; 1 Cape Adare).
11 species (7 lifers)
13 February 2009 NEW ZEALAND
During a trip back to Christchurch via the west coast from Invercargill, I joined staff of the NZ Department of Conservation to track down and capture an Okarito Brown Kiwi (Rowi) near Franz Joseph.