July Monthly report 2017

July is mid winter here  in New Zealand , this means our  Rugby Season is in full swing and our national team the All Blacks are  furthering our designs on world domination.

While most of our country is in a fever pitch, warm at home in the comfort of their lounges, screaming at thier television sets , some of us more hardy souls venture out in the weather, tasting what nature has to offer, while trying to squeeze it all through our lenses and record it onto our digital sensors.

This July past, was no exception, the month started of for me with a Father and Daughter team workshop, at Staglands Wildlife Park.
Corinne, (Wren)  and her Dad, Adam, (The Blade), , had booked a sunny but freezing cold day with me .

Adam is a saw doctor, hence his nick name (The Blade) , thats saw, not sore doctor lol .

The Saturday morning  started out warm enough in the Staglands cafeteria.
We were parked up beside a large roaring fire, with cups of coffee resting on a warm wooden table.
All was very cosy as I drew diagrams of cameras and explained their mysterious workings and how we could go about fooling them into behaving for us.
It didn’t seem very long however before I ran out of words, coffee and diagrams and we forced to head outside to face the cold head on and try and put into practice what I had just been teaching  them.
This was not our first time out together as this dynamic  father and daughter duo had booked a workshop about the same time the  year before  and they got right down to business building on what they learnt last time.

Wren keeps her eye on her target, in this case a Kea .

Wren 2-

Mr Mute Swan  is always a popular subject for my clients  and he was next up.

Mute Swan--3

 

Sometimes I do take photos  of non birds, these mushrooms  grabbed my attention.

Mushrooms--2

 

Next on the agenda was Rocky the Sulphur Crested Cockatoo.
Ive become quite good at coaxing him out of his warm nest box,  up on the hill  above the track . Most times I can get him to come  down for a few treats, where he can be patted and made a big fuss over.

Wren and Rocky the Sulphur Crested Cockatoo.

Wren and Rocky 2-

Once Wren and Rocky ran out of conversation we went off in search of something else to challenge us .

Mr Peacock has been slowly growing his tail feathers  for mating season in a few months time.

Peacock-5434-Edit

 

A visit to the Mandarin Ducks  was next on the agenda.

Mandarin Ducks

 

Soon it was lunch time so we filed back into the warmth of the cafe for a bite to eat  and then put in another hour before calling it a day.

This peacock was posed just too nice, to pass up on.

Peacock-5742-Edit

 

Mrs whio looked a bit grumpy as it was getting colder by the minute as the light was fading, so we packed it in and headed home.

whio-

 

Mid winter at Staglands is a real challenge for any  photographer, there is not a great deal of light available for most of the  day, however during the summer  the sun floods in all day long.

As we drove away we were being watched by a Silkie chicken, his hairstyle is very similar to mine lol.

Silkie  chickens --3

 

Thus ended a wonderful day out with Wren and Adam and as they had already booked for yet another adventure in 3 weeks time and  I was looking forward to seeing them again soon.

Pelagic Paradise. 

The highlight of the month was to be our pelagic trip out into the Cook Straight.

The boat launches from Seaview in the Wellington Harbour and is the only boat that I know of  that caters for Bird photographers.
In fact I think its an unbeatable deal for those living in the lower North Island  wanting to photograph Birds that inhabit the Pelagic zone.

What is The Pelagic Zone 

Twelve people turned up besides myself, for our event out on the wild sea.

The trip  lasts  for 6 hours, One hour steaming out and one back with an amazing  4 hours  where we would meet up with birds that never come ashore  save for breeding which is in the sub- antarctic regions of the Southern Seas.

This trip was going to be the highlight of the year for me personally and as it was the first event on this scale I have ever undertaken to organise, I was more than a little nervous.

I had nothing to worry about  as it turned out, as the quality of the people who came on the trip and the professional staff of the the fishing vessel Seafarer II made it  a very enjoyable excitement filled event indeed.

Most if not all of the people on board knew each other through my facebook page . 

The team for the day, two of which came all the way from the south Island .

the pelagic team

 

As day broke, our team embarked onto the boat, we given a quick safety talk and we were off .

Last year I was invited to go on a trip with 19 other birders out onto the Cook Straight.
I had a ball  but with 19 other folks on board, the boat was pretty crowded and most of them were birders but not photographers .
The trip was amazing, but as soon as I got home I decided I would organise  my own event next time  and  design it just for bird photographers and limit the amount of people on board .

The Birds

I have a gazillion images from the team to post, so what I will do, is post a full trip report in a few weeks time  showing off some of the amazing images  these enthusiastic people captured .

For now Im happy just to post a series of images of some of the species list of what we saw on our trip.

First up a Giant Nothern Petrel cruised past the boat.

Giant Petrel

 

Last year I saw lots of Buller’s and White Capped Albatrosses, but only one fairly weather beaten Salvin’s Albatross.

I really wanted some tidy looking Salvin’s this time out and they turned up in numbers, I was thrilled.

The Salvin’s Albatross. 

Salvins Albatross

 

 

Next up to visit us was the huge Southern Royal Albatross.
This is the heaviest bodied Albatross in the world  and only a fraction shorter in wing span from the largest, the true wandering or Snowy Albatross, by a very small margin.

Still being early in the morning, the light still has a soft pinkish glow to it.

Southern Royal Albatross.

Southern Royal Albatross

The close up

Southern Royal Albatross

 

From the biggest to the smallest bird for the day and another species I desperately wanted, the Fairy Prion.

These tiny sea birds are just stunning and so fragile looking,  yet they live  their entire life out on the open angry Southern Ocean.
To say I was over joyed with this shot would be an understatement, it made my trip. They hard hard targets to track up close on the moving boat, a real challenge.

Fairy Prion

Fairy Prion

 

Next up was the Black Browed Albatross

Black Browed Albatross

The close up

Black Browed Albatross

 

Next the Northern Royal Albatross

Northern Royal Albatross

 

The Northern Royal Albatross has heavy dark coloured wings that remain constant through out their life span , where as the Southern has a dark wing that fades from dark to white, from the leading edge of the wing towards the back, that increases as they age, until very little colour remains

Northern Royal Albatross

 

The cape petrels were next on the list  and these two came round like two little jet fighters on a strafing run.

Cape Petrel

 

Cape Petrel

 

Salvin’s, I just couldn’t get me enough of these birds that day.

Salvins Albatross

 

Albatross often have their wing tips  dipping into the water.
Its become a bit of a challenge to me to catch this behaviour.

Salvin’s  dipping his wing.

Salvins Albatross

 

A White Capped Albatross .

White Capped Albatross

 

These little Fairy Prions were a real challenge.

Fairy Prion

 

The trip was so successful we have immediately booked another trip  for the 12th of November and all ready we are half booked out.

 

That’s it for this month, I will leave the last word  to Mr Salvin’s

Later dudes and dudesses   ❤

Salvins Albatross

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Posture. How to improve your bird photography, part 2.

In our last article on how to improve our bird photography, we looked at composition from the photographers side and what we can do to position ourselves in such a way as to  get the best possible composition here .
In this short article  we will look at the posture, position, or if you like, the attitude of the bird.

Patience. 
Being patient is the key here, wait till your subject is in a good posture or position  to show themselves off before tripping that shutter.

In this example below, the bird has wonderful, interesting, early morning light, falling on the face of the  bird, we are positioned correctly, sun is behind us and we are down low so the profile is great,  but I pressed the shutter with the birds  head in the wrong position.
It doesn’t take much to ruin the image or to lessen the impact the image, could have had if one had been patient.

Having the birds face angled away from us like this, detracts from the image.

Wood Ducks-1509

 

Remember, you are trying to show the bird off at its best, your photo should be all about the bird.

This image below has the bird looking alert with the face in a good position.

Wood Duck--19

 

Here is another example of how not to take a picture of your bird.
Going away, head facing away, just about everything about this image is wrong .
Bad boy Tony lol.

tētē the  Grey Teal-2569

 

Not all going away photos are bad.
This image still works well, because the all important face of the bird is still a strong feature in the image, especially the eye .

wood ducks-113-Edit

 

This next image should need no further explaining as to why it simply sucks.

It might be a tad over stated, it might be a bit on the extreme side, but we should be getting to point.

Lady Amherst's pheasant

 

Be  patient, wait, wait, wait,  till you get a chance of a shot that flatters the bird and shows him or her off at his or her best.

Lady Amherst's pheasant

 

This week I am starting a series of images on my face book page here  that showcase New Zealand landscapes  in the format of a virtual road trip.
Starting from the top of the North Island we will work our way down to Bluff at the bottom of the South Island on the West Coast side and then work our way back up on the East Coast.

We start our journey at Cape Reinga (Te Reinga or Te Rerenga Wairua in Māori), which  is basically ,the northern most point of New Zealand.

The joining of two oceans, the Tasman on the left and the Pacific Ocean to the right , certainly  no place to float a dingy .

Cape Reinga  or te rerenga wairua

 

Tourists watch the year ending as the sun slips quietly out of sight behind the horizon.
Sunset New Years eve 2012

Cape Reinga (Te Reinga or Te Rerenga Wairua in Māori)

 

 

 

Three for the price of one.

This year has started with a hiss and a roar.
First I had my Christmas trip report to finish, which took a fair bit of  time, this is the first entire Christmas trip report I’ve done to date and what a relief it was to get it done.
Next up  for years I have wanted to start my own Bible study/ Christian group   on Facebook and early this year I decided was the right time, however there was  a heap of study on early Church history and the Roman and Byzantine empires, up to the end of the middle ages, that I needed to complete  before I could start  my new group.

This has taken me  months to complete, but once I felt I had a reasonable grasp on that period of time, I felt free to launch my Christian group  “A letter to the Ephesians”  here on Facebook ,

So to bring us up to speed, I’m going to cover the three summer months Jan, Feb and March of this year in one post and you lucky peoples  get three months for the price of one lol.

The summer months of 2017
The summer of 2017 in the Wellington area did not even start to feel like summer until early autumn.
This was bad news for the sun bakers and swimmers out there, but great news for bird photographer’s.
Let me explain why.
Heat shimmer is a sure fire, demon killer, of good sharp clear images during the summer months.
On hot days, heat rises in the form of shimmering waves, distorting the air above the ground and wrecking the chances of getting sharp in focus images.
Because of heat shimmer during the summer months, the bird photographer is reduced to photographing early morning and sometimes on cooler days, early  evening.

If you look close at this image below, you can see the effects of heat shimmer .
Everything is distorted, nothing is sharp,  it gets even worse at ground level, esp over rocks and sand and  esp if you have a lens 300 mils or longer.
I will cover how to minimise heat shimmer effects in a future article , summer is not kind to the bird photographer.

Heat shimmer.

Sunset Onoke spit-6604
This year however, we had record low temperatures for the Wellington, Wairarapa and Kapiti/Manawatu areas  and that made it  peachy ,all summer, even out on the sandy beaches.

January. 
First out of the blocks for the year was a mid-January, 3 day workshop, with my mate Bruce.
Bruce and Linda have a wonderful beach house close to the Otaki river mouth on the Kapiti coast, where we launched our exploratory expeditions from.
Bruce is fit and we had 3 days to bring him up a few levels in his camera skills, so we went for it.
We had a heap of fun and got some fantastic images.
With both of us having  spent a great deal of our lives in the mountains  hunting , we have both developed  a certain flavour of humour.
Spending time with mates in the mountains and wilderness, does produce an optimistic upbeat sense of humour, this would be because  often one is forced to find the funny in all sorts of difficult and uncomfortable situations when you battle the forces of nature.
Hence  no opportunity went begging for a good laugh .
At the end of our first night on the coast, we were treated to a wonderful Kapiti coast sunset.

Otaki river mouth.

untitled-4640-Pano-Edit

 

Hot tip.
Use natural features such as the creek to introduce added colour and interest.
The Rangiuru Stream running through the centre of the image draws you into the image as well.

untitled-4615-Pano-Edit
Day 2 had us out looking for Moreporks or ruru  down the coast at a spot I knew had two adults and a young bird near by.

Mrs ruru poses for us during the daytime

ruru-1722-Edit

 

 

Up next was a walk around a local pond to photograph the Grebes or Dabchicks as some call them.

This time of the year Dabchicks  are busy feeding on Tadpoles and Frogs.

New Zealand dabchick or weweia.-900000-2
Later that day we went to the Waikanae Beach.
There is a lot more to bird photography, than just clicking the shutter button.
We practised our stalking skills, inching our way closer and closer on our bums across the sand right up to  a group of White Fronted Terns  out in the open.

When you are the right Tern, you get your turn, to make a Tern. 

White Fronted Terns-4895-Edit
Other Terns had already had their turn and had to take turns to feed their Tern.

White Fronted Terns-4853-Edit
Others were still in the courting stage, a male tries to entice a mate with a fishy gift.

Apparently the way to a females heart is through her tummy as well. 

White Fronted Terns-
We got back just in time for another crack at the sunset

Rangiuru Stream, Otaki

 
Day 3 had us heading south again to Waikanae, the wind had really picked up but we were brave and tried to make the best of it.
The wildlife and landscape photographer looks for the positive in all weather conditions.

It was a perfect day to go fly a kite, a really, really big kite lol

sunsets
A Black Shag on the move.

Black Shag-4750-Edit
We made it back home after three days, tired but satisfied with our efforts.
Bruce was pleased with the new skill he had learnt.
We can learn through reading books, but nothing compares to being shown the tricks of the trade and being able to try them out immediately out in the field.

 

 

Eastern Rockhopper Penguin, South  Wairarapa Coast .

Word started filtering down to us that a Eastern Rockhopper Penguin, moulting on the South Wairarapa Coast had been spotted.
Penguins must come ashore and stay put when moulting for about 3 weeks.
This means a forced fast from food and long boring days staring longingly out to sea.
This would be  the first ever official recorded sighting of a Eastern Rockhopper Penguin in the North Island of New Zealand.
My contacts soon came in handy and after a short exchange of emails, Steve and I had a pretty good idea where the bird was to be found and how long it had been there, so we waited till the bird had basically finished his moult and would be looking his best, then went looking for him.
We found him after doing a great deal of rock hopping ourselves, as the bird had chosen a hidden, quiet place, to moult , away of the prying eyes of the public.
He was tucked away in one of the many  crevices among the rocks looking far from happy.

We had to do heaps of rock hopping ourselves to find our prize .

Rockhopper penguin-5774-Edit

I was over the moon to see my first Rockhopper, a lot more so than the Rock hopper was pleased to see us , but we tried to keep the disturbance to a minimum.
The Rockhopper merely tolerated us as he sat there in his luckless state, still unable to launch himself out to sea where food and freedom beckoned.

My first ever Rockhopper.

Eastern Rockhopper penguin-

 

 
He didn’t seem to have lost too much condition during his 3 week stay on dry land
He left 2 days after this photo was taken.

Eastern Rockhopper penguin--5

 

 
He was not a happy chappie being forced into a 3 week stay on dry land, while his new water proofed outfit for the coming year  was being tailor fitted.

Eastern Rockhopper penguin--6

 

The Rockhopper was totally surrounded by loud energetic fur seal pups, that kept him on his toes with their comings and goings .

Give me a truck load of baby seals any day and they will keep me amused and busy photographing their antics all day long.

They are not the brightest looking creature on Gods planet for sure. lol

New Zealand Fur Seal-
But there is never a dull moment

New Zealand Fur Seal or kekeno-5501-Edit
And they do consider themselves supreme beings  lol

New Zealand Fur Seal or kekeno-5504-Edit

 

February

Next on the list was a photo-shoot where I covered a presentation to our minister of health at Parliament, that was an eye opener.

I cant show images from inside so here is one from the out side.

The Bee Hive,  Parliament the seat of power in New Zealand. 

Parliament

The next day was followed up with a workshop with Anna from Auckland who accompanied her husband Scott, who did the presentation at parliament.

We chose the Zealandia Wildlife Centre in the heart of Wellington city for our workshop, as our Anna had a hankering to photograph the cheeky kākā.

Zealandia is the  place to photograph  kākā , they are so successful at breeding them there completely wild, that they provide many juvenile kākā  for re population projects around the country, Zealandia IS  kākā central.

I love running workshops at Zealandia , no where that I know of, can provide the amazing diversity of New Zealand native birds with such easy assess to them in a wonderful bush setting.

Mr kākā perching at head height.

kaka-7581-Edit
We shared a wonderful, warm afternoon with the kākā and Anna got some great photos .
Anna also had a great time with the Bell birds, North Island Saddleback,  or tiekeshags and Red Fronted parakeets or kākāriki.

 

You get NO points for guessing why they have the name Red Fronted Parakeets 

kākāriki -7545-Edit

 

There are Tuatara at Zealandia , supposed to be the oldest living link to a now extinct line of lizards.

This one seems unimpressed with his valuable lineage.

tuatara
North Island Saddleback,  or tieke

Saddleback or tieke-

 

Very young Pied Shag chicks.

Pied shag

 

kākā are similar to the New Zealand kea, only different  😀

kaka-7375-Edit

 

It was two exhausted, but happy people who staggered back down the track to the car late in the afternoon.

Some private Crake therapy .

Next up it was time for some personal Crake therapy.
Both Steve and I had learnt a great deal more about Spotless Crakes or or puweto as they are called by the Moari, just by being able to watch them up north over Christmas and armed with a that new information and raw  enthusiasm, we hit the swamp with a soul full of hope and pretty soon  gumboots full of water.
I had my spot sorted for the evening  and I settled in for the long haul and gave a few calls on the cell phone. No answers though……..
I had my coffee flask, bananas and peanut butter sammies, to keep me company.

One hour turned into two and still no sign of any activity, but I knew there were Crakes in the area so I stayed put…………………………….. then I heard one answer my call.
Soon I had two calling on their own and I could track them moving around in the dense raupo forest across the water from me and then one simply materialised right in front of me.

There is nothing like a Spotless Crake appearing suddenly, out of the gloom of the raupo, to send your heart racing up into your throat and take your breathe away.
You know, often all you have is a few  seconds to get the shot, before it streaks back into thick cover and its gone for the night.

And suddenly it was right there, on the edge, between darkness and light.

Spotless Crake or puweto--13
Then bless his little soul, he came right out into the open, before wheeling around and darting back into the thick raupo, never to be seen again , leaving, me with a wildly beating heart and praising God lol.

I was happiness filled with this shot .

Spotless Crake or puweto--18
Spotless Crakes love raupo ,this is a prime Crake habitat, a raupo swamp at the southern end of Lake Taupo, its thick and has good cover from flying predators like hawks and full of insects and bugs.

Tokaanu Lake Taupo

 

Next up  was a general get together with Louise AKA (Danger Mouse) and her Hubby Dean aka Oscar,  for a crack at some newly hatched dabchicks on a pond we all visit.
We were joined by a surprise visit from an old friend Danny and the fun began.

Young dabchicks ride on their parents backs, hiding under the wings out of view, until they feel safe, then they poke their heads out demanding to be fed.

Pretty cute eh?

New Zealand dabchick or weweia--5
There was a horse jumping event going on across the paddocks, so i wandered over and took a few shots.
This  was the first time I had tried photographing horses , I really enjoyed the experience, I will be back again when the jumps are on.

Wellington Events  Horse Jumping event-

Wellington Events  Horse Jumping event-8798-Edit

 

Wellington Events  Horse Jumping event--2
Back to the Dabchicks again

New Zealand dabchick or weweia-8722-Edit

 

But wait there is more not many I promise lol

The end of March found Kath and I booked in for a day on the Foxton estuary, hoping to photograph some Bartail Godwits before they return to the northern hemisphere to breed.

Once again word came down the internet pipeline that a Bittern Had been in Foxton just the day before,so the idea was to proceed with plan A (the Godwits)  but keep a keen eye out for the bittern.
As it turned out the Godwits had all left and so had our joy,  when I turned around for some reason, just in time to see the bittern land 300 meters away right on the edge of the swamp.
There we were 300 meters across , 1200 meters around the edge and he was completely out in the open.
Kath I said in my best convincing voice, we got to get round there , you may never get a chance like this again in your life time.
Now Kath may not be  a spring Chicken, but she is made of stern stuff.
We made haste slowly over the sand and mud down and around to the other side of the estuary, not one complaint was heard from poor Kath as she made her way determinedly towards our goal.
An hour later we had manoeuvred our way in and where meters from the Bittern and Kath got some wonderful pictures of a bird, very few people including hard core bird photographers get in this Country.
Bittern over seas might be quite tolerant of humans close by, but not in this country.
Im really proud of Kath with the amount of effort it took to get round the edge of that swamp to get her shots.
When Kath and I got close to the Bittern, we went to town on that bird making the most of it.

 Opportunities like this, do not come round very often .

matuku the Australasian bittern -9977-Edit
You just do not see this everyday.

matuku the Australasian bittern -0302-Edit
Such a graceful bird in flight.

matuku the Australasian bittern --5

One last one , my favourite. 

matuku the Australasian bittern --6
The next post wont be half this long, I promise and for those who read all of it , a great big thank you and bless ya heaps and heaps.

For those who I had the pleasure of spending some exciting times together with our cameras, bless ya even more ❤

 

 

 

 

The great Crake quest part 3,The Crake arena.

We finished part 2 with Steve and I back home in Upper Hutt, waiting for the windows on the wagon to get fixed, determined not to let the thieves spoil our trip.
The down time was spent at home processing the images I  already had for the trip  and fine tuning the third phase of our trip, while also keeping an eye on the birding community, just in case something big was happening up country that we could poke our nose into.

Word soon filtered through to us that Donald had replaced Steve “CRAKE” Richards as the Shakespeare Crake Spotter in “Steve’s spot” with great success.
But what was even more exciting was that Oscar, his sidekick had located a whole community of Spotless Crakes feeding on the wet mud, surrounding a small pond hidden among the toi toi bushes in the spot I had casually pointed out to Don as being an ideal spot for Crakes.
Dons photos of the Crakes started appearing in the forums fuelling our determination to return to the north.
Mike Ashbee and his partner Amber from Christchurch in the South Island had lucked out timing a trip up north on a pelagic trip that coincided with the finding of the Crakes and ended up with the  massive bonus of being able to photograph them. 
Spotless Crakes are very rare in the South Island and in fact I dont know anyone who  has ever seen one down there ,  Mike was over the moon with his images.

Steve made new windows for the wagon out of some material he found lying around,  as we had no time to wait till the local businesses to re-open after the new year’s holiday.
Steve had spent many years living on the isolated steward Island, where he learnt many skills and fixing stuff was one of them.
An opportunity like this is rare indeed, so the gear was thrown into the wagon and back up past Auckland we headed.

Day 1: Heading North
As it was, this gave us another chance at the Black Kite on the way north , so Oram Road, the birds happy hunting ground was our first destination.
It was late afternoon around 5pm when we made Huntly a small town 20 mins south of Oram road, here  we held a meeting of the board of directors and it was unanimously decided that dinner (supper if you’re a yank) would be purchased in Huntly and then devoured in the wagon at a well known corner on Oram Road where the Black Kite had been spotted before and so it transpired.

We had just pulled up and parked off the road, my packet of fish and chips, once safely wrapped in paper, was now spread open on my lap, a generous amount of tomato sauce was being applied to the chips when I happened to look out the window.
(&%$$^%$””)  Not 30 meters away, here comes the Black Kite flying directly at us.
Camera on the floor under my feet, a lap loaded with fish and chips, tomato sauce bottle open, all in all a recipe for a great big mess lol.
Steve was outside the wagon looking over an area of swamp with his back to me.
KITE, KITE, KITE, I hissed, making sure it was more than loud enough to get Steve’s attention.

I cant say Im aware of exactly what happened in the next few seconds but most of my fish and chips remained in the paper and there is to this day NO tomato sauce stains on the seats .
But I was out side in a jiffy trying to focus on that bird as it glided past oblivious to the frantic panicking going on below.  Click click  I managed to nail it on the way past .

For the uninitiated  this a packet of fish and chips once wrapped in paper , now spread open on my lap

Hokitika-

I nailed the Black Kite on the way past.

black Kite-1922-Edit


It glided past up the road out of sight, Steve was now in the driving seat, engine roaring and off up the road in a  a spray of pebbles, and dust we went in hot pursuit.
We got to the end of the road without seeing it again, Back down the road we came, lamenting such a missed opportunity when Steve spotted the bird coming out of the sun, if it stayed on its current course it would pass right in front of us.
This time we were prepared , the wagon glided to a stop , out of the wagon spilt our two heroes and clikerty click, click went the cameras as the bird glided  right over us.

The sky was very bright over cast and the sun still well above the bird so I choose to shoot one and a half stops over the reading the camera had made its mind up to use.
This way the bird would not appear as a sharp black silhouette in a pure white sky.
I always shoot in pattern or average exposure mode, so the camera looks at all that bright white sky and the little dark object (the bird) and decides to set the exposure for and over all average exposure based on that combined information , the result is devastation for the user as they end up with a perfectly exposed sky and a jet black bird. Solution? force the camera to over expose the sky  called over compensation and hope you are in the ball park.
Experience plays a major role in knowing how to push the camera exposure in the right direction and by how much.
Much back patting went on as we both had pretty good images of a bird seldom seen in New Zealand, we were off to a great start.

I could have done with pushing the exposure another half a stop,  but you takes what you get  in this game.

Black Kite-1981-Edit

 

Day 2 :The Crake Arena
Day 2 found us at the Crake Arena and we set up and settled down well hidden with a feeling of great excitement and anticipation .

The pond is perfectly placed in the centre of a mixed forest of toi toi and flax bushes, with  an open area of about 30 feet in circumference.
Several Crake families were using the area to feed and disputes were frequent hence the name Crake Arena.
Some of us will remember a computer game called Quake Arena, so that’s where the idea came from.

Crakes love damp to very wet gooey mud, close to cover that contains worms and many insects.
With summer now in full swing the water table in the swamp had dropped reducing the wet areas the Crakes use to feed, this made the Crake arena a hot spot of activity and it wasn’t long before we got our first customer.
The first character to appear was a young Crake chick, I lay as still as I could, flat on the damp ground the camera out in front of me and me trying to hide behind it.
The Crake did not seem to care, it fed incredibly close and my eyes must have been popping out of my head.
This first image will give us an idea of just how small these birds are.
This bird is almost full size , the blades of grass are just inches high

Spotless Crake or puweto-21
This juvenile is almost adult size

Spotless Crake or puweto-9
Off and on various Crakes visited the arena and as the day wore on the light became very harsh and we retired to Dons house for a snooze and a bite to eat.
Unfortunately that night, it became very overcast and the light faded very quickly.
Spotless Crakes are food for just about everything out there and certainly all the predatory birds in the sky as well as ground based predators, so they are super, scatty, nervous, creatures that are ever on the alert.
Crakes move around with quick, jerky movements, never stopping , often speeding off into cover for no good reason. Sometimes they just leave you scratching your head.
Without good light my shutter speed was not going to be fast enough to give me sharp images on these fast moving birds, so it was pack it in for the day and hope for a better luck tomorrow.

Day 3: The Crake Arena revisited.
Tomorrow arrived and it looked like just what we wanted.

Day 3 dawned perfect for what we wanted

sunset-

For most of the day the arena was visited by a mixture of chicks and juveniles, but there was also more going on in and around the arena than just the Crakes.
tui flew, or more accurately, hovered, above the arena snatching insect’s out of the air on the wing, very impressive.

Anyone who has tried to photograph tui on the wing will appreciate just how hard it is and Im very pleased with these shots as the light at the time was less than favourable.

tui-1

 

The shutter speed was not fast enough to freeze the wing beat of this bird,  but I was very happy with this shot .

tui--2
Eastern Rosella landed close by and I managed to stalk a few, there was always something going on to keep us amused, most valuable though by far was being able to watch the Crakes completely out in the open doing their thing  and we learnt heaps about their feeding habits and survival skills.

Eastern Rosella landed close by and I managed to stalk a few.

eastern rosella-2572-Edit

 

Mostly  the arena was visited by youngsters , this one was very young .

Spotless Crake or puweto-43

Two sizes

Spotless Crake or puweto-3

 

As the day wore on, the sun began to slip from the sky the adults came out to feed, talk about a challenge. Them little muthas were close and moving at speed, I was lying flat along the ground in the grass to get my preferred head level straight at the bird profile shots, trying to keep them in the view finder kept me busy.
To have these birds so close to us at last, was a real treat.
The adult birds tended to stalk stealthy in on the insects, then rush at them at the last moment, click blast  missed, click ,click, click……..click, blast missed again, it was tricky to say the least .

Spotless Crake or puweto-24

 

Ready to pounce

Spotless Crake-2487-Edit
A bit of breeze up the bum every now and again made for interesting images

Spotless Crake or puweto-11
Insect eating, mud monster

Spotless Crake or puweto-15

 

 

Day 4 : Pureora Forest Park

However, how many similar shots of one species of bird does one need in the same environment ?
The next day would be wasted spending it with the Crakes yet again, as we would getting the same type of images, so it was throw everything into the back in the wagon and blast back down the Island to our beloved, koekoeā or Long tail Cuckoo  spot, in the Pureora Forest Park, deep in the heartland of the King Country.

Every year for the past 4 years this has been our grand finale.
As far as Im concerned to get good photos of these birds in flight is the most rewarding  and satisfying. 
These bird have caused me to create new and unheard of swear words over the few years, just especially for them, they are truly in a class of their own lol.
When they do pass you by, they do not fly level, they fly almost nap or the earth, that means they follow the contour of the landscape up over high points, diving down in the dips.
You just don’t get to appreciate how fast these bird fly and how tricky they are till you try to keep them in the viewfinder.
These Cuckoos migrate here each summer to lay eggs in the Whitehead nests, a bird about the size of a sparrow.
pōpokotea or  Whitehead is about the size of a house sparrow

pōpokotea or the Whitehead

 

During winter, long-tails live on a heap of different Islands scattered around the Pacific Ocean where they spent their time lazing around in the sun all day, but each year they fly here to New Zealand, pop out an egg or two into a Whitehead nest and force their kids onto the poor unsuspecting whitehead, who is then forced to feed a baby that becomes 6 times their size for the summer months.
Then they and the chicks fly back up north into the Pacific during our winter, have a friendly family party of it , patting each other on the back celebrating a job well done.

Some one really needs to sit down with these birds and explain just how irresponsible parents they are.

It would be a lot easier if the birds could be found in the same areas every year, but that just isn’t so.
We have to hunt and scout for them each year, but when we track them down the fun begins.
We are not really looking for single birds, what we are after mainly is communities of these birds, that’s where the action really is.
This year it took us 2 days to find them but when we did, man did it go off.
If you can imagine 2 rows  of trees about 150 meters long  with an open corridor of about 4 meters between them  with over a dozen birds screeching at each other from the trees on both sides.

A long tail flies over head, a very challenging target 

koekoeā the Long tail Cuckoo--24
Low and hard out  its even more challenging lol

koekoeā the Long tail Cuckoo--14

 

It was deafening and impossible to photograph them most of the time as they flew from  one side to the other before we could get anywhere near ready , they are also experts at putting branches between them and us once they know we are after them.
We snuck up and down those trees trying to photograph the birds screeching and hollering making such a racket it was hard to hold onto to our sanity. These birds make no wing beat noise when they fly so we had no warning when one would break cover to fly across in front or behind us. We were pretty much nervous wrecks by the time we left them to it.

Sneaking up and down the row of trees, as stealthy as possible, has its occasional rewards.

koekoeā the Long tail Cuckoo--18

What a way to finish what had certainly been our most rewarding trip to date.
but  the longtails are not the only game in Pureora.

An adult Bell bird with its chick.

Bell Bird-3692-Edit
The bell bird is so  named after the bell sounding call it makes.

Bell Bird-3698-Edit

A tomtit singing for all its worth.

Tomtit-4151-Edit

 
So much had happened over the last  few  weeks and as per normal we were already planning or next trip away during the winter months.
We had learnt a lot of new information and it would prove to be invaluable in aiding us on the Crakes we had lined up closer to home.
What a trip we had this year.

I manged to knock the top of my wish list  for a home run.
Marsh Crake
Spotless Crake
Banded Rail
Black Kite
Fairy Tern.
This summer trip will be long remembered not just for the birds  but for the shared memories .
Sharing the excitement with my mate Steve CRAKE Richards  lol   and meeting up with some amazing people.
A big thanks goes out to Don, his partner  and Anna  for putting up with us .
I will leave the last say to the longtails
please have a listen to these incredible birds here .
Go to the speaker Icon on the right with the heading “songs/calls from several birds”  to get an idea of what the longtails sound like.

Bless you peoples heaps , its back to the normal monthly reports , tips and tricks and notices about upcoming workshops  in the months to come.

 

 

 

The great Crake quest prt 2

Read part 1 Here

 Part 2 of the great Crake quest.

I apologise up front for the length of these posts, Im determined to cover at least ONE Christmas trip in its entirety and I did not want it to go on for four parts.

Day 1 , Shakespear Park, whangaparāoa peninsula
Boxing day dawned cold and windy at the southern end of lake Taupo.
A short sortie out to the old wharf at Tokaanu and it was back into the warmth of the wagon and our 2 heroes were headed north to the whangaparāoa peninsula, just north of Auckland.
 The plan was to meet up with two members of our , facebook group, NZ bird image, Donald Snook and his often side kick/ assistant Anna Arrol, the next day.

The eastern side of lake Taupo whizzed past as we pushed the Toyota into the stiff northerly wind and we chattered like a couple of excited chipmunks, as already, this trip had far exceeded our expectations and now we were excited about what may lie ahead of us yet.
Mid afternoon found us at one of our much anticipated points of interest for the trip.
Earlier in the year a Black Kite, a Hawk like raptor and native of Australia 2,5800 kilometres away across the Tasman sea, had been spotted in the area.
 Since bird sighting records began in this country only 7 of these birds have been reported, having been blown over here by strong trans-Tasman winds and this bird had been seen often enough trading up and down a particular road we had great hopes of seeing and photographing this bird.
 So up that road we went, slowly, eyes scanning the vast sky , then right at the very end of the road we spotted it circling a distant 300 meters away, practically a dot in the sky but easily identified through my binoculars by its shape, esp its tail.
Nothing was going to bring that bird our way, so we begrudgingly made tracks for Auckland, the city of insanity and beyond, comforting each other that we had at least seen the celebrity bird.
 By the time we hit whangaparāoa and on down to Shakespear Park at the end of the peninsula it was Late afternoon , still we had enough time for a quick look around.
That first night Steve and I decided to stake out a likely looking spot for a Banded Rail, we opted to use the wagon as a blind.
We had asked about Spotless Crake in the area and been told that no one had seen one for years, well that was about to change big time.
I was perched on the off side passenger’s seat looking over Steve’s shoulder out through the open window, my gaze fixed on a small muddy pond where we both felt a Banded Rail was likely to visit before dark when I sensed more than saw Steve’s body go stiff as he hissed that he had just seen a Spoltess Crake race out of cover and race back in just below my line of sight.
We waited , an hour passed , we waited some more, the light was almost gone  so I went for a sneak around the marshes  and spotted my first Banded Rail and managed to get a shot , it wasn’t the best of shots, being a bit far away but I was on the board.

My First Banded Rail image.

Banded Rail or moho pererū -


 Up and back through the cover along the side of the road I went but I was constantly being dogged by two adult Pied Stilts who had an almost grown baby to protect, this made it very hard in the sneaking department so I made my way back to see if Steve had seen his mystical Crake again.

poaka  the very, very  loud mouthed and annoying  pied stilt, made my Rail stalking a nightmare.

Pied Stilt- poaka

The reason for all the noise, a baby poaka tucked away behind some mangrove bushes and  no doubt it too, will grow  into an adult  loud mouthed poaka just like its parents. 

Pied Stilts-0117-Edit
Steve although not having seen the Crake again, he was adamant that he had indeed seen  a Crake, there was no mistaking it for anything other than a Spotless Crake.
These birds are tiny and well you know the cover is thick and when your looking hard over a length of time and a bird not much bigger than a sparrow scuttles through…well you know,  Steve’s sanity was being called into question.
But no, Steve stuck to his guns, it was a Crake and hell or high water he was going to prove it lol.
 For three nights Steve was on the stake out and in the last hour of our last night he finally saw the Crake again and got a shot of its backside as it scooted back into cover. Steve bathed in his success and I had to cancel his appointment with the Looney bin.

Day 2 Shakespear Park, whangaparāoa peninsula
 Our plan was to rendezvous with Donald at the gates of Shakespear Park at 630am , giving us just about enough light to photograph the Banded Rail .

This bird had now become NO 1, on my most desperately wanted list and sleep did not come easy as we had not been able to find anywhere safe for me to sleep outside the wagon so we settled for the front seats of the wagon.
 Donald arrived bang on time and we clambered aboard his van with the side door open, it felt like the beginning of the movie Predator but without the chewing tobacco, the red flashing light and long tall sally blasting away in the background, we were certainly on a mission lol
 We snuck around that park for one and a half hours and not a Banded Rail or a Predator did we see.
 Don being the ever enthusiastic guide took us over the hill to the sea shore on the other side of peninsula  where  we found wonderful opportunities of shooting all sorts of shore birds except the Banded blasted Rail.
 On the way over to the other side of the peninsular we spied a number of Brown Quail.
These birds  were introduced here in New Zealand in the 1800s as a game bird.
Once upon a time I loved hunting these birds over my pointing dogs.
The  Brown Quail

Brown Quail-0290-Edit

 

 Walking up the beach Our first encounter  on the beach was this pair of variable  torea-pango or baby oystercatchers that were perfectly camouflaged among the rocks .
 Do you think they can see us  lol

variable oystercatcher or torea-pango-0309-Edit

Next up was Mr New Zealand Dotterel or tūturiwhatu guarding his nest in the sand behind him.

_1DX0295-Edit

 Even young New Zealand Dotterels are well camouflaged when not running around in the open.

New Zealand Dotterel-0366-Edit

 Further along the beach we met some more Oystercatchers with more mature young.

I dont think these birds are on the level.

variable oystercatcher or torea-pango-0394-Edit

After a cup of coffee , Anna our second guide for the day turned up and we all walked through the forested part of the park.
Much work has been put into this park and it showed, the bird life was prolific as the war on ground dwelling pests is being won.

First up in the bush was the native bush pigeon the kereru.

kereru-0693-Edit


We saw Bush Robin, Saddleback , Grey Warbler in good numbers and a hour later we  retired back to the wagon  for lunch and a quick snooze.
Evening rolled around and it was back into the search for what up to this time was the elusive Banded Rail.
Steve went back to his Crake quest and I stalked the edges of the swamps among the sedges and tussocks and finally I scored a decent shot.

The sun had disappeared but there was still enough light for the 1DX to do its thing at ISO1600.

Banded Rail or moho pererū --13

 Another chance soon followed, I was on a roll .
Banded Rail or moho pererū, number 3 for the trip was on the memory card.

Banded Rail or moho pererū --2


 Soon it was too dark to take photos  so I joined  Steve in the wagon and once again I was subjected to Steve trying to convince me that there were Spotless Crakes in the park.
His claim was starting to attract some attention as Donald spread the news among the local bird fans of a possible Crake spotted in the park.

Day 3, tawharanui Regional Park and waipu, Northland
Day 3, started  at whangaparāoa, where I  once again hunted for the banded Rail as soon as there was enough light and Steve was on stake out once again .
I manged to get my first pretty much out in the open  images of a Banded Rail when one stepped out from behind some rushes and failed to see me .

At last one brave enough to come out into the open and give me a decent look at him.

Banded Rail or moho pererū --5


On the way back I got some more shots and all was well with the world .
Steve had not seen the Crake again, but did get a visit from a Rail and had some very nice images to show for his patience .

Steve and I  had decided we needed  to visit tawharanui Regional Park north of Auckland .
Donald  and another member of the Face Book group, Oscar were to guide us and they  travelled up in Dons van,  Steve and I were in the wagon as they had return early for work commitments,  while Steve and I had plans to push further north to waipu to check out the Fairy Terns , so we had ourselves a convoy.
 tawharanui Regional Park has been managed for bird life for a number of years now and it shows.
Bush birds are there in great numbers, in fact I would class this park as a must see place for anyone interested in birds.
 The park has open coastal areas , heavy bush and swampland to explore by using any of the gazillion walking tracks available to the public.
The place is a real gem and first thing that became apparent was the massive number of Brown Teal or patake.
They inhabited all the areas from dense bush sides creeks  to open coastal areas and every where in between.

Ive never seen even close to the number of patake there.

patake the Brown Teal.

patake-0930-Edit

Pairs of Brown Teal were all over the place

patake-0941-Edit

 

 Unfortunately the landscape photos of this part of the trip were taken on my 5D mrk11  which was stolen the next day so I am unable to share with you peoples just how fantastic this park is.
Mrs Tui was having a bit of a singsong to anyone willing to listen .

tui-

 

Waipu, Northland
 Later on in the day we travelled north to Waipu to try and photograph the rare Fairy Tern The Fairy tern is considered vulnerable  but the subspecies that breeds in New Zealand only,  are classified as critically endangered but thanks to a dedicated team of people protecting them , their future looks tentatively promising .
Weather was drizzly and the light was soft , my favourite conditions.
Beautiful soft light made it ideal to capture some New Zealand Dotterels in the cover off the beach.

Soft light, soft rain, soft coloured birds and soft cover, just lovely.

New Zealand Dotterel -1164-Edit
I will do an article one day on complementary colours, how to look for them and use them to your advantage.

 Subdued colours of the cover match the colour of the birds.

New Zealand Dotterel -

Oyster Catches were also nesting in the cover  , we were approached by one particular menacing one , so we backed off and went on our way.

variable oystercatcher or torea-pango-1179-Edit

 

Ruddy Turnstones  were feasting on shell fish

Turnstones-

 

 I found a New Zealand  Dot  with crabs

New Zealand Dotterel -1094-Edit


Meantime we were being constantly  buzzed by Oystercatches

variable oystercatcher or torea-pango-1143-Edit
We returning  to the car resigned to not seeing our Fairy Tern when one landed 200 meters way and the long stalk in over completely barren ground began ending with a long shot, we were wet and the bird flew away with purpose so we continued to the car and back to my beloved Banded Rails.

One Fairy Tern and this was as close as I got .

Fairy Tern-

 

We got back to Shakespear Park just in time for Steve to return to his stake out, while I tried to sneak around the place.
That evening Steve got his Crake shot, redeemed him self and caused a great deal of excitement among the natives as now he had proof that the park held Spotless Crakes.
I have to say I never doubted him for a second 😛

Day 4,  Whangamarino Wetlands, Waikato
 I got a few more shots of the Rails  that night and Tony was a happiness filled .

We were off for Miranda in Thames today but first we spent the morning hunting Rails yet again.
While hunting for the Banded Rail with Don, I saw what looked like a great little spot for Spotless Crake, I mentioned this to Don and then  thought nothing more of it.
Little did I know the place was going to become the Crake Arena, but more on that later in part 3 of the great Crake quest.

 I got another Rail Shot  that I was very pleased with, sorry last one I promise  lol

Banded Rail or moho pererū --6


Mr kotare let me get pretty close to him so click went the camera and we were on our way south.

This has to be one of the most colourful kingfishers I have seen to date.

kotare-

 

The day was warm and  slightly over cast and we were on the way, heading south again, I was feeling so relaxed, I had my Marsh Crakes and  Banded Rails in the can, life was good.

Whangamarino Wetlands, Waikato  and Miranda wildlife sanctuary ,Thames

 Whangamarino Wetlands here we come and another chance at Spotless Crakes and perhaps a Bittern.
Rumour has it that  about 70% of the bitterns in New Zealand breed in this huge swamp, one would be forgiven for expecting to see at least some of them, but  NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO lol

Last time we had visited the Whangamarino Wetlands it was stinking hot and we walked for mile after fruitless mile, this time it was a lot cooler but I guess I gave into residual memories  left from our last expedition deep into the heart of the huge swamp and lacked the enthusiasm I should have had.
We had walked a good many mile without sighting a single Crake although we did hear a few and we were almost back to the car , in fact in sight of the car 50 meters away and I was tired and a little hungry , pointing right, Steve said lets go down this side road and have a last go.
I looked at the crappy cover and then back at the wagon and said those words one learns to regret, Im going back to have lunch, you go on and have a look see.
This is how it goes.
I just knew what was going to happen, it was eating away at me while I ate away at my tomatoes sammies  .
Steve did very well hiding his excitement as he casually saunters up to the wagon while I was on my seat outside enjoying my lunch.
He  swung the camera in front of my face and showed me the back , there on the screen was a wonderful picture of a Spotless Crake, He got about 8 of  certainly the best images I have seen of a Spotless Crake, it had walked out, right in front of him.

I was no longer feeling relaxed lol
I was however, really pleased for him and we celebrated with a few hand shakes and back patting and I had learnt a very important lesson, never ever, ever, give up.
We had lunch then went back to look at where Steve had seen the bird and just as he was reliving his experience and showing me where it appeared from, it did it again and we got more shots at it.
  Clikerty click, click, click, then silence as the bird went out of sight.

Spotless Crake or puweto-
 Then we both cracked up laughing and jumped back into the wagon and headed for Miranda wildlife sanctuary.

 Miranda wildlife sanctuary ,Thames

 Well there is not much about this part of the trip that I haven’t already expressed here.
All my camera gear got stolen in the car park while we were out in the field.
The windows were smashed and the next morning we made a dash for home to get the wagon fixed.
Steve’s parting words that night as he dropped me off at home was we aint letting those thieving B!£$tQ&^DS wreck out trip and as soon as the wagon was fixed we went back up north for part 3 and our destiny at the Crake arena .

This is why people flock to Miranda 
Birds, birds and more birds

 

Godwits at miranda

 

 

 

Rakes, Crails and the great Crake quest prt 1.

Once a year Steve and I plan and a trip away, with something special and specific in mind.
Most years we target certain birds that we have on our “TROPHY LIST”, some of which have eluded us many times on our previous trips.
Hope springs eternal though and after all It wouldn’t be much of a trophy list  if the birds were easy to get  would it?
So each year we set out determined to knock the top of the list off.

As Steve nor I have family  commitments for Christmas  the plan was that we would hit the road on the 22nd of December.

The over all trophy list grows smaller each year and those harder to get birds, get crammed up the top of said list, to sit there to taunt and poke fun at us.
At the very top of the list is a set of three birds that belong to the Rallidae family.

The Rallidae family, consists of Rails, Crakes and Coots.
In this country, on the mainland, we have the following that belong in this classification.
Australian coot
Banded rail or moho-pererū in maori
Marsh crake – koitareke
Purple swamp hen – pūkeko
Spotless crake – puweto
takahē
Maori  woodhen or weka

At  the very pinnacle of our trophy list sits  the  koitareke or Marsh Crake, a tiny, very secretive bird that lives in swamps throughout New Zealand in small family units.
This bird is so hard to find that we have never known really where to start.
These birds as do most Crakes move around  as the environmental conditions change.
We did not expect to get this bird ticked off the list anytime soon because of its difficulty in locating a family of them.
We had never seen one or even heard them call to date.
Next down the list was the Spotless Crake or puweto, another small, secretive, swamp dwelling bird about the same size as a House Sparrow.
I was on the board with this bird, but the one shot I had was not up to my standard’s and taunted me no end , each time I looked at it, Steve on the other hand had a few good shots of immature birds, but no adults thus far.
But the good news was that we were getting on to them Spotless Crake critters  and had learnt a lot about the bird as we had been targeting them locally with limited success.
Both of these Crake species  are semi nomadic and can move to a new area overnight due to  the ease of the acquisition of food and good dry protection from predators ,mainly from  over head
There one day, gone the next, maybe to return next year, maybe not.
Who knows what goes on in a little Crakes mind?
Next of great importance was the banded Rail or moho-pererū.
We had friends up north I had made through my Face Book group that could help us out there, as they had some in their local area that were fairly reliable to get shots of.
Not having any of these Banded Rails down our way, we had not notched up any real serious time under our belts hunting these birds, so we had accepted the invitation to stay with these wonderful peoples.
One of the reasons I started my group on face book is to network people together and its working, people from  all over New Zealand in the group are meeting up with each other and sharing information.
Might start a dating site one day lol.
Anyway I  was super excited at the prospect of getting a chance to photograph the Banded Rail for the first time. They are glorious birds and being a colour freak  I am mesmerised by them.
As for the other birds on the Rallidae list , we had them nailed long ago, so the Marsh and Spotless Crakes along with the  Banded  Rail was to be the BIG 3 of our trip.
We intended to end our trip as has become  our custom, with yet another go at our beloved long tail cuckoos or koekoeā on the way home at the end of our trip north.

Sometimes things just go your way.

As we prepared for our trip, (Steve is more the map look-er-over-rer and researcher, Im more the public relations officer that deals with human contacts, organising meet ups and such because I like to talk heaps), word came through the national network of bird watchers just 3 days before we our trip was planned to start, that a family of Marsh Crakes was spotted by some very keen and reliable bird watchers.
That was a long sentence, you can take a big breath now lol.
The Marsh Crakes were not on our intended route north being on the other side of the North Island, but we quickly made changes to our travel schedule like excited monkeys, planned our tactical assault   and lost the ability to sleep the last few nights before our departure.
But the 22nd of December came eventually.
Having not been to Napier for a few years it was great watching the road slip away under the tires of the Toyota, knowing that we would soon be revisiting a favourite hunting ground that holds such exciting memories for both of us.

Marsh Crakes here we come.
Steve had us booked into a caravan park 10 minutes from where the crakes had been sighted so I hurried to pitch my little tent, Steve gets to sleep in relative comfort and luxury on a mattress in the back of the wagon while I get to sleep in my little tent everywhere we go …I cant really complain , I have a stretcher and Im really quite comfy .
With the tent up, all the stuff stashed away, we were off for our first encounter with the Marsh Crakes.
As we approached the spot where the Crakes had been reported, a major problem became glaringly apparent.
The afternoon sun was in the wrong place for our subjects shining directly at us and down the barrels of our lenses and it would be impossible to get the sun at our backs. Shooting directly in to the sun is a big no, no and leads to abysmal images normally, but there was no choice for us.
As we approached the spot where these tiny, tiny, birds, were using as their temporary home, we saw our first Crake.
Unbelievably small, they busily darted out of the cover, into the open, onto the sticky mud, sucking up insects and small worms and darting back into the safety of the sedges’ again.
I was not prepared for just how small they were and how quick they darted back and forth.
I was going to be on my game that was for sure.
We had given ourselves 2 full days with these birds, so there was no hurry for now, now  that we had found them and with the sun not being in the right position.
I took a few shots of the little blighters just in case anything went sideways like the weather in the next few days and then went off to shoot some waders along the water edge out yonder where I could get the sun in the desired position.

Once I had the sun at my back I began clicking the shutter

A Pectoral sandpiper dancing on the water

Pectoral sandpiper-

 

Pied Stilts were dancing in the late afternoon sun

_1DX6238-Edit
Chopped the wing tip off this one but hey Im not perfect  lol

Pied stilts-6341-Edit

The sweet taste of success. 

We figured next morning, the sun would be perfectly placed for us and our subjects and thus it was so.

430.am arrived on time and I kicked myself out of bed , well stretcher and staggered to the communal kitchen, chucked hot water in the flask along with the desired amount of coffee and milk and did the morning (old man ritual) of taking a selection of pills for various  ailments, and others just for good luck.
Old age sucks but Ive had good use out of this body so I don’t have too much to complain about.
The sun  rose where it was suppose to and as we made our way to our little spot we found our little friends were already hard at work converting insects into energy and it was full on for the next 3 hours.
The sun was exactly in the right place this time and red eyes of the birds were really showing as well as the light being soft enough to show off the fine feather detail.
I had plenty of room to get down low to the ground and shoot along the top of the water and shoot the birds at their head level, this is the best profile to go for most subjects , so if you are  not down low, covered in mud and wet, then you aint no kind of wild life photographer lol.
Right off the bat the birds were too busy feeding to pay us much mind and just so long as we stayed pretty still they got on with it .

my opening shot

Marsh Crake-6645-Edit
Soon the birds ventured out further from cover and closer to us.

Marsh Crake-6688-Edit
I was completely absorbed by these pretty dainty little birds

Marsh Crake-6892-Edit
As you can see here in this image, being so small and secretive spotting these birds without knowing exactly where they are living would be a difficult task.
They dont stay out in the open for very long before scurrying back into the safety of cover

Marsh Crake-6712-Edit

Three  hours later when the sun became  too high in the sky and the light once again became too harsh it was time to go find something else to photograph.
The best time for great photographs of birds is 1-3 hours after sunrise and 2 hours on wards before sunset.
To say we were very pleased would be an understatement.
As it happened, we were to get that evening with the birds and that was that because the weather spat the dummy and rained and flooded the whole place, however the sun was over cast that last evening and we got another spectacular session with these birds. No glaring sunlight this time.

Without the glaring light that evening, we  got some great images.
Yummy yummy food for my tummy

Marsh Crake-8124-Edit
We were very lucky as with the place being flooded the next day and the mud being covered in water, the birds remained hidden in the sedges where they could stay dry and moved on to better pastures within days of us having our little feast of them. We had just got there in time.

Time to move on.

With the rain pelting down we left the Hawkes Bay area and Napier behind us in a cloud of watery spray and headed cross country to Taupo and then south to Turangi .
The idea was to spend Christmas in the area before heading to the Whangaparāoa Peninsula to rendezvous with Donald and the Banded Rails, day after boxing day.
Our trips are full on, no days off, long days and short nights.
There are few places I enjoy more than being on the old wharf at Tokaanu just out side of the little township of Turangi at the southern end of Lake taupo.

The southern end of Lake Taupo

Southern end of Lake Taupo

 

The old Tokaanu Wharf Lake Taupo
Heaps of birds trade back and forth above this old wharf

The old Tokaanu Wharf Lake Taupo
I have spent many an enjoyable hour striding up and down the wharf,  trying hard to get sharp focused shots of flying grey teal, pāpango or other wise known as the New Zealand scaup ) which I had failed at doing up until this year.
These pāpango are the real speedsters of the Duck and Teal world, they fly low and very fast.
From the wharf you  can get heaps of opportunities at them as they fly up and down the lake.

At last I have a flying shot of a  pāpango that I can be proud of

pāpango the New Zealand scaup

Other birds I managed to capture from the wharf

The Karate Coot

Coots--4
A couple of Welcome swallows resting in the early morning light

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welcome swallow-9913-Edit
A Black Swan and her youngsters

swan-

and this Little Black Shag.

Little Black shag-
So after 2 days of chasing Teal, Bitterns, Spotless Crake, we had some pretty good shots of the papango, but not of the others and it was time to push north past Auckland and meet up with Donald and Anna  on the great Crake Quest lol
Join me for Part 2 in a few weeks time and bless you peoples heaps ❤

 

A November to remember.

This November will be one I will never forget.
Bird photography is very similar to hunting in this country.
Planning and strategies are the same.
Effort is needed in finding areas that your intended trophy/target species lives in  and perseverance, to return to areas known to  be their home, again and again and again, until at last you succeed in your quest.
This November will never be forgotten as it ended a five year quest for a particular Bittern shot, but more on this later.
Breeding birds are in full swing in November and this November was no exception.
November  started off with a morning with Toya a fellow bird photographer , shooting her New Zealand tuis and White Eyes out  her lounge double doors into her back yard, then followed by a quick trip out to the south Wellington coast to search for some Double Banded Dotterels and their chicks .

White eyes or silver eyes as I know them are good practice , quick and nimble, never staying long in one spot.

white eyes-9816-Edit

 

white eyes--4

The reason this image looks better than perhaps it is, is because of what I call complementary colours.
we will do a whole blog on the use of complementary colours one day.

Tui-
Mr tui in his tux

New Zealand Tui

A blustery cold Southerly greeted us on the exposed beach and fast moving, patchy cloud  pretty much kept the light conditions changing all the time.
I always keep my camera settings based around my aperture,  that way  I chose the depth of field which is  normally  set at F.8  and the ISO on 1,600, That way the 1DX will then give me the fastest shutter speed available for those settings and light conditions.
In this way, no matter where I point the camera all over Gods creation, the exposure will be fine and Im getting the fastest shutter speed possible without having to constantly change or worry about my settings, all I need to do is keep my subject in the centre of the view finder and keep pressing the shutter button.
It wasn’t long before I spotted a small but very quick Dotterel chick zooming off among the rocks hot footing it out of there but not before I got one quick shot off.

Always heading away from me  lol

Banded Dotterals-0520-Edit
Once these chicks get more than a week old they can move very fast and man this one was a contender for the 100 meter sprint for the next Olympics.
One shot was it and I gave up trying to keep up with it and choose to have a go at some adults flying into the wind and chasing one another out of their breeding territories further down the beach.

Banded Dotterals-0699-Edit
The day came to a close with some images I was very pleased with.

Banded Dotterals-
A Male Dotterel guarding his territory loudly.

Banded Dotterel

 

  

My next outing came the following weekend when Steve and I met up with another friend who had been hearing a few Shining Cuckoos where he ran his dog, so out there we went with high expectations.
Now shining cuckoo shots are hard to get and I have only had a few over the last 5-6  years we have been chasing them, so it was exciting to have at least 6 birds come into our calls  that evening and we were able to get some good shoots of some of them.

pipiwharauroa-shining-cuckoo

 

These birds look best on overcast days

pipiwharauroa-shining-cuckoo

 

Native Wood Pigeons (kereru) were also out in good numbers

peskey shadows kind of spoilt this shot

kereru-2512-Edit

 

kereru

I went to bed that night with little shining cuckoos flying around the ceiling of my bedroom as I relived the action until the biggest earthquake, 7.8 I have ever experienced had me rushing outside into the dark , not something I want to relive any time soon.
The following weekend we were off to Otaki to see if the Dotterel chicks we photographed 3 weeks previous were alive and well.
On the way we spotted some Royal Spoonbills in spectacular breeding plumage and Ideal light on them so it was out of the car and the big stalk across the mud flats getting quite close to them.
I love these birds, they are sometimes referred to as the clowns of the estuary and are always fun to photograph.

During mating season these birds grow long loving feathers on the back of their heads.

Royal Spoonbills-1469-Edit

Cleared for landing

Royal Spoonbills-1301-Edit

Light and contrast makes an image, always look for these two components

Royal Spoonbills-1500-Edit

Once I had the shots I wanted we resumed our travels north to drop into to Otaki where we found one juvenile Dotterel that was cheerfully running around the place and more than capable of flying away every time we tried to get close.

Juvenile Banded Dotterel

Banded Dotterel-1776-Edit

The following weekend we were to meet up with Imogen AKA (Wonder woman) .
Known for her good fortune in locating rare and hard to find birds Imogen had given us the heads up on a Little Tern resting over in her local Estuary at Foxton So the following weekend we headed her way.
Saturday saw us meeting with Imogen and another friend Kath and her rather bemused hubby on the banks of the Manawatu River just up from the mouth and it was not long before we spied the Little Tern.
As we made our way closer we all became aware of another tern that looked different from the resident White Fronted Terns
Heart beats increased as it was confirmed to be a Common Tern.
Common Terns might be common in other parts of the world, but here, there has only been two  individuals recorded in the country this year, this being one of them.
Imogen’s good fortune had delivered again and clickerty click went a heap of cameras as we celebrated the rare sighting.

Mr Common Tern having his say in things

Common Tern--3

The Little Tern

Little Tern-2076-Edit

 

All lined up for their group photo.
From left to right.
White Fronted Tern, Common Tern, Little Tern.

three tern species
Halfway through the week we decided we needed to visit a wetland in search of spotless Crakes and Mr matuku the Bittern that we knew inhabited the swamp.
Now let me tell you , there are many more Crakeless spots in New Zealand than Spotless crake spots lol.
As we sneaked  through the swamp hunched over, moving slowly , a strong wind was coming from our right to left and we snapped a Bittern right out in the open to our left and he froze instantly 30 meters away.
Now the Bittern shot to end all shots is the LAUNCH shot, the one that every serious Bittern hunter wants.
Normally these birds launch directly away from the intruder but this time the wind would force him to launch into it and directly facing me.
I waited, I know he would not stick around much longer and wham I caught him in the launch and thus ended 5 years of missed chances, almost and not quiets, general stuff ups and out of focus, panicky attempts.
The Launch

matuku the Australasian bittern --7

 

matuku the Australasian bittern --7

Looking at the images in the view Finder Steve was convinced I had nailed the mutha  but I was nervous all the way home until I could confirm I had the shots when I saw them on the 30 inch screen, sharp and clear.
That was that, November came and went. just like that.

My pick for the month

bittern n-
Its mid-December, as I write this and already December is stacking up to be a great month for us as well.
I hope you enjoy my write-ups.

Octoberfest 2016

Well October has come and gone.
Many miles have been put under the wheels of the  wagon as we have busied ourselves keeping up with the birds and their early spring activities.
The first bit of action came after a lady friend Imogen who lives in Foxton alerted us to the presence  of a little Red Necked Stint.
These birds are not often seen in our neck of the woods so we hurried up the coast to photograph this little blighter before he continued his migration north.
Many migratory birds rest over at  the The Manawatu Estuary and the place
is listed under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands as a Wetland of International Importance.
Read more about it here
http://www.doc.govt.nz/parks-and-recreation/places-to-go/manawatu-whanganui/places/manawatu-estuary/
We arrived in Foxton more or less on time, to find Imogen already out on the mud flats  keeping an eye on our most welcome visitor.
With hellos, hoz it going over,  the long creep across the sand and mud flats began.

Red Necked Stint--4
Amazingly the little red stint was very accommodating, Imogen had tamed it very well with her womanly charms and I was able to get very close to him and that was cool because these birds are tiny , almost sparrow sized.

To give us an idea of just how tiny these birds are , here we find him using a gumboot print in the soft sand  to hide out of the wind.

Red Necked Stint-8652-Edit
A great big thank you is due to Imogen and after I had all the shots I wanted we went back to her place for a bite to eat and attempted to keep her retired greyhound dog to stay awake for more than 2 minutes on the trot ,  which we failed miserably in doing  lol

The following weekend it was over to the Waikanae Estuary and the Waimanu Lagoons to see what was going on.
But first before we got there, a short recce out to the beach at Queen Elizabeth Park was called for where we saw NO pheasants  but I did get a pretty good shot of Mr Hare hiding in the lupin bushes.

Hare-
Mrs Black Bird was nicely contrasted feeding in amongst the yellow flowers so clikerty click went the camera and I was pleased with the result

Song Thrush -
Once we had moved on to Waikanae the day was well and truly under way  and the first thing that caught my eye was the light shining through the flowers .

Back lighting (the sunlight coming onto the subject  from behind) is always worth investigating

flowers-9083-Edit
Once I was convinced I had a good shot, I moved on to birds, it was busy on the water as most birds were either impressing each other in their mating rituals or feeding their already growing youngsters.

This goose chick looks like it got a wiff of something smelly lol

goose-

Mummy Black Swan opens the salad bar  for her youngsters

Black Swan-
This Black Swan chick adds new meaning to the words salad dressing. lol

Black Swan-9200-Edit
Males will try anything to impress their mates.
This male pango pango or scaup  has added some modifications to impress his mate.

pango pango  or scaup-

 

 

After lunch it was north to Otaki  my home town and down to the beach to check out the banded Dotterel’s and see if any had chicks.
We were not disappointed.
Good fortune smiled on us as the birds were camped out on a isolated island of Ice plants and beach debris completely out in the open.

First up Mr Banded Dotterel

Banded Dotteral -9258-Edit
Mrs Dotterel

Banded Dotteral -9253-Edit

Junior giving us his best stone impression

Banded Dotteral --6
The fun began, we could see the baby Dotterel’s ducking here and there fussing with  their parents and we moved closer.
Then  they spotted us and split off in opposite directions.
It got tricky as these babies were not much bigger than a thumb and they hid very well so we sat down after checking we would not be squashing them and waited.

Bit of scale  provides us with an idea of just how small these little critters are .

Banded Dotteral -9434-Edit

After some time they re emerged and we were able to get a few shots of them chicks while mum and dad kept a close eye on us.

Mum and baby .

Banded Dotteral --4
With all the excitement over  as we did not want to interfere with the birds activities too much we were off home, but not before  stopping in on our Pheasant grounds on the way.

A Cock Pheasant  crowing and displaying for his women.

pheasant-9462-Edit
October was a busy month.
Get out there  and go for it , summer is on the way and the heat haze is already making its prescience felt as close scrutiny of the bird above shows

But the last word goes to the star of the show for me.

Red Necked Stint-8734-Edit

 

Follow your nose

Put a camera in my hand, jump in a wagon with a couple of likeminded mates and hit the road and see what happens.
That was our mind set the day we grabbed our old mate Ari and took him out to experience the rugged south eastern coast of the Wairarapa.
So over the Rimutaka ranges, out across the Wairarapa plains we went as the sun tried to peek through the clouds.
Once upon a time I would be disappointed with the over cast conditions, I was a sunny day junkie, not no more, I now know over cast days give a unique feel to our landscape and a great opportunity to capture the wild, lonely and sometimes desolate.
Our first stop was the small isolated coastal settlement  of Pahoa.
I had never been there before so it was a red line on the map for me and we meandered out around the inlet out onto the coast proper, climbing rocks, looking for that shot that captures the spirit of the place.

Click on the images for a bigger size

looking back at the inlet

Pahoa Coast

Isolated and desolate places need not lack beauty; you have to look for it.

Pahoa Coast
Rock climbing was the answer to get the shot 

Pahoa Coast
After a few hours of wandering along the beach, climbing the rock formations looking for those shots we head back inland and swung south to Cape Palliser and Ngawi .
The seal colony at Ngawi was the draw card for Ari.
Not many chances to photograph fur seals in India apparently 😀
On the way there we passed some surfers so I begged to stop and snap off a few shots, I love taking photos of people enjoying themselves.
Good photos of surfers are a challenge that’s for sure.

double trouble lol

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Finding the tube maybe ?

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This guy had a huge board and seemed to know how to use it.

surfing--11

Soon we were off to meet the New Zealand furs seals and their cute babies.

On the way we stopped to show Ari this house

The pacific Ocean is not respecter of man made dwellings and this houses days are numbered .

unstable foundations

The sun had won its battle with the clouds and was now centre stage.
The seals were in fine form, youngsters dotted the rocks, play fighting with each other showing off or feeding off their mothers, Ari and I scaled the rocks enjoying the activity around us.

This baby seal was unimpressed with my mere humanness.

 

untitled-2624-Edit
Play fighting a favorite pass time for baby seals

 

seals--7
Followed by lunch at the milk bar

 

seals--8

Soon it was time to head home but not before getting to more shots of the surfers on the way back.

Surfing Ngawi style
Shooting with the sun behind the surfers had its problems but at the same time it gave me some interesting options

untitled-2890-Edit
All in all it was a wonderful day out, we were tired, sun baked and our cameras were full of images of how the day unfolded.

This summer we intend to hold day long workshops out on the coast for those who want to get out there amongst the seals and the surf.

Wellington Pelagic

When Michael Szabo made an open invitation in our Facebook group for anyone interested in a pelagic trip out of Wellington, a list of birds seen on a previous trip was included in the post and that was enough to motivate me and I inquired immediately.

I have only been on one pelagic trip before and really wanted to go again.
For those of us not in the know, pelagic means any water in a sea, or lake, that is neither close to the bottom, nor near the shore, can be said to be in the pelagic zone according to  WIKI
The trip I had been on previous was out of Kaikoura in the South Island, I live in the North Island, It was an amazing experience, you simply cant appreciate just how big a Southern Royal Albatross really is till one lands meters away from you  and that trip was one of my highlights of my photography career, but  living in Wellington the cost and time factors involved makes it a bit prohibitive to repeat.
A trip to Kaikoura means three days away from home, accommodation, 2 trips on the cook straight ferry, gas, food, you get the picture.
So here was a chance to see roughly the same birds and be home again that very same day with most of my spending money intact.
SOOOOOO
Steve had been with me on that first trip and a quick ring confirmed what I had already pretty much knew, he was keen, so we signed our lives away and were added to the team of 15 other keen birders.
The weather was not looking too flash leading up to the trip out to the Cook Straight and I’m the kind of person that gets sea sick in a mai mai (Maori word for duck shooting blind, built manly on terra firma on the waters edge of lakes and ponds)

Worry mingled with the excitement and demanded that my thoughts never strayed far from the upcoming trip and the night before sleep did not come easy, it was a nervous Tony that turned up at the marina in Seaview just on daybreak Sunday morning  to meet the rest of the team.
With the customary greetings over, we boarded the vessel Seafarer II and were introduced to the skipper Jonathan Delich of Cook Straight Fishing Charters and his deckhand Hamish.
We were given the mandatory safety talk, the rundown on what to do in the very unlikely event of the water on the inside of the boat equalling the water on the outside and off out to sea we went.
With the wind up our backsides it was pretty smooth on the way out of the harbour to the open sea of the Cook straight but I could see the lumps of water outside the sheltered harbour fast approaching.
As the light improved the birds started to loom out of the darkness and any thoughts of sea sickness were put aside.

One Bird I had always wanted to photograph since seeing them on TV was the Westland Petrel.
It seems that the entire population of these birds nest just north of Greymouth at Punakaiki on the west coast of the South Island of New Zealand in heavy cover beneath the trees in an area not open to the public (for good reason).No chance of me seeing them there……….. BUT, the list of birds seen last time out included Westland Petrels , so I was hopeful of seeing at least one of these birds out on the open sea.

On the way  we saw a few various species of bird and then out of the gloom a western petrel appeared, clikerty click click went my camera as I desperately tried to centre the bird in my viewfinder, this was no easy feat as the bird was going one way and the boat the other way with me going a third all at the same time.

Checking the preview on the camera confirmed to me the obvious, I was nothing more than a beginner at this game and the images of my prized petrel were nothing more than a smudge of dark rich brown across the preview screen.

I was thinking to myself I hope I get a better chance when the light improves when another flew past, then another and another.

One such various seabird, a young Black back Gull
Please click on the pics for a bigger image and image details.

Black back gull-

Clickerty click, click went the 1D and as we slowly made our way out into the open sea, the petrels followed us and the light improved. I was a happy boy indeed as I wrestled against the conditions trying to capture my precious.

Looking over at Steve I saw he was happily banging away at the birds while simultaneously being tossed around in the back of the boat so I choose to sit on one of the bait boxes on the open deck so I could partially coordinate myself with the motion of the vessel eliminating at least one set of calculations needed to get a steady shot off once and a while.
At last I had some Westland Petrel shots on the scoreboard.

Westland Petrel

Soon we had Bullers, Whitecap and Blackbrow Albatrosses coming up to the boat and the skipper stopped and offered them a squid breakfast and thus a frenzy ensued, this attracted even more birds.
The Bullers Albatross is perhaps the most stunning of the small to medium sized mollymawk family. I had never seen one in real life before. I was mesmerized by their stunning colors and contrast and now my focus was firmly on them.

A Bullers Mollymawk approaches the boat

Bullers Albatorss

The skipper started the boat moving slowly forward while still throwing out the odd squid and fish frame for the birds to gobble, this bought the birds gliding right to the back of the boat flying mere feet from our heads  and this offered up a chance of really close up shots of the birds.

Bullers up close and personal

Bullers Albatorss

A Whitecap mollymawk

White-capped mollymawk -2
Black Brow

Black-browed mollymawk-9387-Edit

 

Westland Petrel

Westland Petrel

 

I was in heaven, there were birds everywhere and my memory cards were filling up quickly.

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I had NO time to think about being sea sick, my focus was on separating out a single bird out of the melee and tracking it.
Jonathan the skipper had picked up a large fishing vessel out east on the radar and knew it would produce many more birds so we steamed out to it with the other birds in tow.
As we approached this monster ship I could see the larger species of Albatross gliding around waiting for the nets to come aboard, Wandering Albatross and Royal Albatross were wheeling around like they were in some kind of aerial ballet, it was a dream come true.

The sky became filled with birds and it was hard to take it all in.
The skipper knew his stuff, we were told once the net was in the ship and the feast over, he would start feeding feed the birds again and this would attract them all to come to the boat, which it did.
Massive birds almost within arm’s reach glided gracefully past the boat, my arms were aching from holding up the 300 F2.8, sweat dripped down my neck and the salt and sea spray covered my glasses.
I could no longer see clearly through them and the viewfinder was mostly a smudge, it was time to use the force.
I know my camera pretty well now, I know how it operates and I know how it feels when it acquires focus, so I now adapted to feeling the camera and running on instinct rather than seeing the focus sharply through the view finder.
It became that as soon as I felt the camera tighten up and stop searching, bang down went the shutter button, no time to think too much, bang, bang, bang, make it happen.
I was amazed later to find 95% of my shots were perfectly focused.
Ive always been one to track the bird for a period in flight to ensure the camera acquires focus and locks on, but it became clear to me I could not track consistently with the birds going one way, me going another and the boat bobbing up and down and side to side.
Snap shooting was the answer on the day, no mucking around, point, feel, shoot.
With many years as a professional hunter I learnt to know my rifles by touch. I taught myself  to load, unload, fix jams any normal operation of my firearms in the dark with my eyes closed, with photography and my camera the principal is the same, get to know your camera by touch, learn where the buttons are without having to look for them.
Watching TV is a great time to learn.
Get to know the noises it makes when focus is acquired, how it feels in your hands the vibration of the image stabilizer when it locks on.
Soon I was in the zone, even though Im sure a few expletives may have escaped my mouth when I ran out of time to get a shot, missed a chance  or made a mistake.
Steve tapped me on the shoulder and asked, how’s your sea sickness?
I replied, I Had not thought about it since I saw the first Westland Petrel.
I have no idea where those first 3-4 hours out of the 6 we spent out there went.
I am indebted to Michael Szabo for pointing out birds of special interest for me, such as the Short Tailed Sharewater and the Salvins Albatross, yet another first timer for me.

The Salvins mollymark, perhaps not as colorful as the Bullers but pretty cool anyway.

Salvin’s mollymawk-0169-Edit
Black brows and Whitecaps whirled around us, the much bigger Royals and Wandering Albatrosses did wide circles around us and sometimes made strafeing runs right up the middle of our wake to land right behind the boat too close to focus the 300 mil lens.
The action was non stop.
Eventually just before before exhaustion finished me off, we called it quits and started the trip home, stopping along the way to fish and a few good fish came aboard to taken home and eaten by the lucky fisher people.

Black brows whirled around us

Black-browed mollymawk-9354-Edit-Edit
Whitecaps

White-capped mollymawk -9511-Edit
A southern Royal Albatross the largest flighted bird in the world following our wake

Southern royal albatross-5285-Edit
Northern Royal Albatross circling us

Northern royal albatross-9915-Edit

Gibsons Albatross , part of the wandering Albatross family

Northern royal albatross--3

A late lunch was served, whole Chicken’s had been cooking on the barbie since we had left the marina and they were ripped apart as it was the humans turn to feast.
The Skipper and the crew did themselves proud; the whole journey was enjoyable, informative and if you weren’t desperate to get heaps of bird shots like I was, relaxed.
We were back home by 130pm
What would have taken 3 days and a heap of hundred dollar bills had we gone to Kaikoura  had taken us less than one day, less than one, one hundred dollar bill and I was back home for a nap in the arvo as the computer down loaded my 2,000 plus images.
It was simply amazing to be able to experience this so close to home, the boat was roomy with enough things to hang onto for support in the chop and the crew were very friendly and helpful.
I just simply cant wait to have another go later on in winter.
How did this trip compare to the Kaikoura trip? It was much better, more bird action hands down and better selection of species.
If your interested and you live in the Wellington area contact me or the crew themselves.
http://www.cookstraitfishingcharters.co.nz/location
I am hoping to run a couple of workshops with this crew in the future if I get enough interest.

The size of the Southern Royal Albatross can only be appreciated when you are up close, they are massive birds

Southern royal albatross-5231-Edit
the last say  goes to the westlander Im very happy with this shot

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