In the last few days the North Island has been buffeted by heavy winds and heavy rain which overnight has turned our lingering late summer into one of late fall. On our last three tours out, on September 21st, 22nd and today, we have had some fabulous Humpback Whale sightings (6-10 whales being sighted) including lunge feeding today and yesterday. Most sightings have been near to Bold Head although yesterday on our way home we sighted one near the Pearse Reefs, it was foraging in circles and passing back and forth through enormous herring balls. The lighting was golden as we watched it lunge feed and observed not only its baleen plates but also gulls scrambling away just in time before getting caught inside its mouth and again this morning our first Humpback Whale sighting was near the Pearse Reefs. Herring ball activity has been considerable in recent days with a myriad of seabird species feeding from both above and below the surface of the water. In the last few days our sightings of Sooty Shearwaters have dwindled considerably from large flocks flying about to a few small groups of birds today. Sooty Shearwaters are amazing birds that fly 65,000 km in a round trip journey each year. They are one of the most abundant bird species in the world with a total population estimated at 20 million. They only breed in temperate and subantarctic regions of the southern hemisphere, in New Zealand, Australia, Chile and the Falkland Islands. New Zealand has by far the most birds with 5 million pairs in 80 breeding colonies, approximately half of the worlds population. Researchers have found that the migratory cycle of the birds encompasses the entire Pacific Basin, focusing on the richest feeding grounds in both hemispheres -from Antarctic waters in the south during the breeding season to bountiful coastal currents off California, Alaska and Japan. With this information in mind, it is always exciting to welcome them back to our waters in early September knowing that they are on their journey back to the South Pacific and while their visit is brief it is wonderful seeing these extraordinary birds. Information on their transequatorial migration can be found at: http://www.terranature.org/sootyShearwaterMigration Other sightings in these recent days have included: stellar sea lions++, harbour seals, rhinoceros auklets, common murres+++, red-necked phalaropes, great blue herons, belted kingfishers, pelagic cormorants, surf scoters and bald eagles.