Jeff Clarke Ecology

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In Pursuit of Prions part 7

In Pursuit of Prions (Part 7) Napier to Bay of Islands

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After a brief non-wildlife interlude in Wellington our next landfall was Napier. From there we headed to Cape Kidnappers to take in the drama and aroma of the Australasian Gannet colony. We travelled out with Gannet Safaris Overland literally to the doorstep of the cliff top colony. Our tour was just a little late in the day to get the best out of the beautiful sunlight, for photography purposes, but it was enjoyable nonetheless and over far too soon. Though one misguided lady on our tour could be heard complaining with all seriousness that she had not seen any kidnappers! Despite the time restrictions Adele and I had fired off a veritable salvo of digital shots and we managed some passable images.

As we set sail out into Hawke's Bay my persistent mithering of the MS Oosterdam crew paid off and we finally got permission to get on the bow of the ship. In just an hour we had fantastic views of Short-beaked Common Dolphins and close fly-by views of the photogenic Buller's Shearwater.

The following day we visited Tauranga and endured an under-whelming tour of Hell's Gate Geo-thermal Park and later what is best described as Maori Disney. By the time we returned to port I was in need of a walk, so we trundled out towards Mount Wanganui and in the space of a couple of hours found plenty to salvage the day in the shape of Reef Heron, Sacred Kingfishers and Variable Oystercatchers. Thankfully the sail out was also productive seabird-wise

Auckland was supposed to be a 'cultural' day but I was fidgety, so I caught the ferry to Rangitoto Island; legging it like a lunatic to the summit of New Zealand's newest Island and then finding a nice selection of endemic landbirds on this recently 'predator-free' island. At the 11th hour new Zealand has fought back from the brink of complete destruction of it's endemic bird fauna. It has now established a series of sanctuary islands to ensure the long-term future for most of it's threatened species.

At Bay of Islands we were guided through part of Puketi Forest. Enjoyable but very limited photography wise due to the lateness of the hour and the number of people on the tour. Back at the anchorage area many Tui's were foraging in the Pohutukawa trees, but refused to pose for the camera thankfully a passing Caspian Tern and resting Pied Shag were more obliging.

This cruise was a great way to see the natural world of New Zealand but if you are really into the wildlife side of things you are best organising your own shore excursions.

As we sailed out past Northland we soon picked up a good variety of seabirds including Little Shearwater. Two days on the Tasman Sea lay ahead and a chance to catch up with some more petrels and shearwaters. I was not to be disappointed!

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