After leaving the gannet colony (which you can read about in our previous post, ‘A Guest Amongst Gannets’), it dawned on me that I had seen an image floating around on Facebook – one that had stirred a bit of a frenzy in the birder world – and that it was taken at this very gannet colony. It was of a single Red-footed booby that had arrived on mainland New Zealand, lost and separated from its own kind. This was particularly interesting because it was the first ever recorded to do so. The only other New Zealand record was two or three birds that were photographed on and over Napier Islet (Herald Islets, Kermadec Islands) off the coast of New Zealand on 31 Mar and 2 Apr 2016.
The red-footed booby is the smallest of the booby and gannet family. These guys have a wide distribution over tropical seas of the Pacific, Indian and western Atlantic Oceans, including the Caribbean Sea.
I checked online for the most recent sightings and couldn’t find anything in the last week or so. We returned just before dark for a better photography opportunity. Just as the sun was setting and the light almost lost, a lady (also taking snaps) turned and asked, ‘Have you heard about the Booby?’
Our reply was obviously an enthusiastic one, followed by, ‘…but it’s a shame that it doesn’t seem to be here anymore’.
Her reply was a suprise, ‘Yeah, it is. It’s there!’ She pointed to the only bird sat on a branch with its head tucked away and puffed into an unambiguous gannet-looking ball of feathers.
At dawn the next morning, we came armed with this new information. As a stark contrast from the day before, it was dark, horribly windy and cold. The entire time we were being blasted by saltwater spray, sand and guano. Despite the horrendous conditions we managed to get these shots before the bird left the colony for its daytime forage out at sea.
To see this individual was remarkable. Not just because it is the only known bird to have ever landed on mainland New Zealand, but because, by chance, we managed to stumble onto its location before its seaward departure at sunrise.
On returning to Muriwai a month later, our friend was nowhere to be found. A local photographer informed us that he hadn’t seen the bird for a couple of weeks. If the Booby doesn’t return, we can only hope it made its way back to its home out in the tropical seas of the pacific.
References and Further Reading
New Zealand Birds Online – http://www.nzbirdsonline.org.nz/species/red-footed-booby (Retrieved 14 March 2017)
Wikipedia – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red-footed_booby (Retrieved 14 March 2017)
Stuff – http://www.stuff.co.nz/auckland/local-news/nor-west-news/88673292/astonishing-first-ever-nz-sighting-of-redfooted-booby (Retrieved 14 March 2017)
‘Booby trapped’, Title Credit – Olivia Rowley