A few weekends ago I went up to Tawharanui Open Sanctuary for the evening to help out with some Grey-faced petrel banding. It was something I’d been trying to do since mid last year, but the dates had always coincided with me not being in Auckland. So it was nice to finally get up there and get to explore a bit! I’ve been to Tawharanui once before (for about an hour) and wandered up and down the main swimming beach – which is apparently as far as most people ever go! But there’s so much more to see there, and I’ll definitely be going back with a long lens to spend time with the birds.

The evening was still and warm (until the sun went down). We walked out to the end of the peninsula through the manuka scrub and had a close encounter with a little flock of Whiteheads, which had me itching for a longer lens! I’d only taken the Fuji X100, not wanting to be bogged down with camera gear.

Tawharanui has a great setup with nest boxes for Grey-faced petrels, Common diving petrels, and Fluttering shearwaters. There’s also an acoustic attraction system that broadcasts the calls of these species in the hopes of drawing more to breed there. So far it’s been very successful, and the numbers are increasing every year. It’s so wonderful to be bringing our native seabirds back to mainland sites where they can breed safely, without the threat of introduced predators.

It was a beautiful evening. Too beautiful, in fact. With clear skies and no wind, we didn’t get a single petrel come in to land! Despite playing the whooping call that usually acts as a petrel-magnet, we had a very quiet evening. We did hear a lot of action from Common diving petrels, but we didn’t see anything else. It’s not uncommon at this time of year – the breeding birds should all be out at sea feeding up to prepare for laying and incubation.

      All set up and no birds! It was a gorgeous night, with kiwi calling in the bush behind us, a morepork swooping around and hooting, and the stars absolutely blazing above. And I love driving at night – it’s much more peaceful – so the hour long trip back to Auckland was nice too. Till next time, Tawharanui!

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  1. By Tawharanui – take two! on July 30, 2017 at 11:19 am

    […] Our last trip to Tawharanui wasn’t too successful in finding any Grey-faced petrels. Which is not surprising, given that it was the middle of the pre-breeding exodus, when all the breeding birds are feeding up before they have the long stint of incubation. Grey-faced petrels have an extremely long breeding season – they take around 55 days to incubate their eggs, a task shared by both parents, and then it’s another 118 days on average before the chick fledges. It takes a lot of energy and effort for the parents to continually feed the chick during this time – so the better condition they’re in a start of the season, the more likely they are to succeed. […]