New Zealand Sea Birds and Mammals

My wife and I recently returned from a ‘bucket list’ trip to New Zealand where we did field work for an upcoming e-book we have planned for 2017. While our focus was on landscape photography I did manage to capture a few images of New Zealand sea birds and mammals.

NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.

Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/2500, ISO-800

Our travels included the Royal Albatross Centre on the South Island. Unfortunately I was not able to get any images of the namesake birds at this location. I did manage a number of photographs of New Zealand Fur Seals.

Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 170mm, efov 459mm, f/5.6, 1/2500, ISO-360

While I was out capturing some images of a couple of fur seals basking in the sun a pair of swimmers went blasting past affording me the above image opportunity.

Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/1250, ISO-900

We also visited the New Zealand Fur Seal colony at Cape Foulwind on the west coast of the South Island where I captured the above image.

Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/2000, ISO-2000

There is quite a bit of salmon farming and green-lipped mussel farming done in New Zealand. At times you’ll see fur seals resting on the floats around a salmon pen. This causes the operators some problems especially since the fur seals are protected and must be caught and moved to help reduce salmon losses. The image above was captured while on the Pelorus Mail Boat.

Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/2000, ISO-640

There are a few species of penguins that live in New Zealand waters and I was fortunate to capture a few photographs of them.

Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 70mm, efov 189mm, f/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-560

Depending on the location and season it is also possible to spot various types of dolphins around both the North and South Islands. Some tour operators have special licenses allowing them to take tourists out to swim with the dolphins.

There is also whale-watching out of Kaikoura on the South Island This beautiful town was rocked by a powerful earthquake while we were in New Zealand. It caused massive rock slides cutting off the town and caused damage as far as 200 kilometres away in Wellington.

Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 224mm, efov 604mm, f/5.6, 1/2000, ISO-400

Various species of sea birds can also be seen along the coasts of both islands. I captured the image of the oyster catcher above and of it flying, at the harbour in Paihia on the North Island.

Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 121mm, efov 326mm, f/5.6, 1/2000, ISO-320

Gulls, of course, are plentiful and I didn’t bother photographing them. I was lucky to have the opportunity to capture some images of Australasian Gannets taking off from the surface of the water.

Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 212mm, efov 571mm, f/5.6, 1/2000, ISO-360
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 162mm, efov 438mm, f/5.6, 1/2000, ISO-360

I also had a couple of good opportunities to get some gannets in flight as they cruised overhead during the mail boat cruise.

Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 208mm, efov 561mm, f/5.6, 1/2000, ISO-500

Small flocks of fluttering shearwaters, as well as individual birds, could be seen on occasion during the mail boat tour.

Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 224mm, efov 604mm, f/5.6, 1/800, ISO-320

Capturing them was a bit challenging as they tend to fly fast and low, affording little time to acquire focus on them, especially with my CX 70-300mm fully extended.

Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/2000, ISO-450

As in many parts of the world there were various species of cormorants. They are called ‘shags’ in New Zealand.

Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 224mm, efov 604mm, f/5.6, 1/2000, ISO-2800

The pied shag, above, is one of the more common species, as is the spotted shag seen in the following two images (at least that’s what I think they are!).

Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-360
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 175mm, efov 473mm, f/5.6, 1/2000, ISO-900

While on the Pelorus Mail Boat tour we happened upon a King Shag which is one of the rarer species in New Zealand.

Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 283mm, efov 763mm, f/5.6, 1/2000, ISO-1000

My luck continued and I was able to capture a few images of some Royal Spoonbills.

Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/1250, ISO-250
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/1250, ISO-250

The last image in this article is of a Pied Stilt in flight…captured just after we had finished lunch at a small beach on our way to the Coromandel Peninsula.

Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/2000, ISO-160

During the next month or so I plan on creating a few more articles with images from our New Zealand trip so I can share more photographs with you. If all goes according to plan my photography e-book on New Zealand will be ready for purchase in the first part of 2017.

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12 thoughts on “New Zealand Sea Birds and Mammals”

  1. Very nice photos! I wish the weather had been as cooperative when we were in NZ eight years ago (heavy spring rains during the few times we saw marine mammals).

    One small technical note: the small images in this post aren’t very sharp, and look much less impressive than the full-size images or the images in you post https://photographylife.com/new-zealand-marine-birds-and-mammals. Perhaps some default sharpening wasn’t applied to the small images?

  2. Top inflight shots. You really do inspire me to get out and make the most of that 70-300mm It is a great lens and as you show produces very crisp results.

    I also use the 300mm PF with the FT1 Adapter. But it only allows the centre point focus. A bit more of a challenge for inflight.
    Thanks for sharing, and look forward to seeing more of the travel photos.

  3. Hi Thomas, nice set and I love your web site. I use a V1 with a CX70-300 for wildlife here in NZ. Just a small correction. The fur Seal is in fact an “eared seal” as is the NZ Sea Lion. Pinnepeds (to use the technical term) are split into 3 families. Walruses, True Seals and Eared Seals. In NZ we have some True Seals, the Leopard Seal and Southern Elephant Seal, The NZ Fur Seal and the NZ Sea Lion are Eared Seals as they have external ears. So technically the Sea Lion is in fact a seal, not the other way round. By the way they are also the rarest seals in the world. We also have some interesting and rare penguins. I was lucky enough to see a group of Fiordland Crested Penguins porpoising in Dusky Sound in Fiordland. Quite a sight. Looking forward to more of your posts.

  4. My beloved Nikon V2 was stolen and just replaced by an Olympus M10II which though many times more flexible is somewhat less fun to shoot. My question: why the high ISO and fast shutter speeds on what look like sedentary targets? Particularly the basking Sea Lion at Cape Foulland? Is it the extreme telephoto?

    1. Hi Left,
      I was focused on trying to capture images of birds in flight and had my V2 set accordingly. I snapped a few Sea Lion images intermittently and didn’t change my camera settings just in case some birds showed up.
      Tom

  5. Amazing trip to see all these birds and animals and loving the photos. SO very happy that you were not hurt during the strong earthquake there! Also happy that there will be more posts about this wonderful trip.

    Of this group of photos I think the very last one is my favorite one. I love the pose, framing, colors, and the lovely shape of this bird. Thanks again for sharing your photography with us.

    P.S. One question: is there a reason you used the Nikon 1 V2 for all of these? Thanks!

    1. Hi Joni,
      Thank you for the supportive comment, and I’m glad you enjoyed the images! I used a Nikon 1 V2 for all of these images as the camera has an EVF which my J5s do not. I find it much easier to track moving subjects using an EVF equipped camera.
      Tom

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