This morning we arrived off Raoul to be greeted with humpbacks performing, a pod of dolphins’ bow-riding, and plenty of seabirds. The island was a stunning sight as the morning sun slanted across the steep ridges and ravines, with everyone on board very excited at the prospect of the upcoming two weeks here. Shortly after the anchor was dropped, and as Mark and I readied to go ashore, we got the news that the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary had been created! Stunning news!
After a quick zodiac trip, we soon on shore joining four of the DOC Raoulies (there’s a team of seven dedicated workers) and making our way up the steep track to the islands’ transport, three 4WD mules.
The islands’ forest is dominated by pohutukawa and our timing was spot on for the start of flowering. Birds are full in your face, the many Tui scrapping in their bolshie way, red-crowned Kakariki everywhere (in the trees, in flight, on the ground) and Pukeko. We saw or heard the little Spotless Crakes, a neat small all black bird with red legs. Later in the afternoon we were to see some northern migratory waders, quite possibly birds stopping over on their way to the New Zealand mainland from Alaska for the summer.
Eleven years after eradication it’s amazing to think the Kakariki and Spotless Crakes had been eliminated from Raoul itself surviving only on the small island group nearby (the Meyer and Herald Islands). Such a wonderful turnaround. But we’re here to delve into how seabirds are returning to the island, the return restoring it to one of the great seabird colonies that it must have been up to the 19th century.