An Afternoon at Sea

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Sea Birds

Bullers will investigate virtually any vessel, particularly if hove-to. Just on the off chance it’s a fish boat.

We have had several days of easterly weather, starting with SE gales and rain, easing to fresh easterly and fine sunny days. Easterly gales and rain is seriously unpleasant here, as we are quite exposed to that quarter. However today dawned fine and calm, although there was still a moderate swell coming into Halfmoon Bay. I had promised to give an friends boat engine a run, and what better than to do it on a nice day and indulge in a little photography.

Mollies

Bullers Molly. Note black upper wing extending from tip to tip.This is the distinguishing difference between Mollymawks and the great Albatross

Ended up at Bench Island, about 5 miles out from “The Bay”. Actually not a great deal happening in the bird world, and for the larger birds suprisingly only Bullers Mollymawk. No sign of Shy and Salvins Molly at all. And no Royals. For those who are perhaps a little perplexed about the word Mollymawk, which the rest of the world perhaps knows better as Albatross… ie Bullers Albatross.. Mollymawk is the local name for these magnificent seabirds. “Mollies” are significantly smaller than the great albatross and although superficially similar in colouration are actually quite easy to identify.

Southern Royal Albatross. Photographed 2006, on passage to Campbell Islands.

Albatross have a fully white body, which breaks the black on the upper wings, while “Mollies” have the black on the upper wings stretching unbroken from tip to tip. Molly mawk apparently is a bastardised form of the Dutch word for “silly gull”. The odd man out in all this is the Light Mantled Sooty Albatross, which is smaller even than Bullers which is itself the smallest of the Mollies.

Light Mantled Sooty Albatross

Light Mantled Sooty Albatross pair with chick.Photographed Port Ross, Auckland Islands 2004

Sooties also have a much thinner wing chord. They are a lovely sooty grey, with a white half moon behind the eye. I have only ever seen them at the Auckland, Snares and Campbell Islands.. far to the south of Stewart Island. Although I am aware of a single bird being seen in Foveaux Staits a few years ago by an oysterman friend.

Cape Pigeons

Cape Pigeon

A small flock of Cape Pigeons flew past at one point. I usually would expect to see many dozens of these while fishing.

Skua

Southern Skua. Note distinguishing white bars in the primaries

Coming past Flat Rock we were investigated by a Southern Skua. Both Flat Rock and Bench Island has considerable numbers of Fur Seals in residence. And where you have seals you often have Skuas, as the seals especially at pupping are a significant food source for a scavenger such as a skua.

Southern Skua

Red Billed Gulls

Was that some food ??

Red Billed Gulls are just part of the scenery out to about 5 miles from shore.

Short Finals, Full Flaps, Gear Down

Peter Tait

Peter Tait

Peter Tait is a professional nature guide based at Stewart Island, New Zealand, and he works primarily on Ulva Island Open Sanctuary. Peter has been resident on the Island for over 40 years and was one time Forest Ranger in Charge of Stewart Island. Fishing followed forestry and was in turn followed by Talisker, a 17m charter yacht. He is qualified Skipper Deep Sea Fishing Vessel. In addition to guiding Peter and his wife Iris are hosts at Sails Ashore Lodge.

Peter Tait

Peter Tait

Peter Tait is a professional nature guide based at Stewart Island, New Zealand, and he works primarily on Ulva Island Open Sanctuary. Peter has been resident on the Island for over 40 years and was one time Forest Ranger in Charge of Stewart Island. Fishing followed forestry and was in turn followed by Talisker, a 17m charter yacht. He is qualified Skipper Deep Sea Fishing Vessel. In addition to guiding Peter and his wife Iris are hosts at Sails Ashore Lodge.

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