Cape Kidnappers can be found along the East coast of the North Island of New Zealand. The peninsula was originally known as Te Kauwae-a-Māui (the jawbone of Māui), it takes its name from the story of Māui fishing up the North Island. The name 'Kidnappers' came from an incident during Captain Cook’s 1769 voyage when Māori traders are said to have kidnapped Cook’s Tahitian cabin boy who they thought was being held against his will.
During breeding season there is an estimated 20,000 gannets at the Cape, so seeing one or two during peak time was a sure thing! We signed up to the Gannet Beach Adventures tour after hearing so many positive reviews and memories from friends. Riding on the back of a tractor along the coast sounded like a pretty fun day out bird watching! We saw loads (and learnt even more) on the ride, and then enjoyed a short walk up the hill to the main colony.
We wanted to visit during breeding season to hopefully spy some gorgeous little gannet chicks, and we were not disappointed! From eggs, to little fluffies, they only inspired me to come visit again when they were a little older. The day we picked was ideal gannet weather. A nice breeze meaning we could photograph birds in flight, and see all the natural behaviour between pairs returning from sea with clumps of seaweed to line the nest.
Getting the shot
Photographing gannets has been on my list for quite a while now, so Sunday was a dream day out! It was quiet, and everyone was so respectful of colony they carried on with their normal lives as if we were not watching. Nothing beats seeing wildlife in their natural environment, especially when babies are involved!
The large off white eggs were safely tucked under the incubating female, however I was lucky enough to see this mother doing the eggs turns so gently with her bill and feet. Each movement was carefully planned out, and then the egg was safely tucked back away to keep warm.
1-2 weeks old
With the warm weather, the younger chicks were more exposed and not hiding under their parents. This grey chick, just starting to get his white fluffies had just been treated to a feed by mum. Watching the whole head disappear into mums beak was quite a sight!
4 weeks old
This older chick from the Black Reef Colony had all the white fluffy down and almost as big as the parents. There were many chicks all in various stages, but all still covered in down. Once these chicks fledge they will begin their journey to Australia where they will grow up and only return as adults.