Anyone that has read my posts before knows I love Kaikoura and the amazing people at Albatross Encounter. We recently had a long weekend here in New Zealand and I took the opportunity to, while visiting the lovely wine country of Marlborough, to drop by for a lunchtime visit out to the marine canyon to see what could be seen.

Cape PetrelsLots of Cape Pigeons could be seen

Every time I go out with Gary on the boat it’s different. This time the seas were slightly rougher than before, but straight away I could tell something was different – the Hutton’s Shearwaters were back. This species is best seen at Kaikoura, but they do disperse after the breeding season, so I didn’t see any when I dropped by at Easter. The species is easily seen close to shore but rarely come close to the boat, so all you get are dramatic flybys as you head out to the canyon. It was way to rough to get a shot.

Gary had heard that a fishing vessel was out over the canyon and that was worth a look. It was pretty obvious which of the many boats out there it was, the huge flocks of petrels and albatrosses around the boat made finding it easy.

Salvin's Albatross

Salvin’s Albatrosses were nice to add to my year list.

Northern Giant Petrel

Northern Giant Petrels are awesome

giant petrel running

And not a little scary

Scrum of seabirdsSalvin’s Albatrosses mixing it with a much larger Antipodean Albatross and lots of assorted petrels

Old albatross

The albatross is pretty old. Birds from the wandering albatross complex go whiter and whiter as they get older. This gall is pretty old. Probably an Antipodean Albatross, but who knows, maybe a Gibson’s Albatross or even a Wandering Albatross.

Red-billed GullLet’s not forget the little guys. This Red-billed Gull is a New Zealand endemic after all!

off the pelagic boat

All in all, the trip added four new species to my year list, netted me six species of albatross, and introduced my girlfriend to the dubious delights of pelagic birding. Not a bad day!


Written by Duncan
Duncan Wright is a Wellington-based ornithologist working on the evolution of New Zealand's birds. He's previously poked albatrosses with sticks in Hawaii, provided target practice for gulls in California, chased monkeys up and down hills Uganda, wrestled sharks in the Bahamas and played God with grasshopper genetics in Namibia. He came into studying birds rather later in life, and could quit any time he wants to.