Sub-Antarctic Part 2– Auckland Islands – Enderby Island
I would like to thank Canon Australia for their generosity in supplying me with some amazing gear for the trip. I was stoked to use Canons flagship camera the 1DX. It is an incredible camera and the 12 FPS sure helped capture some great photos. To complement the 1DX I was supplied with the super fast 300 2.8 IS II and the super sharp Canon 24-70. Without this wonderful gear many of my photos would not have been possible.
The Spirit of Enderby arrived at Sandy Bay in the early hours of the 6th of December. We had been at sea for three days so we were all excited by the prospect of standing on dry land. As I looked outside all I could see was a thick blanket of mist and drizzle. At least is was calm and I could take a shower easily 🙂
We all boarded our Zodiacs and made our way towards the sandy shores of Sandy Bay, Enderby Island. It didnt take long for me to see my first endemic in the beautiful Auckland Island Teal. A flightless duck that is now flourishing on the predator free island. Time did not allow for photos as we had to make our way quickly up the beach past the large aggressive Hooker’s Sea Lions. I would end up having a few interesting experiences with this seal.
We all gathered by a shed waiting for the rest of the passengers to arrive. I spotted my first Tomtit darting around and they instantly reminded me of the Eastern Yellow Robin at home just a different colour 🙂 I also spotted my first Yellow-eyed Pengiun which had come out of the bush and was deciding what to make of all the humans. I was told by Thomas the Penguin expert that they hold out their flippers as a way to cool down and control their temperature.
We set off in groups walking around the Sea Lions and making our way north through the middle of the island. We were not able to stop straight away as the area behind the beach is used by Yellow-eyed penguins as a passage way to their resting place in the bush. The Penguin is a little shy so the authorities have asked that as little disturbance as possible be made.
We walked through some very cool vegetation and the moss was very interesting. I am no botanist and have little interest in plants but I could appreciate the unique habitat of this Island and how it is recovering with the removal of the cows and rabbits.
For the first part of the walk there is a boardwalk leading over the Island to the northern cliffs where we hoped to get views of the Light-mantled Sooty Albatross nesting on the cliffs. Unfortunately the inclement weather was going to make that very difficult.
As I walked up the boardwalk I was keeping an eye out for the Snipe, Banded Dotterel and Southern Royal Albatross that were likely in this location. I dipped on the Snipe but I did see a single nesting Southern Royal and several Banded Dotterels. The tricky part was trying to get photos in the weather 🙂
After trying to get the water off my lens I continued on to the northern cliffs. We had some very poor views of the Light-mantled Sooty Albatross before we were given a decision of walking around the Island (around 7km) or staying on the boardwalk. I decided to walk around the Island. I am glad I did as we got to see plenty of birdlife.
It really was an incredible place to walk with lots of birds and interesting vegetation. As we walked around the cliff we came across another endemic species in the Auckland Island Shag. They were a great looking bird and I spent a bit of time with them.
Whilst photographing the Shag we did get a visit from a very young Sea lion that was very interested in my camera. I took the opportunity to take a photo of its cute face.
We continued our walk around the Island in constant drizzle which made for challenging photography. All you could do was make the most of the situation. Here is a Yellow-eyed Penguin in the heavy mist.
We continued our journey around the east coast of the island and observed a few more Banded Dotterels and Yellow-eyed Penguins.
As I mentioned plants are not really my thing but I did take a liking to the Gentian’s that were flowering on the Island. Here is one of the pretty ones
And some more flora from around the Island.
As we started making our way around the south east corner of the Island I saw my first Red-crowned Parakeet. There were two birds feeding on the grass. I made my way over expecting them to flush but they just continued to feed. I got down and managed some shots before I realised the rest of the group had left and one staff member was waiting for me. I said goodbye to these pretty little birds hoping to see them again. I got lucky seeing them feeding once more further around the island allowing a few more shots.
There were a few scavengers seen on the island including the Brown Skua which often feeds on penguin chicks, dead birds and dead seals.
I was also lucky to see two Northern Giant Petrel chicks waiting for their parents to return to feed them. This bird was easier to photograph as it was pretty exposed.
One of my main targets for the day was to see the Auckland Island Teals. They are flightless and as such were easy targets for alien predators that arrived on the Islands. The population were decimated and they only survived in small numbers. With the extermination of pests from Enderby Island has resulted in more food and cover for the ducks which has seen an increase in their numbers.
I saw two birds on my arrival but was unable to photograph them. My opportunity came when we passed Teal Lake on the southern part of the Island. I was happy to see a pair feeding by the edge. Unfortunately there was a large male Sea-lion camped out by the edge of the lake meaning I couldn’t get too close. I laid in the wet grass and luckily the birds moved in my direction allowing some shots.
I could have stayed with the Teals all afternoon but we had to keep moving so we continued walking around the Island. I had seen a few Tomtits and Pippits during the walk however nice shots had eluded me. I made an effort of following a Tomtit around as it hunted and manged a few shots as it perched on some interesting vegetation.
And whilst eating lunch in the tall grasses this Pippit landed on a nearby Macquarie Island Cabbage allowing a photo.
As mentioned there is a population of Yellow-eyed Penguins that breed on Enderby Island so every now and again you spot a Penguin or two hanging out.
I managed to see a NZ Bellbird and a few more Parakeets before arriving back at the beach. Needless to say I was pretty wet and tired after the 8km walk around the island however I was in a state of euphoria after seeing and photographing so many new species. Enderby Island really is a birders paradise and I have no doubt I will return one day. Thanks for reading and stand by for my trip report to Macquarie Island. If you missed part 1 – The Snares Islands feel free to read it.
Please take a look at my Auckland Island Gallery for more photos.