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[LBI 2012] A Fair Start

October 13, 2012

[This is the first in a series of posts – essentially diary entries – on fieldwork on Little Barrier Island, New Zealand. Internet access was unavailable on the island, so I am publishing them one-per-day now that I am back on the mainland.]

18/09/2012

Dropped off my gear for quarantine at Devonport yesterday, woke up at the crack of early to meet the MV Hauturu this morning. Some combination of Sea Legs and/or the fine weather made for a very pleasant boat ride. Departed Devonport ~9:00am; dropped supplies at Tiritiri Matangi at ~10:00; Motuora at ~11:00; Kawau Island ~12:00 – 12:30. Australasian Gannets were plentiful on this part of the journey, but the only other seabirds were one Little Blue Penguin and ~3 White Fronted Tern. A pod of ~8 – 10 Common Dolphins followed the Hauturu for ~5 minutes just before Tiritiri.

At about the same time, we saw the Team NZ America’s Cup catamaran practising, one hull completely out of the water, the other apparently barely touching. Very impressive craft, even in light wind. One probable Northern Giant Petrel was sighted off the Port side when sailing to Kawau, North of the Whangaparoa Peninsula.

After Kawau, a marked change in seabirds, especially once we hit the swell. Far fewer Aust. Gannets, but patches (sometimes dense) of Fluttering Shearwaters; White-faced Storm Petrel. Occasional Buller’s Shearwater, possible Cook’s Petrels or some unidentified prion, and Common Diving Petrels. CDPs are much less abundant here than on the trip to Mayor Island for the OSNZ conference this year. Pied shags were sighted only as we approached Little Barrier. On arrival, we met with a pod of six Bottlenosed Dolphins, which followed the boat around, rolled, and jumped clear of the surface.

We came ashore on the Northern face of the boulder bank using the Hauturu’s ship’s boat. Gear was re-quarantined, then into bunkhouses. From the looks of things, we should have no shortage of food, and good quality. There are many large, black skinks amongst the boulder bank.

Briefings were given, an introduction to the island and to distance sampling, our primary activity here. The key assumptions of distance sampling are: that the probability of detecting a bird decreases with distance from sampling point, that birds’ distances are accurately measured, and that birds are only counted if they were in the radius at the start of the sampling period.

A brief night walk was had. Saw pateke, heard weta, kiwi, morepork, blue penguins, pukeko.

Geology question: in boulder-forming rivers, what determines mean boulder size? Rock characteristics? River slope? River length? Related question: is the boulder bank at Little Barrier island a product of fluvial deposition or of drift and local erosion?

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