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Gavin Bieber and Stephen Menzie report from the recent Tasman Sea and New Zealand cruise:

March 11: Gavin Bieber and Stephen Menzie report from the recent Tasman Sea and New Zealand cruise:

It was a fantastic two weeks aboard the Coral Princess, with scores of seabirds during our days at sea and a host of endemic landbirds during our onshore days in New Zealand. In contrast to previous tours, the cruise started in Brisbane this year, which gave the group opportunity to catch up with some warm-water species, such as tropicbirds and boobies – a distinctly different avifauna to the cold-water species found off New Zealand’s coasts. As expected, the pelagic birding on this trip was dominated by the tubenoses – the albatrosses, shearwaters, petrels and the like; in total, an impressive 40 species of tubenoses were logged by the group during the tour.
All photos by Stephen Menzie.

Our home for the duration of the tour: the Coral Princess.

The first days at sea saw us sailing through relatively mild seas, where we caught up with warm-water species such as this Red-footed Booby…

…and this Red-tailed Tropicbird.

As we reached colder water, albatrosses – such as this White-capped (Shy) Albatross – were a constant feature of the day’s birding.

Buller’s Albatrosses were seen in the waters off southern New Zealand, with many giving close fly-bys of the boat…

…as did squadrons of Buller’s Shearwaters.

A host of Pterodroma petrels were logged on the cruise, including Mottled Petrels…

…Black-winged Petrels…

…Cook’s Petrels…

…and the strikingly jaeger-like Kermadec Petrel. It even comes in different colour morphs and undertakes kleptoparasitism of other seabirds.

Birding the Fiordland national park by boat was as notable for the stunning scenery as it was for its birdlife.


On terra firma, we found a host of endemic landbirds. This one is a Tui.

And this one is a North Island Saddleback.


On a secluded forest river, we found a pair of New Zealand Blue Ducks.

On the coast, we enjoyed views of endemic shorebirds, such as the Critically Endangered Black Stilt and (depicted here) the Wrybill.


Famously full of character, we chuckled at the sight of a Kea stealing – and subsequently tucking into – a bag of potato chips at a café in the Southern Alps… even if the former owner of the bag of chips wasn’t so amused!



Posted: March 11, 2024