Saturday, 5 February 2011

Seal census White Island

Recently I have been very lucky to have been asked out on a number of boat trips to count seals on our two offshore Islands of Whale Island/Moutuhora and White Island/Whakaari. The census is part of the work done by the Department of Conservation and is undertaken by Rosemary Tully of Whakatane Bird Rescue and Phil van Dusschoten who is our skipper and is from Diveworks Charters.
The first trip was to Whale Island and it was a dark drizzly day, not good conditions for photography. The next was to White Island, our local offshore active volcano and the day was a cracker! The sea was as flat as a mill pond and the closer we got to the island the more seabirds we saw. Because it was so smooth I was able to lean over the side of the boat and snap the birds as they flew alongside us. The Bullers Shearwaters were my favourites and I was amazed at how they soared so low over the water that their wingtips skimmed the surface!

This is a Sooty Shearwater or Muttonbird which is a dark chocolate brown.

The gannet with its distinctive yellow head breeds on White Island so there were plenty of these about.

Once at the Island we had lunch floating above a clear garden of kelp and fish while gannets circled to land at their rookery on the cliff above us. Finally we set off in search of seals. Phils boat was perfectly suited to the task as we could get very close to the rocky shore and navigate around rocky outcrops.

We found a lone male but he was to prove the only seal spotted all day so our tally was a grand total of one!

There was plenty of action in the crater with plumes of steam rising from the arid volcanic landscape. Its such a spectacular Island and I was constantly amazed at the clour and movement in the geology of the coastline. All too soon we were done and the Island was slowly shrinking into the distance as we motored home. There was more excitement to come however when Phil spotted a Mako shark jumping. Fortunately I still had my camera around my neck and switched on so I instinctively focused on the spot where the shark had jumped knowing they usually jumped two or three times. (Phil had told me that piece of intormation on the way out when I had seen another mako jump in the distance.) Sure enough it came up again and I quickly snapped this series of three shots which were later published in the New Zealand Herald.
All in all it was a fantastic day, the ocean couldn't have been better and there was never a shortage of things to see.....unless you count the seals of which there was only one!
For more info on a charter of your own visit

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