Painting of the Mokohinaus by Sarah McBeath

PPTERODROMA PELAGICS - HAURAKI GULF SEABIRD TOURS
Half Day, Full Day and Overnight Trips to the Outer Hauraki Gulf

Pterodroma Pelagics - Hauraki Gulf Seabird Tours is a Warkworth-based company offering day and overnight tours to the Outer Hauraki Gulf to see seabirds and to view marine life. Visits to premier island sanctuaries such as Little Barrier are also available. Warkworth is 45 mins north of Auckland, New Zealand on SH1. We use nearby Sandspit and Ti Point as departure points for our Hauraki Gulf pelagic trips.

Pterodroma Pelagic director Chris Gaskin lives and work in the Hauraki Gulf and has been operating pelagics to the Outer Hauraki Gulf (through Kiwi Wildlife Tours NZ) since the end of 2002, recognising the Gulf's full potential as a pelagic destination.

Through regular studies of the islands by Department of Conservation scientists and others it was known that a large number of seabirds breed in the Outer Hauraki Gulf - such as Cook's, Pycroft's, Grey-faced (Great-winged) and Black Petrels; Buller's, Little, Flesh-footed and Fluttering Shearwaters; Diving Petrels, Fairy Prions, Blue Penguins and White-faced Storm Petrels. Some of these birds breed nowhere else. Chris was also convinced that other birds would turn up in the Gulf - either birds that breed north of New Zealand in tropical and sub-tropical waters, or from southern waters.

Pterodroma Pelagics' promotion of the Hauraki Gulf as a top New Zealand pelagic destination, one that complements Kaikoura and the Subantarctic Islands, has seen more and more birders from all round the world (including New Zealand) joining the company's pelagic trips.

"My take on the day's birding was that it had to be the best "pelagic" I've done in 20 years with 5 Procellarid lifers in one day!" -- Barrie Rose, South Africa (after our 13 Dec 2003 trip)

Recent Developments confirm the Hauraki Gulf as a real HOTSPOT!

The discovery of 'NZ Storm Petrels' in Hauraki Gulf waters and the ensuing discussion has been the best NZ bird story for a long time. Pterodroma Pelagics congratulates those who initiated the taxonomic discussion following the sighting of a single black/white storm petrel in the Bay of Plenty. The debate continues...

The company's interest is very much in what is happening out on the water here in the Hauraki Gulf and with the birds themselves - their behaviour and to determine whether they are breeding in the Outer Hauraki Gulf. We've confirmed the consistent presence of black/white storm petrels in the Hauraki Gulf from early November 2003 to the present. We have seen them on all our trips since they were first photographed in the Gulf by Bryan Thomas (see Birding World Dec 2003 issue - Bob Flood & Bryan Thomas). These gorgeous little black and white stormies are now firmly on the map as another fascinating component of the Gulf's rich seabird life.

NZ Storm Petrel (photo by Quentin Paynter)

Our Commitment to 'The Gulf'

Our goal besides running successful pelagics is to maintain our bird observation programme across all species and we are confident we will unravel many of the Outer Gulf's secrets over time. In joining us on our trips you are helping us to continue with this programme. We are working with DoC (and other agencies) through sharing information on seabird activity in the Gulf, linking to studies made in breeding colonies. As we run more trips we are developing an excellent understanding of where birds might be for the conditions on the day. When out on the water wind direction and strength, as well as sea conditions influence the movement and feeding patterns of birds. On all our trips one of our team will accompany the skipper as bird guide to ensure you get to see what the Gulf really has to offer. Click here for a full list of birds seen in the Outer Hauraki Gulf.

Where is the Hauraki Gulf?

The Hauraki Gulf is Auckland's marine playground - much loved by boaties, fishers, and divers It is a beautiful area to explore with its many islands, most of which are conservation islands and sanctuaries.

Our area of operation for day and overnight trips to see seabirds is the outer Hauraki Gulf - north of Tiritiri Matangi to the Poor Knights Islands and east to Great Barrier Island from the North Auckland coast.

The outer Hauraki Gulf is influenced by the warm East Auckland Current, particularly around the Poor Knights and Mokohinau Islands, as well as along the eastern side of Great Barrier Island. This warm subtropical current brings a subtropical component to the marine life found there.

Our tours will be extended in coming months to include Far North destinations (eg Three Kings and Kermadec Islands). For other NZ Pelagics - click here.

Our Hauraki Gulf tours

1 Seabirds - What birds can be seen and when?

Oct/Nov > March/April (Austral Summer)

  • Cook's Petrel Pterodroma cookii (breeding Little Barrier - endemic to NZ with the largest colonies in the Hauraki Gulf
  • Grey-faced Petrel Pterodroma macroptera (occasional post-breeding birds - they are winter-breeders in the Gulf)
  • Pycroft's Petrel Pterodroma pycrofti (breeding on Hen & Chickens and Poor Knights Islands - endemic to the Hauraki Gulf)
  • Black-winged Petrel Pterodroma nigripennis (very occasionally)
  • Black (Parkinson's) Petrel Procellaria parkinsoni (breeding on Great & Little Barrier and Hen Islands - endemic to the Hauraki Gulf)
  • Fluttering Shearwater Puffinus gavia (breeding in huge numbers on a number of islands)
  • Buller's Shearwater Puffinus bulleri (breeding only on Poor Knights - endemic to the Hauraki Gulf)
  • Flesh-footed Shearwater Puffinus carneipes (breeding on Hen & Chicks and Mokohinau Islands)
  • Little Shearwater Puffinus assimilis (breeding on Hen & Chicken and Mokohinau (Fannel) Islands)
  • Sooty Shearwater Puffinus griseus q Short-tailed Shearwater Puffinus tenuirostris
  • Fairy Prion Pachyptila turtur (breeding on a number of islands)
  • Common Diving Petrel Pelecanoides urinatrix (breeding on a number of islands)
  • White-faced Storm Petrel Pelagodroma marina (breeding on some stacks in both Inner and Outer Gulf - where rat numbers are low)
  • 'NZ Storm Petrel' - We have seen these gorgeous little birds on all our trips over the 2003/2004 summer. Their exact taxonomic status has yet to be proven scientifically but it's a new bird whatever it turns out to be!
  • Blue Penguin Eudyptula minor (breeding on islands throughout the Gulf)
  • Giant Petrel Macronectus sp (very occasionally)
  • NZ White-capped Albatross Diomedia (cauta) steadii (seen on one trip inside the islands)
  • Arctic Skua Stercorarius parasiticus (regularly over summer months)
  • Pomarine Skua Stercorarius pomarinus (very occasionally)
  • Brown skua Catharacta skua (very occasionally)
  • Australasian Gannet Morus serrator (breeding on Maori Rocks, Mokohinau Group, and stacks close to Great Barrier Island and Poor Knights
  • Black-backed Gull Larus dominicanus
  • Red-billed Gull Larus scopulinus
  • White-fronted Tern Sterna striata
  • Little Tern Sterna albifrons
  • Grey ternlet (or Blue-grey Noddy) Procelsterna cerulea (on Maori Rocks, Mokohinau Group)

As we do more trips we are expect to encounter species such as the Kermadec Petrel, birds breeding to the north of New Zealand.

March/April til Oct/Nov

  • Grey-faced Petrel (breeding on a number of islands and possibly some mainland sites)
  • Fluttering Shearwater (these often raft in big numbers)
  • Buller's Shearwater (a good number remain in Gulf waters over winter months)
  • Fairy Prion
  • Common Diving Petrel
  • Blue Penguin (breeding on islands throughout the Gulf)
  • White-faced Storm Petrel
  • Australasian Gannet
  • Black-backed Gull
  • Red-billed Gull
  • White-fronted Tern
  • Grey ternlet

As we do more trips during winter months we expect that we will pick up a greater range of species - especially southern breeding birds, ranging away from their breeding grounds.

2 Guided islands visits

Little Barrier, Tiritiri Matangi, Kawau, Mokohinau Group (Burgess Island) and Rakitu and Great Barrier - we can arrange visits to any of these islands on our trips using our concessions and permits that we can apply for on your behalf. We (Karen and Chris) are accredited supervisors for Little Barrier.

3 General Marine Life

The Hauraki Gulf abounds with fish life. We have seen massive boil-ups of trevally and kingfish on a number of our trips to date. Also huge sunfish, sharks and flying fish. The Gulf is also home to a range of cetaceans (Bryde's Whales, Orca, Common and Bottle-nosed Dolphins).

4 Research

We will continue to develop our seabird observation programme begun in November 2002 (to complement work undertaken by DoC and ornithological groups on the islands themselves):

a) To gather information about seabird activity (location and activity) in the Hauraki Gulf during regular pelagic bird-watching trips in relation to environmental variables. Is it possible to predict for any given time of year, the numbers, species and location of feeding activity (for example).

b) To monitor long term changes in seabird numbers and activity in the Hauraki Gulf.

Boats

Currently we use a number of comfortable charter boats operating in the Gulf and Northern waters and have developed good understanding with skippers as to the needs of birdwatchers. These vessels are generally used for fishing, diving and research. We will however be purchasing our own boat as our programme develops.

What to Expect on these Trips and what to Bring
Please confirm final requirements with us before the trip, but generally the following applies. We will be out for up to 12 hours. You will need to bring lunch and plenty of fluids to drink. We will provide a light snack on our trip home and coffee and tea is available. Weather conditions can vary enormously in the Gulf. You need to be prepared for hot and dry as well as cold and wet. Also you should think about taking some medication for motion sickness if you are prone to this. We always have lunch sheltered in a quiet bay and there is often time for a refreshing swim or snorkel in the summer, so bring a bathing suit if you would like to do this. Although on most trips we don't land we are often anchored near to island sanctuaries and can see and hear some of the endemic birds - saddleback, tui, kaka, pigeon etc. Bring sunblock, sunhat, sunglasses and binoculars.

Our Trip Calendar

Our programme of regular trips to the Outer Hauraki Gulf or seabirds:

Date (2004) Tour Cost Status
7 Feb Full Day Trip NZ$150pp 6 Spaces available
13/14 Feb Overnight Trip NZ$500pp Space available
20 Feb Full Day Trip NZ$150pp Space available
8 Mar Full Day Trip NZ$150pp Fully booked
12 Mar Full Day Trip NZ$150pp Space available
26 Mar Full Day Trip NZ$150pp Space available
4 April Full Day Trip NZ$150pp Space available
8/9/10 April 2 Nights Overnight Trip TBA Space available
17 April Full Day Trip NZ$150pp 10 Spaces available
12 June Full Day Trip NZ$150pp 10 Spaces available

Prices for day trips are based on five people minimum. A surcharge will apply for less than five.

We can also arrange half day or full day charters at any time throughout the year.
Please contact us for charter rates.

Our trips and itineraries are weather dependent.
Please contact us for more details about particular trips.

Bryde's whale off Little Barrier by Sarh McBeath
Bryde's whale off Little Barrier by Sarh McBeath

Sarah McBeath came out on one of our early trips. She saw it as an opportunity to get close to the Mokohinaus Islands, a group she'd previously seen only from the mainland as distant lumps on the horizon. Her whale painting is also from that trip. She has kindly given us permission to use these paintings on our web site. To see more of her Hauraki Gulf paintings check out her web site www.bakedbean.co.nz/mcbeath.htm

Bookings - please contact us - info@nzseabirds.co.nz