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Photos by Gavin Bieber
The main tour component of our trip takes place on a comfortable Princess Cruise Lines ship.
Although the ship offers loads of amenities and activities in an often opulent setting,
we tend to spend much of our onboard time on the bow.
For the 2021 cruise we’ll cross the Tasman Sea twice, looking for a wide range of exciting pelagic species, like White-headed Petrel,
the sometimes common Cook’s Petrel,
striking Buller’s Shearwater,
huge Wandering Albatross,
and flocks of Fairy Prion.
Cetaceans can appear at anytime, with one of the more colourful species being these Southern Right-Whale Dolphins.
When we get close to New Zealand we’ll start seeing our first White-fronted Terns, and once ashore at our first port of call in Auckland
we’ll start rapidly picking up our first New Zealand endemics like this handsome Variable Oystercatcher,
sprightly New Zealand Fantails,
and the gaudy Tui, one of the countries two endemic species of honeyeaters.
At our second port of call, the small coastal city of Tauranga, we’ll head inland towards Whirinaki Forest Park,
along the way we should spot a few New Zealand Scaup dabbling around in volcanic lakes.
Once in the forest we’ll look for chattering groups of Whitehead,
inquisitive North Island Robins,
and, with luck, the scarce Blue Duck.
In Wellington we’ll spend out time mainly in a fenced-in sanctuary just a few kilometers outside the city.
Where North Island Saddlebacks lurk in the shrubs,
New Zealand Pigeons can be surprisingly common,
Nosiy New Zealand Kaka can be quite confiding,
hulking Takahe might be along the creekbed,
and where we might find our first Red-crowned Parakeets sitting quietly in the understory.
Here too we will look for the reintroduced population of Tuatara, an ancient lizard-like reptile that is slowly recovering in predator free parts of the country.
From Dunedin we’ll reach another predator free sanctuary called Orokenui,
where New Zealand Bellbirds are common
Outside of the sanctuary we’ll spend the rest of the day birding along the coast, looking for Black-billed Gull,
pairs of Paradise Shelduck,
and on the scenic Katiki Point…
…we should see several Yellow-eyed Penguins loafing on the beach near their colony,
perhaps in the company of dozy New Zealand Fur Seals.
Back in the harbor we should spot the striking Spotted Shag,
and a few Northern Royal Albatross, which nest near the tip of the Otago Peninsula.
As we round the southern end of the South Island we should start seeing Cape Petrels following the ship,
Often we’ll have multiple species of Albatrosses in view at once (here a Salvin’s and a Royal),
Grey-faced Petrels may be common,
and where we should see a few Mottled Petrel,
and the often curious Australasian Gannets.
Our pre-tour this year will spend a few days around the cosmopolitan city of Melbourne, where boisterous Laughing Kookaburra,
gaudy Rainbow Lorikeet,
toylike Crested Pigeons,
sparkling Superb Fairywrens,
and comical Sulphur-crested Cockatoos will greet us in forested parks.
A trip out to the world famous Werribee Sewage works should reveal Cape Barren Geese,
Royal (and Yellow-Billed) Spoonbills,
and Red-necked Avocets will line the ponds.
The post-tour will involve a week around the spectacular island of Tasmania, where Pacific Gulls line the shore,
Hooded Plover breed on secluded sandy beaches,
and birds like this beautiful Pink Robin flit around in ancient Gondwanaland forests.
Of course, we’ll see a few iconic mammals as well, from wallabies
to Wombats, and hopefully the amazing Tasmanian Devil.