16 Mar 2009

Cape Kidnappers Gannet Colony

My father and I left Miranda and visited the Coromandel Peninsular before heading south via Tauranga, where my father used to go on holiday as a child. He reckoned that the place he used to stay was now a ten story block of flats. We walked round the Mount a strange hill virtually surrounded by the sea. We then stayed a night at Whakatane before heading further south to Gisborne and then onto Hawkes Bay. The weather at this stage was amazing.

One of the bird hotspots that I wanted to visit was the Cape Kidnapper's Gannet Colony. It is one of the only mainland Gannet colonies in the world.There are three species of Gannet in the world. There is the Northern Gannet Morus bassanus which is based in the North Atlantic. There is the Cape Gannet Morus capensis from South Africa and then there is the Australasian Gannet Morus serrator known in Maori as Takapu.

They are usually found in large colonies on offshore islands around New Zealand and southern Australia and have been nesting here at Cape Kidnappers since the 1870s. There are around 6000 pairs here. The lifespan of the Gannet can range upto forty years. When the young gannets learn to fly they take off on a journey of about 2000 miles across the Tasman sea to Australia. Here they will stay for a few years before returning to breed at around five years old and then from then on spend their lives in New Zealand waters.

The Cape Kidnappers Gannet Reserve is managed by the Department of Conservation to protect the gannet nesting sites. the reserve covers about 30 acres, which includes the Saddle and Black Reef colonies both of which are closed to the public.It is the Plateau colony that is the main viewing area on this headland.

We spent the night in a fairly decrepit overflow camp at Clifton before taking a tractor tour to the Cape Kidnappers Colony. We went with Gannet Beach Adventures which is eco-friendly beach tour to the foot of the gannet sanctuary. You travel on cushioned trailers pulled by these vintage tractors along the beach below these towering cliffs at low tide.

Meanwhile the guides stop regularly and point out the various geology and earthquake faults.

My father and I thought the commentary was going to be dreadful as when we got on the trailers Colin the owner said "Good Morning" and virtually nobody responded and in good pantomine style he said he was going home. He then said "Good Morning" again and everybody answered this time. However we were wrong the whole trip was really professional and loads of information was given to us. Every now and again we would stop and Colin would tell us another snippet of info whether about the Gannets or the Geology of the area. And here he is below teaching us to count Australian style!!!!

You spend about one and a half hours at Cape Kidnappers which leaves ample time for a swim or a picnic but not enough time in my mind to visit the Gannet Colony which is a 25 to 30 minute walk uphill to view the Saddle and Plateau colonies .You only get about 30 mins to photograph the birds. On the return journey, a brief stop is made at the Black Reef Colony.

The Gannets can be viewed from a very close distance.

At the end of the beach and before you climb upto the plateau colony there is a Department of Conservation rest shelter which provides information boards on geology and Gannets. The shelter also provides fresh water, along with picnic and toilet facilities.

The photographic opportunities are excellent and I would have loved to have more time.

Excellent opportunities for flight photography at close range.

You can watch the adults preening

and there are lots of juveniles in their soft downy plumage

A nice danish couple were interested in me photographing the birds and asked if I wanted a portrait with Gannets in the background.

When we got back to the campsite we made our way to a Te Awa Winery for a fantastic lunch.


MaineBirder said...

Absolutely stunning photos!

Atanasio Fernández García said...

Hello! You have a spectacular blog with very interesting content. It was a pleasure meeting you!
Regards from Extremadura!

Anonymous said...

on 5th april i saw my 1st sighting of a swallow in northern ireland

Richard said...

Your blog is exactly what I was looking for! I'm off to NZ in 2 weeks and am looking at the Gannet Beach Adventures.....like you, wondering if the tractor tour is ok.....Also wondering if you can go by yourself?
I'm a keen birdwatcher/photographer/wildlife artist (ex Denmark)in Brisbane/Australia. (the gmail is husband's)
Your photos are an inspiration!