New Zealand, Kaikoura Pelagic and Arthurs Pass 5/11/11

Once again joining up with Brent and his Wrybill Tour Group, we set off on our morning Kaikoura pelagic trip. This trip is world famous as the close proximity of the continental shelf means you barely have to travel far before seeing seabirds.

We saw 5 species of albatross, including Gibson's Wandering, Southern and Northern Royal, Salvin's and White-capped. Viewing Wandering Albatross at point blank range, as they fed on the chum trail, was spectacular. Petrels were everywhere, with large numbers of Northern Giant and at least one Southern Giant Petrel. Westland Petrel, Hutton's Sheawater and Antarctic Fulmar were also new for our trip. We also had a brief encounter with Hector's Dolphin.

  Species seen on the Pelagic
        White-capped Albatross
Salvin's Albatross
Southern Royal Albatross
Northern Royal Albatross
Gibson's Albatross
Antarctic Giant-Petrel
Hall's Giant-Petrel
Southern Fulmar
Cape Petrel
White-chinned Petrel
Westland Petrel
Buller's Shearwater
Sooty Shearwater
Hutton's Shearwater
Pied Cormorant
Red-billed Gull
Kelp Gull
White-fronted Tern
Parasitic Jaeger

It was hard to drag ourselves away from Kaikoura as we had a long drive to Arthurs Pass to do this afternoon. On our arrival at Arthurs Pass it was snowing. Here we saw our first Keas before we pressed on to Jacksons Retreat were we stopped for the night. Here we were met by our first Western Weka.

New Zealand, Picton, Blenheim and Kaikoura 4/11/11

We left Picton this morning, taking the scenic coastal road to Blenheim, home to a number of Marlborough Wineries.

Variable Oystercatcher

We stopped for lunch at Cloudy Bay Winery and sampled their fayre.

We then set off towards Kaikoura, stopping on route at a New Zealand Fur Seal colony

Video grabs from my New Zealand 2011  DVD (see "Trip DVDS For Sale" tab at top of page)

Pied Cormorant

Arriving at Kaikoura, we checked in for tomorrow's pelagic trip with Albatross Encounter, before spending the remainder of the afternoon at the tiip of the Kaikoura peninsula. Here, I found my first Banded Dotterel of the trip, feeding amongst the exposed rocks.  I could pick out several Albatross from point but without a scope   I could not identify them with certainty although there were some white backed species that were either Royal or Wandering Albatross. Could not wait until tomorrow!

Species seen around Kaikoura:

Sooty Shearwater 1
Hutton's Shearwater 100
Pied Cormorant 25
Spotted Shag 10
White-faced Heron 2
Double-banded Plover 4
South Island Oystercatcher 1
Variable Oystercatcher 10
Red-billed Gull Common
Kelp Gull 20
White-fronted Tern 10
Welcome Swallow Common

New Zealand, Marlborough Sounds 3/11/11

Today, we left the North Island behind, taking the delayed early morning Interislander ferry from Wellington to Picton. A number of albatrosses, shearwaters and petrels were seen on the crossing, but none that I could reliably identify at distance.

King Shag
Video grabs from my New Zealand 2011  DVD (see "Trip DVDS For Sale" tab at top of page)

Our delayed departure left it very tight to meet our planned 1.30pm trip on the Marlborough Sounds with Dophin Watch Ecotours. We made it with a few minutes to spare. Our trip was aimed to find the rare endemic King Shag that only occurs in the Sounds. Fluttering Shearwaters were quite numerous on our way out. Suddenly the guide anounced "King Shags", only for them to be Spotted Shags on close inspection. However, within about 20 minutes we found a group of the real thing on some rocks allowing us good views. 
Next, it was to the predator free Motuara Island. The windy conditions meant we missed South Island Saddleback (it would keep) but saw New Zealand Pigeon, Blue Penguin and South Island New Zealand Robin. We spent the night in Picton and had a great meal in the Irish Bar.

New Zealand Pigeon

Birds seen in the Sounds and Motuara Island:

Paradise Shelduck 2
Fluttering Shearwater 100
Australian Gannet 10
Blue Penguin 1
Pied Cormorant 20
King Shag 6
Spotted Shag 25
Variable Oystercatcher 2
Red-billed Gull 50
Kelp Gull 20
   White-fronted Tern 4    
   Parasitic Jaeger 1
   New Zealand Pigeon  3
   New Zealand Bellbird  4
   South Island Robin  1

New Zealand, Foxton Beach 2/11/12

A longer drive today down to Wellington to meet up with my old friend Pete Diglin.

On the way, we stopped for a couple of hours at the Manawatu estuary at Foxton Beach, a reliable sight for Wrybill. We had good views of the birds, although it was low tide and they took a little work to find.

Video grabs from my New Zealand 2011  DVD (see "Trip DVDS For Sale" tab at top of page)

New Zealand, Lake Okareka, Pureora Forest and Ruatiti, 31/10-1/11/11

Lake Okareka, near Rotorua was our first stop this morning. Here, a family party of the endemic New Zealand Dabchick provided better views than those seen earlier in the trip.

Then it was off to the Pureora Forest, stopping on route for lunch at Taupo. Pureora Forest is home to a number of New Zealand endemic birds and represented our last chance of seeing Kokako.

A walk to the tower hide provided fly over North Island Kakas, brief views of North Island Rifleman, New Zealand Robin, Tuis and Bellbirds. Whilst up the tower, I saw my only New Zealand Falcon of the trip but it only provided brief flight views.

North Island Rifleman
At the camp ground we saw Yellow-crowned Parakeet, Whitehead, Fantail and several more Kakas.
We cooked our evening meal in our DOC Cabin but slept in the Camper van.

Pureora Forest bird sightings 31/10/11

California Quail  5
Swamp Harrier 2
New Zealand Falcon 1
Masked Lapwing 4
New Zealand Pigeon 2
North Island Kaka 12
Yellow-fronted Parakeet 8
Eastern Rosella 1
Long-tailed Koel 1
North Island Rifleman 1
New Zealand Bellbird 4
North Island NZ Robin
Tui 20
   Eurasian Skylark 10
   North Island Fantail 8
   North Island Robin 1
   Silver-eye 2
   Gray Gerygone 10
   Australasian Magpie 20
   European Starling Common
   Yellowhammer 2
   Chaffinch 10
   House Sparrow  5

Yellow-crowned Parakeet
Video grabs from my New Zealand 2011  DVD (see "Trip DVDS For Sale" tab at top of page)

North Island Tomtit
An early start the following morning to explore the Southern Hunters access track in the Waipapa management area. The track is reported to hold several pairs of Kokako. However, a concerted effort failed to produce any sightings. My biggest dip of the trip!

We then travelled on to Tongariro, where I eventually found my first North Island Tomtits. My only sighting of a New Zealand Pipit was at the road side here. 

Next, it was on to Ruatiti in search of Blue Duck. It took a while, but eventually we found a pair with 6 ducklings. Smart birds indeed! 

We spent the night at the Holiday Park in Raetihi.

New Zealand, Miranda, Coramandel and Rotorua, 28-29/10/11

We left Orewa beach this morning, retracing our journey back to Auckland and then on to the Miranda Bird Observatory, on the Firth of Thames. We arrived at lunchtime  and had short walk up to the small observation hide.It was low tide so most of the waders were some way off. Despite this, I managed to pick out my first Wrybills out on the mud, then, to my surprize one individual dropped in behind the hide. It clearly had a broken leg. Knowing that a return visit in the morning at high tide would be more productive, we left to check into the Miranda Holiday Park.


Bird video grabs from my New Zealand 2011  DVD 
(see "Trip DVDS For Sale" tab at top of page)

We spent the afternoon driving up the beautiful Coramandel peninsula coast road seeing Spotted Shags in good numbers.

Spotted Shag

Birds seen at Miranda:
Paradise Shelduck 4
Gray Teal 30
Wild Turkey 20
Pied Cormorant 1
White-faced Heron 20
Swamp Harrier 10
Wrybill 30
South Island Oystercatcher 20
Variable Oystercatcher 8
White-headed Stilt 100
Marsh Sandpiper 1
Bar-tailed Godwit 4000
Ruddy Turnstone 1
Red Knot 1000
Sharp-tailed Sandpiper 6
Black-billed Gull 200
Red-billed Gull 20
Kelp Gull 20
Gull-billed Tern 2
Caspian Tern 5
White-fronted Tern 10
Eurasian Skylark 20
Welcome Swallow Common
Australasian Magpie 5
Common Myna Common
European Goldfinch 10
House Sparrow 10

A memorable highlight back at Miranda Holiday Park was taking a dip in the thermal pool. 

The first couple of hours the following morning were spent at the hide at Miranda waiting for high tide. Thousands of Bar-tailed Godwits and several
hundred Red Knots made up the bulk of the wader flock. 6 Sharp-tailed Sandpipers and about 30 Wrybill and my only Gull-billed Terns of the trip were also present.  To my disappointment, the high tide left the birds largely on the far side of the distant exposed spit and not in front of the hide as
hoped for. 

We then set off to Rotorua, famous for it's geysers and thermal springs. We spent the afternoon Te Puia, with about a million other people trying their best to get on the soundtrack of my video. We did enjoy the geysers though!

Lake Rotorua provided nice views of the endemic New Zealand Scaup and nice opportunities to video both Little Pied and Little Black Cormorants.

Birds Seen at Lake Rotorua:
Black Swan 4
Pacific Black Duck 1
New Zealand Scaup 40
Little Black Cormorant 4
Little Pied Cormorant 30
Purple Swamphen 10
Red-billed Gull Very Common
Kelp Gull 30
Caspian Tern 1

We stopped overnight at the Thermal Springs Holiday Park in Rotorua.

New Zealand, Tiri Tiri Matangi, 28/10/11

We left our campsite at Sandspit early for the short journey to Gulf Harbour, our departure point for todays trip to Tiri Tiri Matangi Island.

Tiri Tiri Matangi is a predator free island and home to a number of endemic bird species that are difficult, or impossible to see anywhere else. "Must see" species here include North Island Saddleback, Stitchbird, Kokako and Takahe. Three of the four were easy to see but, unfortunately I missed Kokako, but held onto the half chance to see it a few days later at Pureora Forest.

The only population of Takahe to exist outside of this predator free environment is in a remote area of Fiordland in the South Island and impossible to see without an expedition. Little Spotted Kiwi is also available on Tiri Tiri Matangi if you spend the night there, but we were only there for a day trip. Other endemic  birds on Tiri Tiri Matangi included, Whitehead, Red-crowned Parakeet, North Island New Zealand Robin and lots of Tuis and Bellbirds.


Visitors to Tiri Tiri Matangi are asked to attend a brief talk at the quay about the island and the necessary rules to keep this island predator free. Alison and I took the Kawerau track and then the ridge track to the lighthouse where there is a gift shop and hot drinks available. Along the trails at Tiri there are a couple of feeding stations which attract the nectar feeding Bellbirds and Stitchbird.
North Island Saddleback

Video grabs from my New Zealand 2011  DVD (see "Trip DVDS For Sale" tab at top of page)


Species seen today:

Paradise Shelduck  3
Brown Teal 2
Brown Quail 3
Flesh-footed Shearwater  3
Buller's Shearwater  1
Australian Gannet 10
Pied Cormorant 2
Purple Swamphen 5
Takahe 2
Variable Oystercatcher 4
Red-fronted Parakeet 10
Sacred Kingfisher 1
Stitchbird  12
New Zealand Bellbird 100
Tui 30
Welcome Swallow 10          
Eurasian Blackbird 2
Song Thrush 1
North Island Fantail  2
North Island Robin 2   
Whitehead 20
North Island Saddleback 12
Australasian Magpie 1


Brown Quail