25 Nov 2010

Shags and albatrosses at Otago peninsula – 24th

Woke up and discovered a clear blue sky. Had an easy breakfast on the veranda in company of one Tui and a couple of flute-like singing Bellbirds. Indeed a happy start on the day. I had a nice walk along the windy road to Taiaroa Head, the very tip of the Otago peninsula, where the Royal Albatross Colony is located. I had booked a guided tour at 2pm, so I had four hours for seawatching from shore. Within half an hour I had spotted one Northern Royal Albatross and one White-capped Albatross, two Cape Petrels and numerous Sooty Shearwaters as well as the first Stewart Island Shags. Now I have recorded a total of 8 shag species! After an hour or so I recognized a fishing vessel heading towards Taiaroa Head and the inlet. The boat were followed by many seabirds: White-capped Albatross (25), Salvin's Albatross (5), Giant Petrel (7), Cape Petrel (50), Sooty Shearwaters (10) and 20 unidentified all-dark shearwaters (probably Westland or White-chinned). In addition I saw about 30 Hutton's Shearwaters foraging offshore.

The guided albatross tour were OK, but not that exciting. We saw five birds on nest from the Richdale Observatory and two birds flew by. Rest of the afternoon I just took it easy at the lodge and had a nice talk with Kevin, one of the guides at the penguin reserve. The place is really relaxing with no Internet connections at all. Time for contemplation.

Taiaroa Head, the very tip of the Otago Peninsula, which is the only mainland breeding site for albatrosses (e.g. Northern Royal Albatross).
Adult Little Shag.
A beautiful adult Spotted Shag, which breeds at Taiaroa Head.
A colony of Stewart Island Shags, which breeds of the most exposed slope of Taiaroa Head. Both forms (all dark and pied) is depicted in the photo, as well as quite big chicks.
One of the nesting Northern Royal Albatrosses seen from the observatory. In all 16 pairs have started the incubation and it will take about 80 days before the chick hatch.
View towards Otago Harbour and Dunedin from Richdale Observatory at Taiaroa Head.

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