Australasian gannets soaring at Muriwai, West Auckland

Australasian gannets (Sula serrator) are among the most efficient of all fliers, able to stay aloft for long periods of time by catching updrafts off cliff edges and the tops of waves, reducing the need to flap their wings to conserve energy. In this way gannets are often able to cover hundreds of kilometres in a single day for relatively little effort. They are also well-known for their diving abilities, plunging into the sea at high speeds to catch fish up to several metres below the surface.

This clifftop colony at Muriwai, west of Auckland, is exposed to prevailing onshore winds, perfectly suited to these expert fliers. On the day I took this photo a westerly gale was blowing straight in from the sea, rising against the cliffs to create strong updrafts on which numerous gannets hovered above the main colony. Those that landed in the wrong place in the colony normally got a viciously pecking from whoever they ended up next to, so incoming individuals spent plenty of time hovering above the colony to pick out their correct mate before finally touching down next to them.

Sunrise at Castlepoint

View south from Maunganui Bluff

Pingao on dunes, 90 Mile Beach

Evening twilight over Rangitoto Island

Coastal cliffs, Tongaporutu

Piha, West Auckland

Pingao, Mangawhai Heads, Northland

Castlepoint Lighthouse at sunrise

Coastal cliffs at sunset, Tongaporutu

Australasian gannets, Muriwai

Sand dune, 90 Mile Beach

Twilight over Mt Taranaki

Pools at low tide, Oakura Beach

Waves on rocks, 90 Mile Beach

Australasian gannet colony, Muriwai

Wreck of the "Gairloch", Oakura Beach

Sunrise over Rangitoto Island