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|A Report from birdtours.co.uk|
New Zealand, 10/12/2000 - 6/1/2001,
Many people helped us in both the preparation and execution of this trip but we are especially grateful to John & Doreen Cooper who lent us their Field Guide and Road Atlas, information from their trip the previous year including notes on Albatross identification, kindly put us in contact with several people in New Zealand and loaned us many trip reports and assorted information including tapes, to Ruth & Cam Smirk who welcomed, kindly accommodated and stored the luggage of two complete strangers, to Richard Fairbank who kindly loaned us his maps, made available his wealth of trip reports, provided much assistance with the planning of our itinerary and for putting us in touch with his relatives living in New Zealand, to Nick Allen who provided much pre-trip advice concerning South Island sites and specialities, to Howard & Thais Armstrong who kindly supplied copies of their notes, to John Barrett for making an overnight stay on Kapiti Island a possibility, to Les Battersby especially for his help and time in assisting my efforts at obtaining photos of Fluttering Shearwater, to Roger & Liz Charlwood who gave us some useful pre-trip advice, to Ed Hagen who kindly sent copies of his trip list and additional useful information on the more tricky species, to Jon Hornbuckle who kindly sent us a copy of his tapes and for having written such a useful report of his trip, to Kerry Oates who provided useful pre-trip advice in addition to showing us Brown Kiwi, to Bruce Storey for making our time on Stewart Island so enjoyable, to Ray & Barbara Walter for help with finding the specialities on Tiritiri Matangi Island and to Allan (a Tiritiri Matangi volunteer) for kindly showing us a roosting Morepork there, and last but not least to 'the beard', Wally and Albie at SubritzkyLine who made our trip to Great Barrier such a memorable experience.
8th December 2000 : We left Burgess Hill at 14.35 with Gabby Mills kindly driving us to the Hickstead Bus Stop for 14.50. The bus was late, arriving at 15.20, costing £16 pp to Heathrow Terminal 3 arriving there at 17.15pm. Checked-in for the 22.00 Malaysia Airlines flight to KL. Watching the lazy cleaners provided some entertainment ! The flight left 30 minutes late.
9th December 2000 : The in-flight film was 'A Perfect Storm' which Brenda hoped was not an omen in respect of the forthcoming boat trips ! Arrived KL after the 11.5 hour flight at c.17.30 with about an hour before dark. Saw 2 Tree Sparrows and c.5 Pacific Swallows from the airport. Otherwise the 'new' airport seemed pretty devoid of birds and consisted of the usual expensive shops and nowhere cheap to eat , so we made do without. Left KL on time at 21.30.
10th December 2000: Dawn over Australia arriving in Auckland on schedule at 12.40. Clear blue skies although fairly breezy. Collected our first car from the Budget Car Rental Office (£731 for a Grade C car for the duration of the trip, petrol being a third of the cost in the UK) in the 'Arrivals Hall' (Avis and Hertz being the only other Rental firms with offices) booking the inter-island drop-off/pick-ups. Drove to the nearby large Mangere Sewage Works where the combination of recent development and low tide resulted in few birds being seen but did produce our first new species being Paradise Shelduck. Drove south to Meremere enjoying the spectacular verges of wildflowers arriving at c.15.00 driving to the bridge over the Whangamarino River where we walked south along the overgrown riverbank viewing the adjacent marshland briefly hearing a single Australian Bittern booming. A local farmer originally from Suffolk pointed us in the direction of the Whangamarino Wetlands Reserve accessible from where the Whangamarino River crosses Falls Road as being a good location for the Bittern. After a short walk there the footpath was flooded so we returned to our car and drove via Te Kauwhata (no obvious accommodation) back to the original place near Meremere. Stood on the bridge scanning the marshlands for Bitterns but none were seen. The owner of the adjacent property walked his large dog towards us to enquire what we were doing. On explaining, he agreed to walk me around his property as he regularly encounters Bitterns. In failing light we hurriedly walked a fair distance but only hearing a single bird booming from an inaccessible area. Left Meremere at 21.30 driving towards Miranda but got completely lost around Kopuku. Just when we were resigned to spending our first night in the car we noticed a sign pointing to Miranda which turned out to be a gravel road. After successfully negotiating the windy road we arrived at Miranda at c.22.30. We found the Hot Springs Caravan Park (firstname.lastname@example.org) just as it was closing and booked a Backpacker's room for NZ$40 (NZ$3.25 = £1.00). Being able to stretch-out on a bed was very welcome but only slept from 23.00 to 2.30 then feeling wide-awake presumably due to jet-lag.
11th December 2000 : Out before dawn and quickly located the track leading to the wader roost at the mouth of the Tamaire River. High-tide was at 06.00 so hundreds of waders were already arriving - quite a spectacle. Soon located a New Zealand Dotterel amongst the throng being the target bird for the day. After the waders stopped arriving we drove back south checking the various roadside pools before walking out to the Hide. No waders were roosting in front of the hide but we did locate another 3 NZ Dotterel on the adjacent shell beaches. Returned to the Tamaire River roost where able to obtain some photographs in the better light. Made a quick visit to the Shorebird Centre (http://mysite.xtra.co.nz/~shorebird/) but the warden on duty was not particularly helpful so we didn't linger. Returned to our room in order to check-out before 10.00. Drove the scenic coastal route along the Firth of Thames back towards Auckland stopping in Kawakawa Bay at a Dairy for an Ice-cream and Coffee as feeling really quite tired. Negotiated our way through the suburbs of Auckland encountering some torrential rain and soon found Ruth & Cam's house in Titirangi - a suburb of Auckland attractively set on hillsides amongst natural vegetation with their house enjoying a magnificent view. Ruth and Cam had kindly offered to put us up and look after our baggage whilst visiting the islands close to Auckland over the next few days - they made us very welcome. We drove into Auckland to confirm our sailings to both Great Barrier Island and Tiritiri Matangi Island . It was very windy with SubritzkyLine (Fax 0064 9 3071505) not too confident whether the ferry to Great Barrier Island would run the following day. The wind also causing Brenda some concern as to whether she wanted to visit Great Barrier! Returned to Ruth's for a super meal before Ruth kindly took us to a local viewpoint for dusk. Now feeling very tired so collapsed into bed at 21.00.
12th December : Up at 4.00 hearing a nearby Morepork calling before driving into Auckland arriving at Wynyard Wharf (free parking) at 5.00. Absolutely calm with no wind at all. Joined the SubritzkyLine ferry costing NZ$65 return to Great Barrier Island. After finishing to load the barge it left at 6.30 soon passing Rangitoto and Motutapu Islands producing our first Fluttering and Buller's Shearwaters and then out across the open waters of the Hauraki Gulf where we saw c.25 White-faced Storm Petrels with some bow-riding for considerable periods - absolutely stunning birds. Just off the northern tip of the Coromandel Peninsula we encountered our only Cook's Petrel and then whilst crossing the Colville Channel our first Black Petrel. Brenda was asleep for much of the trip - the unwelcome side effects of some sea-sickness pills. We arrived at Tryphena at 12.00. The skipper quickly chartered the Island Taxi Van for NZ$15 to take us to a reliable area for Brown Teal telling us to be back at the boat at 14.00. In the event we found a flock of Brown Teal in the nearby bay whilst the driver had stopped at the shop. We continued with her to a bay on the east coast of the island seeing more Brown Teal. We returned to the quay at 14.00 but it was clear that there was still plenty to unload. We were told that they would be ready in about an hour so decided to walk to a nearby bay obtaining some good views of Kaka. Returned to the boat at 15.00 but the boat was still not ready to leave. Decided to shelter on the boat from a few light showers and have a short sleep. The boat finally left for Port Fitzroy at 18.00 ! A few more seabirds en-route and a view of Little Barrier Island - much larger than I had imagined. Arrived at Port Fitzroy at 19.30 with a drunk in a motor boat repeatedly playing chicken across the bow of our boat causing some concern to our skipper. They quickly unloaded the remainder of the goods at Port Fitzroy and left at 21.30 unfortunately just as it was getting dark. We were told this was the latest the boat had ever left Port Fitzroy which was a great pity as it would mean that we would pass Little Barrier Island (potentially the best area for seabirds) in the dark, whereas normally it passes during the evening. Being virtually the only passengers we slept quite comfortably stretched out across some chairs.
13th December : The Skipper woke us at 3.00 to admire the lights of Auckland. We arrived back at Wynyard Wharf at 3.30 where we drove back south to Meremere arriving to thick fog at 4.30. We took heart from a nearby booming Bittern whilst we slept in the car for a couple of hours. It slowly got light but the thick fog hampered viewing until 7.00 when the sun eventually started to burn through. Almost immediately we noticed a Bittern stood in a nearby reedbed having time to watch it through the scope and to take a few poor photographs. Eventually left the Meremere wetlands late morning and drove to Muriwai Beach just north-west of Auckland to visit the Australian Gannet colony there spending some time trying to obtain some decent photographs. Felt shattered so decided to have a quick sleep in the car eventually waking-up 2 hours later feeling completely jaded. Summoned up the energy to drive back to Ruth and Cam's at Titirangi seeing a pair of Eastern Rosellas fly across the road en-route. Enjoyed another of Ruth's super meals and again went to bed really very early, again sleeping well.
14th December : Left at 6.30 and again drove into Auckland again parking our car outside SubritzkyLine to take advantage of the free parking and walked to Fuller's Gulfharbour Ferry (email@example.com) jetty (somewhat resembling a Railway Station busy with commuters) getting there at 8.00 for the 9.00 ferry (NZ$50 pp return) to Tiritiri Matangi Island. Met at the quay on Tiritiri Matangi Island (firstname.lastname@example.org) by Ray & Barbara, the resident wardens, who took our baggage whilst we walked up the 'road' to the bunkhouse situated near the Lighthouse. On arrival at the Lighthouse we saw our first Takahe - in hot pursuit of Barbara heading towards the shop ! Quickly moved in to our room which we were sharing with a volunteer. Made our way out in the hot sunny weather walking the Cable Track, Cable Road to Hobbs Beach, Hobbs Track and back along the Wattle Track producing many of the hoped-for species including Red-crowned Parakeets, Whiteheads, New Zealand Robins, a female Stitchbird, Bellbirds and Saddlebacks before arriving back at the bunkhouse at 14.30. Slept until 16.00 (very hot) before setting off along the Ridge Track where we met Ray & Barbara who kindly suggested that we should concentrate along the Wattle Track if we wanted to see Kokako. Walked down to Hobbs Beach and then back to the Wattle Track where we scored on both Kokako and male Stitchbirds. Got back to the bunkhouse at 20.30 where Brenda cooked sausages and baked beans. A superb warm evening so sat outside to eat our meal. Went out at 22.00 to try for Little Spotted Kiwi. During the course of the day we had decided that the Wattle Track gave the best views of the forest floor so we had decided that we would concentrate on that area. After hearing a few distant calls we laid down on some benches at the water trough along the Wattle Track and just as we were falling asleep at c.1.00 a Little Spotted Kiwi started calling very close. We successfully whistled it into view and watched it on and off for around 30 minutes - superb. Returned to the bunkhouse at 2.00 trying not to wake anyone.
15th December : DC was up and out by 7.00 being not bad after our late night. Weather again superb. Slowly walked the Wattle Track and back to the bunkhouse by 9.00. Straight back out walking the Ridge Track producing our first Grey Warblers and on to the Kawerau Track (superb) but couldn't locate the Moreporks that had been seen there a few days earlier. Walked back to the Lighthouse via Hobbs Beach and the Wattle Track, to settle up with Barbara (NZ$20 per person per night) at 13.30. Asked Barbara for better directions for the Moreporks when the lady in the shop announced that her husband 'Alan' had earlier seen one roosting along the Kawerau Track. Quickly found Alan and persuaded him to take me back down to the Kawerau Track where he soon located the adult Morepork sat in the same position. Remarkably Alan had lived in Burgess Hill 40 years earlier. Alan left for the boat and after watching the Morepork for some time being mobbed by an array of 'threatened species' I walked back to the bunkhouse arriving at 16.00 feeling very tired. Slept until 18.00 when Brenda made some sandwiches and we walked down to the small pool near the jetty where a superb adult Spotless Crake performed constantly from 19.00. Wrote a few postcards enjoying another superb evening. We walked to the Kawerau Track and were rewarded with the adult plus 2 juvenile Moreporks really very active despite only being dusk. Walked back to the quay and watched Little Blue Penguins return to their burrows at dusk. On the walk back to the bunkhouse we encountered a Little Blue Penguin which had climbed really very high along the road. The volunteer had left from our room but had been replaced by a local from Auckland and Bert, a semi-birder from Belgium, who gave me some useful sites for later during our trip.
16th December : A quick loop around the Lighthouse area before walking to the quay for the 8.00 ferry direct to Auckland. Ray and Barbara thankfully drove our bags down to the ferry. A calm crossing followed by a hot walk to our car. Drove to Ruth & Cam's where we collected our bags and said our goodbyes. Drove south with the weather initially hot and sunny but progressively becoming wet with steady drizzle by the time we reached Pureora. Decided to continue south driving down the western shores of Lake Taupo to Tokaanu where Kerry Oates had kindly told us to look for NZ Grebe - we readily found 16 along with our first NZ Scaups, a single Black-billed Gull and impressive numbers of Black Swans. Some geothermal activity was clearly evident in the surrounding hills with plumes of steam rising into the air. Continued south-west to Raetihi where we booked into the cheapest motel room at the Ruapehu Hotel for NZ$70. Heavy rain so quite relieved our trip with Kerry to look for Brown Kiwi had been postponed to later in our trip.
17th December : Up at 5.30 to dull weather. Drove north to Orautoha and then along the river to Ruatiti readily locating two pairs of Blue Duck obtaining fine scope views of them negotiating the torrents. We had returned to the Motel by 7.30 eating a quick breakfast and carefully packing our bags as we were to be leaving our car at the Wellington Ferry (email@example.com) Terminal. Left at 8.30 driving south to Wellington arriving at 12.30. Enquired as to whether we could transfer our ticket to an earlier ferry sailing but were told that the earlier ferry was out of service due to a mechanical problem and that our only option was to 'upgrade' to the Lynx which we decided against. Drove round the bay to Eastbourne where we eat a meal and slept in the car for an hour in a beach-side Car Park. We returned to the Ferry Terminal at 16.00 where we dropped the car at the Arrivals Terminal and boarded the boat (NZ$98 pp return) at 17.00. Another calm crossing with the MV Arahura allowing good views of our first Fairy Prions and a single distant Mollymawk. We arrived at Picton at 20.45 and picked up another Ford Laser from Budget Rent a Car and found the nearby Marinelands Motel booking a room for NZ$70.
18th December : Up at 7.00 and finally found the somewhat obscure Dolphin Encounters Office (firstname.lastname@example.org) directly opposite the Railway Station. We were driven to a nearby harbour where we joined the boat (NZ$75 pp) and made our way out towards the Queen Charlotte Sound at 9.00 seeing a few Hector's Dolphins, good numbers of Fluttering Shearwaters, our first Spotted Shags and a pair of Weka feeding along the tide-line of a small island before visiting the exposed White Rocks to see the roosting King Shags - one of only four known sites for this localised species. We then stopped at Motuara Island enjoying the company of tame NZ Robins before eventually seeing a South Island Saddleback. We returned to Picton a little later than planned at 14.00. After getting something to eat in the Dog & Frog Café in Picton we drove south through dry hillsides to Kaikoura arriving at 17.00 where we found the Ocean Wings Office (it has a plastic Dolphin on the roof !) to pay NZ$60 pp for the following morning's pelagic trip. Finding reasonably-priced accommodation proved difficult but eventually booked a room just north of the town in the Colonial Port Motel for NZ$75 which had good views of the nearby mountains.
19th December : Up at 5.00 and down to the Ocean Wings Office by 5.45. Taken by minibus with another British couple to the jetty at a nearby harbour. Boarded the boat in the car park which was then reversed by tractor into the water. Unfortunately thick fog had descended which didn't clear for much of the first trip. However, for the final hour it did improve and the appearance of a fishing boat produced a memorable grand finale with Antipodean & Gibson's Wandering Albatrosses, Northern Royal Albatross, Black-browed Albatross, White-capped & Salvin's Shy Albatrosses, Flesh-footed, Buller's, Sooty, Short-tailed and literally thousands of Hutton's Shearwaters, Westland Black, White-chinned and Cape Petrels, both species of Giant Petrels and a handful of Fairy Prions making for a busy time with the camera . Back to land at 9.00 where Brenda (and the other couple) left to check-out of the Motel and DC stayed aboard for a second trip for NZ$50. Another 6 Brits joined the boat and we were soon back off out to find the fishing boat. After spending an hour seeing most of the same species already encountered on the earlier trip we headed offshore to find a different selection of species with 2 Grey-faced (Great-winged) Petrels and a single Grey-backed Storm-Petrel the highlights. DC felt quite queasy on the second trip in the rougher offshore waters. During the course of the morning a superb array of seabirds were seen with many at close range surely rivalling pelagic trips anywhere in the World. Returned to land at midday, said goodbye to Adrian the skipper, and drove south to Christchurch seeing a single Black-fronted Tern feeding along a large braided river complex. Visited a White-flippered Penguin colony at Harris Bay near Taylor's Mistake but after scaling down the cliff we were disappointed to find no sign of the Penguins in the artificial nest boxes there. Decided to drive out to Akaroa, a small French settlement on the Banks Peninsula set within a flooded crater of a volcano, checking the Harbour for Penguins but again to no avail. Found a room in the La Rive Motel in Akaroa for NZ$80.
20th December : DC up and out at 5.30 and down to the sewage out-fall at the southern end of the town to scope the harbour. Finally picked out a distant 'Blue' Penguin which was presumably White-flippered. As it wasn't moving far decided to drive round the Harbour to Wainui as it appeared much closer to that side of the harbour. However, arrived in Wainui just in time to watch it distantly swimming quickly towards the open seas. Returned to the Motel at 8.30 and left by 9.00. Drove south to Oamaru where we noticed signs to both Little Blue and Yellow-eyed Penguin colonies. Drove to the nearby Blue Penguin colony and the warden told us he expected c.100 Little Blue and c.8 White-flippered Penguins to arrive ashore at c.21.00. He went on to say that the White-flipped Penguin's ancestry could be traced to the Christchurch area. I asked if they were inter-breeding and he replied positively. I therefore felt less inclined to hang around to obtain better views ! Drove on to the nearby Yellow-eyed Penguin colony as we were told that they should start arriving on a deserted beach from 15.30. Rather frustratingly at 15.00 four people appeared on the beach. Quickly decided to drive onto Dunedin arriving at 'Penguin Place' on the Otago Peninsula at 17.00. Paid NZ$25 per person for the 'tour'. An impressive reserve with a network of trenches and bunkers allowing close views to be obtained of this large shy rare species. Drove on to the Taiaroa headland arriving at 19.00 at which time the reserve was closed although we obtained close flight views of 3 Northern Royal Albatrosses arriving/leaving their colony which was unfortunately just out of sight. Tried a short sea-watch but after the views of the previous day it hardly seemed worth the effort. Drove south to the Sinclair Wetlands finding a nearby Motel at Lake Waihola for NZ$70.
21st December : Up and out by 6.00 to a dull windy morning with isolated downpours. Drove to the Sinclair Wetlands Reserve where the warden found me sat in the Car Park sheltering from the weather. He kindly directed me to the trail and told me Fernbirds were really quite common and some birdwatchers had readily seen 3 just a few days earlier. Braved the elements and walked to the end of the trail where eventually found a Fernbird which responded well to pishing in virtually the last area of reeds. Quickly walked back to the car narrowly avoiding a heavy shower and drove back to the Motel. Left the Motel at 10.00 and soon drove into very wet and windy conditions. Decided to drive the scenic route through the Catlins Forest, walking some of the gravel road at Chaselands seeing our first Tomtits but little else in the unfavourable weather. Drove onto Bluff and checked that the Foveaux Express (email@example.com) catamaran to Stewart Island (NZ$75.50 pp return) would be running in the now gale force winds. Surprisingly it was - they told us nobody had offered them enough money to cancel as yet! Attempted to find somewhere to sea-watch from but the seabirds were distant and the sea very rough. Returned to the harbour and arranged for our car to be parked in 'secure' parking for NZ$5 per night - worth the expense as Bluff has a poor reputation for car crime. Left Bluff at 17.00 in atrocious conditions but somehow summoned up the courage to sit outside at the back of the boat much to the crew's amazement. A simply amazing ride, desperately hanging on, and for the first 10 minutes wishing I could somehow get inside the cabin ! However, once we got offshore the seas did seem to moderate slightly and therefore managed to start birding. Quickly saw 2 Mottled Petrels which made the effort well worthwhile. Met at the quay at Half Moon Bay by Bruce Story (firstname.lastname@example.org) of Thorfinn Charters (http://www.thorfinn.co.nz) who owned our self-contained accommodation at NZ$90 for the next three nights. A superb place. It came as no surprise that Philip Smith (Fax 0064 3 2191144) had cancelled his Kiwi tour in view of the weather. We enjoyed a good meal in the Church Hill Café on Bruce's recommendation.
22nd December : Up at 7.30 for a 8.20 start to Ulva Island with Bruce. Cloudy cold conditions not ideal for birding but did see Tomtits, Brown Creepers, Yellow-crowned Parakeets, Kakas including a nest with two eggs, and the Wekas were good fun. Bruce showed us an amazing dead caterpillar that had been killed by a fungus on eating its spores which then produces a new spike from the caterpillar's forehead right between its eyes - real horror story stuff. The weather brightened at about midday when we returned to Oban. Walked out to Acker's Point seeing the Akademik Shokalskiy moored at Ulva Island - the reason we couldn't try for Brown Kiwi that night as Rodney Russ of Heritage Expeditions had the 'rights' for the evening. Rather frustratingly they sailed for Bluff at 19.00 not exercising their 'rights'. At the lighthouse we enjoying the spectacle of gathering Sooty Shearwaters and a few White-capped Albatrosses and a raft of Little Blue Penguins. We enjoyed a spectacular walk back with Sooty Shearwaters calling above us and a few crashing to land and 3 Little Blue Penguins were encountered on the path (and a hedgehog). Got back to our accommodation at midnight.
23rd December : Awoke at 6.00 to persistent heavy rain continuing until midday. Conditions then slowly improved so DC walked to a couple of Bays in the opposite direction to Oban but few birds seen in the inclement conditions. With the weather continually improving we phoned Philip Smith at 20.00 who told us the bad news that he was again cancelling - this time with the rather lame excuse of the windy conditions - it was by now virtually calm - all very annoying especially as we had pre-booked for all three nights months in advance with no hint that he 'wouldn't be able' to visit on one of our chosen nights and now cancelling on what we considered a rather weak excuse. Walked to the island pub but too late to get a meal so bought some chips from the nearby caravan.
24th December : Up and out at 8.20 for the Thorfinn Charters pelagic trip from 9.00. It was a trip to the 'outer islands' soon producing the highlight being a Buller's Albatross which remained faithful to the boat for much of the morning. Other highlights of the trip included White-capped & Salvin's Shy Albatrosses, 2 Yellow-eyed Penguins and 3 Brown Skuas near their nest. Bruce dropped me at Golden Bay at midday where walked back to the accommodation in heavy rain. Sheltered until 15.00 when Bruce had returned from Ulva Island so drove us to the wharf. Said our goodbyes to Bruce - a great bloke - and boarded the catamaran. A choppy crossing although we saw far fewer seabirds than in the dreadful conditions on the way over. Arrived back at Bluff and quickly picked-up our car from Campbelltown Storage and drove the scenic route to Te Anau arriving at the Arran Motel NZ$95 to heavy low cloud.
25th December : Heavy rain and very strong winds resulted in a disturbed night's sleep. Up before dawn and relieved it had stopped raining. Drove towards the Homer Tunnel but only got as far as the Mirror Lakes along the Eglington Valley due to a large tree having fallen across and completely blocked the road - another English birding couple were parked near the fallen tree and explained they had already moved one tree but realised there was no chance of moving the next. We tried a bit of roadside birding but heavy rain again started so we returned to our respective cars. The other couple being pretty dejected decided to give-up, wished us a Merry Christmas (!) and headed off back to their Motel. We slept and rested in the car until a local appeared who told us it was the worst condition he had seen the road in for c.12 years - little compensation to us. He was however confident that the road would eventually be cleared despite it being Christmas morning. The chain-saws appeared at 10.00 and we made slow progress to the Lake Gunn Nature Walk as several more trees needed to be cleared. Walked the circular trail seeing our first Rifleman but little else in horrible conditions. Drove on to the Homer Tunnel arriving around midday. The Keas were amusing - watched stripping rubber from the Japanese tourist's cars who seemed to enjoy watching the parrots wrecking their car rentals. Walked the short circular Nature Trail and the surrounding area looking for Rock Wren but the only success was getting drenched. Decided to drive down to Milford Sound to enquire whether any Fiordland Crested Penguins had been seen recently. Couldn't believe the size of the operation at Milford Sound but had a break of luck in that after dropping Brenda at the boat terminal I returned the 500m or so to the Car Park and noticed a New Zealand Falcon flying from the boat terminal towards the nearby Airport. I drove to the Airport where I again saw the Falcon in flight heading further up the valley. It proved to be the only encounter with the species. Brenda had failed to ask anyone who knew anything about recent sightings of the Penguin and with the throng of tourists we decided to head back to the Homer Tunnel especially as the weather seemed to be improving. Arrived at the tunnel to the usual mixture of blizzards, rain and swirling wind and met Manu Tours who told me what a wonderful trip they had enjoyed with Philip Smith the previous evening despite the atrocious conditions ! Stayed at the Homer Tunnel for quite a while but only succeeded in getting drenched again. Gave up and drove back to Lake Gunn where we again walked the trail obtaining further views of Rifleman. Returned to Te Anau by 20.00 where it was still wet and windy and too late to get a meal so we made ham sandwiches in our room. Phoned home to the UK but the phone kept cutting out so didn't prove very satisfactory. Stayed again at the Arran Motel.
26th December : Up at 5.00 and drove straight to the Homer Tunnel but greeted by the usual heavy rain so got drenched again looking in vain for Rock Wren. Drove down to Milford Sound and asked the skipper of the first boat if he'd seen any Penguins recently - none since November. Therefore decided to skip the boat ride and drove back to the Homer Tunnel where it was still raining. Scaled the cliffs at the northern portal but the usual result - got wet and a tricky walk down. Drove down the Eglington Valley with a quick look for Yellowhead proving unsuccessful again being hampered by the continuing heavy rain. Listened to the weather forecast which predicted 100mm of rain in the following 30 hours for Fiordland which seemed severe by even their standards. Decided we'd had enough so drove back to Te Anau and left at 12.30 for Twizel arriving at 16.30 to better conditions. Drove to Lake Poaka but despite checking all the suitable habitat could only find Pied Stilts although the Banded Dotterel were a pleasant distraction. Somewhat dejectedly we drove on to Lake Merino and almost immediately found a superb adult Black Stilt seemingly paired to a Pied Stilt. We returned to the Motel at 19.00 for a quick meal and then headed out to the nearby Hydro station stumbling upon the Black Stilt Captive Breeding Centre and locating a nearby hybrid Black/Pied Stilt with a white head. Returned to the cheap basic Motel at dusk.
27th December : Up at 5.30 to rain ! It looked better weather to our east so we drove to the Cass River just north of Lake Tekapo - a superb area. Found 2 Black Stilts on a pool along the track. The rain caught-up and started just as we arrived at the bridge across the Cass River. I braved the elements and soon located Wrybills by walking towards the river-mouth and sheltering under a lonely tree. Drove to Mt. Cook but torrential rain thwarted any hopes of birding - in fact seemingly typical Rock Wren weather !! Drove back to the canal to the north of Twizel but couldn't locate yesterday's Black Stilt. Drove south to Omarama and a Hotel costing NZ$80. Ate in the Hotel with an impressive double rainbow out of the window providing the evening entertainment.
28th December : Up and out at 5.30 for a walk down the superb Ahuriri River seeing Black Stilt, Wrybill and Banded Dotterels all breeding in the area. Returned and packed leaving at 9.00 driving to Haast Pass being a superb area of forest with the moss-festooned Bridal Trail at the Pass almost immediately producing a family party of Yellowheads which actively responded to the tape of Long-tailed Cuckoo, as well as a good number of obliging Rifleman and other moss-forest specialities. It started to rain so we drove onto Haast booking into a new Motel costing NZ$80. Drove down to Jackson's Bay searching the beaches in vain for Fiordland Crested Penguins which are unfortunately all 'at sea' in December. Eat in a local Hotel - a Steak Sandwich for the second evening running.
29th December : Awoke to heavy rain. Drove north along the H6 in torrential rain checking various beaches for Penguins but again with no joy. The rain eased after midday so after a quick look at a Fox Glacier we moved on to Okarito where the local Nature Tour outfit told us the last Penguins had left 2 weeks earlier. We decided to move on and drove to Punakaiki where all the available accommodation was full apart from a very expensive hotel - we decided we would sleep in the car at the end of the Bullock Creek track which would possibly also aid us in looking for Great Spotted Kiwi. We toured the Pancake Rocks and eat a burger in an adjacent café. We waited until 20.00 and decided to head for Bullock Creek. The track started very narrow and we made slow progress for around 500m when we turned a corner to find the track had been all but washed away and would prove tricky in a 4WD let alone a small rental car. It had also started to rain heavily so we decided against walking in and reluctantly and with some difficulty turned the car around. We decided to cut our losses and head for Arthur's Pass being another known site for the Kiwi in the hope it wouldn't be raining there. We arrived at 22.30 to heavy rain after what had been an 'interesting' drive past various wash-outs in dreadful weather. Slept in the car with the rain persistently heavy throughout the night.
30th December : Awoke to classic Rock Wren weather being torrential rain. Waited around in the car until 10.30 when we heard the forecast for the remainder of the day and the next was for further continuos heavy rain. We decided to leave the area and drove east towards Christchurch. The rain eventually stopped although it remained windy. We checked with Shirleen (Ph 03 304 8552)(email@example.com) at Akaroa as to whether she would be running her NZ$35 pp trip to her White-flippered Penguin colony at Flea Bay and quickly booked her two remaining places. We again drove out to Akaroa finding it near-impossible to find any accommodation eventually finding the Mulberry House B&B for NZ$110. We drove into town to get a meal when the heavens opened with a somewhat violent 10 minutes of weather following. We visited Flea Bay from 18.00 to 21.00 seeing Yellow-eyed as well as plenty of White-flippered Penguins. However the White-flippered Penguin chicks had mostly left the colony and Shirleen told us she would be suspending her trips from the following evening.
31st December : A fine morning at last. Drove to Kaikoura encountering only the odd shower en-route. Arrived in Kaikoura at 14.00 and again struggled to find accommodation finally booking a Motel room for NZ$85. Went to check on pelagics for the following day but due to the complete lack of other interest no trips would be taking place - a pity although on a look at their sightings for the previous two trips showed little had changed from our previous visit. A quick sea-watch from the nearby Seal Colony produced little. Eat a burger in a pub but didn't bother lingering to see in the New Year watching an old Robbie Williams concert filmed in Ireland on TV instead !
1st January : Left Kaikoura and drove through the huge recently burnt area to Picton booking into the Marlin Motel for NZ$76.50. Sorted our bags for handing over the car and for our forthcoming trip to Kapiti Island. Walked the foreshore but hardly worth the effort from the birding point of view though did obtain some photographs of the tame Black-billed Gulls. The weather forecast was for a period of dry weather for Fiordland and the Southern Alps starting the following morning !
2nd January : Up at 3.30 and down to the ferry terminal just after 4.00. All formalities cleared by 4.20 for the 5.10 ferry to Wellington. Surprisingly the ferry was full. The crossing produced large numbers of Fairy Prions and the last Mollymawks we were to see. Arrived in Wellington and picked up a car - a free upgrade to a huge Hyundai car. Drove to the Wellington Botanical Gardens but couldn't locate any Crimson Rosellas. Drove to the nearby Kaori Reserve which was unfortunately closed being a bank holiday and there was no way past the impressive predator-proof fence ! Drove north to Paraparaumu Beach and placed our bags aboard the boat to Kapiti. Quite rough but a very short crossing. It was apparently marginal as to whether we would be able to land at the north end of the island. We did and were met by John Barrett (firstname.lastname@example.org) who kindly pushed our bag on a wheelbarrow to our bunkroom (NZ$150 pp incl. all meals/transport etc. for the first night and NZ$70 pp for each additional night Dinner B&B etc.) which we had to ourselves. A superb place. Walked out to the nearby lagoon but saw little just enjoying the place really. Went out to look for Little Spotted Kiwi from 21.30 to 23.30 but just heard a few - too windy.
3rd January : Up early birding the area around the accommodation. A really warm fine morning making a pleasant change. John then took us by his small speedboat to the Nature Reserve at the southern end of the island. We walked the Wilkinson Trail to the top of Kapiti before returning to the shelter at 15.00. Birding really proving quite difficult in comparison to Tiritiri Matangi Island. Walked a part of the North Track but it soon became extremely tricky scrambling across screed slopes and narrow rocky ledges. We soon lost the trail and decided it was sensible to turn back. I wouldn't recommend this trail to anyone and it would certainly have been a nasty shock the day before if it had not been possible to land at the northern end of the island - despite having been given assurances of it being an 'easy' walk by the boatman ! We arrived back at the warden's house at 19.00 giving them a bit of a shock before they kindly telephoned John to come and 'rescue' us ! We were soon back at our accommodation and enjoying another excellent meal with John & Susan, some of their family and four other guests from Wellington. One of the lads was feeding the Kakas by having them take dates from his tongue ! Again went out between 21.30 and 23.00 successfully seeing Little Spotted Kiwi and hearing them snuffling through the undergrowth. Amazing birds. Several Moreporks were continuously calling and we spotlighted one close to our accommodation. A lovely warm clear night.
4th January : Up early again birding around the accommodation. Left on the 10.00 boat arriving at Paraparaumu Beach at 10.30. Drove north to Ohakune admiring the scenically spectacular Mt. Ruapehu before booking into the Alpine Motel for NZ$70. Drove to the superb Tongariro National Park. Walked part of the Old Blyth Track. Saw a good variety of species including North Island forms of Tomtit and Rifleman for the first time. Drove further up the mountain until hearing a Long-tailed Cuckoo calling near the 9km gate having just crossed the Mangawhero River. Soon located two birds being one of the few species not seen too date. Drove back to Ohakune at 19.00 being picked-up by Kerry Oates (email@example.com) for NZ$30pp at 19.45 and driven to the privately owned Waimarino Forest west of Raetihi where Kerry gave us an informative outline of his research there. Heard both male and female Brown Kiwi with Kerry successfully taping the female into view. It had walked from a considerable distance to within a few feet of where the tape had been played calling almost immediately in front of us. It then slowly walked off into the night with its mate calling in the distance. An absolutely superb 'last new bird' of the trip. Returned to Ohakune by 22.30.
5th January : Without the prospect of any possible new species we decided to drive to Rotorua to have a look at some bubbling mud pools. Did look at a couple of the nearby lakes seeing a pair of NZ Grebes before heading back to Auckland staying at a motel near the airport for NZ$80.
6th January : Packed and then drove to the airport dropping the car and leaving on time at 14.15 arriving in KL at 20.20. Left KL at 23.55 arriving at Heathrow at c.6.00 the following morning where it took over an hour for our luggage to appear. We were kindly met at the airport and driven back to Burgess Hill by John and Terry Cooper.
SYSTEMATIC LIST (order following Heather & Robertson (1997) but the nomenclature and taxonomy following Clements (2000)).
Brown Kiwi - Apteryx australis mantelli C
A single female was taped into view by Kerry Oates in a private forestry plantation west of Raetihi on the 4th with its mate heard calling in the distance. The bird walked to within a few feet of us proving a fitting climax to our trip - the last new species encountered. This species is listed as Vulnerable by Collar et al. (1994) who state that it is declining owing to predation by introduced mammals. Kerry had told us that there was a 95% mortality rate of juveniles in the forest we visited.
Little Spotted Kiwi - Apteryx owenii C
A single individual was watched on and off for c.30 minutes along the Wattle Trail on Tiritiri Matangi Island on the 15th with a few others heard calling. Another single bird was seen as it walked across a trail near the lagoon on Kapiti Island on the 3rd with many heard on the island overnight on both the 2nd and 3rd. Stunning. On Tiritiri Matangi Island five pairs were transferred from Kapiti Island in July 1993 and a further six were introduced in November 1994. This species is listed as Vulnerable by Collar et al. (1994) who state that total numbers have diminished to a little over 1,000 birds, of which c.95% are on Kapiti Island (where the population is believed to have been derived from introduced stock).
Great Crested Grebe - Podiceps cristatus australis C
Two were seen on lakes viewed from the track leading to the Cass River near Lake Tekapo on the 27th.
New Zealand Grebe - Poliocephalus rufopectus C
A total of 16 were counted on Lake Taupo just north of the Tokaanu Wharf area on the 16th and a pair were seen on Lake Rotoiti near Rotorua on the 5th. Very smart. This species is listed as Endangered by Collar et al. (1994) who state that it has a total population of perhaps 600-700 pairs with it now at risk from changes in water quality, the destruction of nesting habitat, increased human activity on waterways, and predation by introduced rats and mustelids, especially when nesting.
Wandering Albatross - Diomedea exulans C
Only seen from the Kaikoura pelagic with at least 2 Antipodean antipodensis tentatively identified and 6 Gibson's gibsoni affording good views behind the boat on the 19th. This species is listed as Vulnerable by Collar et al. (1994) who state that the primary cause for its continuing decline today appears to be the drowning of birds on tuna longlines.
Royal Albatross - Diomedea epomophora sanfordi C
Only Northern sanfordi were seen with an estimated 4 approaching fairly close behind the Kaikoura pelagic on the 19th and 3 seen in flight at their colony at Taiaroa Head near Dunedin on the 20th. Tickell (2000) states that in the colony at Taiaroa Head the plumage has diverged from that characteristic of the Chatham Islands perhaps a result of an immigrant Southern Royal that has bred with a Northern Royal and successfully reared five hybrid offspring. However, all those that I saw appeared to closely resemble what is considered typical for Northern Royal Albatross. This species is listed as Near-threatened by Collar et al. (1994).
Black-browed Albatross - Thalassarche melanophris
Three immature melanophris were seen from the Kaikoura pelagic on the 19th.
Shy Albatross - Thalassarche cauta C
White-capped steadi was the most frequently encountered form with 30 seen from the Kaikoura pelagic on the 19th, 20 seen whilst crossing the Foveaux Strait on the 21st, 40 seen during our trip to Ulva Island on the 22nd, 6 from Half Moon Bay on the 23rd and c.100 on the Stewart Island pelagic on the 24th. Salvins' salvini were encountered on the Kaikoura pelagics where c.30 were seen on the 19th and a single individual was seen on the Stewart Island pelagic on the 24th.
Buller's Albatross - Thalassarche bulleri (bulleri
At least 2 were seen from the Stewart Island pelagic on the 24th with 1 proving faithful to the boat for virtually the entire trip. Although the proximity of the Snares would suggest these were most likely to have been Southern Buller's bulleri, Tickell (2000) states that although morphological differences have been described between the forms they have not been distinguished at sea. This species is listed as Near-threatened by Collar et al. (1994). Nick Allen has kindly commented that 'One of the Canterbury region OSNZ members who works for NIWA has been satellite tracking Bullers Mollys that breed on the Snares, and Solander Is, in conjunction with research on fisheries by-catch. The birds you saw are likely to be of the southern bulleri race that breeds in these 2 areas. When you visited, these birds, if breeding, would be just starting incubation, or still getting down to business. Solander Is isn't too far away from Foveaux Strait, and the Snares are the next archipeligo to the south from Stewart Is. During incubation the birds can be away for 10 to 12 days at a time. Females travel the furthest north in the Tasman, homing in on the pilchard fishery near Tasmania. It takes 2 days for them to travel the 1500km to the feeding grounds, where they stay for a few days to regain condition before returning. Both sexes also make shorter trips to feeding grounds off Banks Peninsula. Once chicks hatch, the journeys get shorter, with more feeding locally and up the west coast of the SI (in the hoki fishing grounds) and again to Banks Peninsula. If the birds fail to breed, or once the chick is ready to fledge, the birds head straight for South America. It takes them 8-9 days to get there, and one bird was recorded as covering 2758km in a straight line in 32 hours - at an average of 85km/h (Royal Albatrosses have been recorded giving average speeds over 100km/h)'.
Flesh-footed Shearwater - Puffinus carneipes C
Around 8 were seen from the Kaikoura pelagic on the 19th.
Buller's Shearwater - Puffinus bulleri C
Around 50 were seen on the crossing to and near Great Barrier Island on the 12th, 1 was seen just off Tiritiri Matangi Island on the 16th and 6 were seen on the Kaikoura pelagic on the 19th. This species is listed as Near-threatened by Collar et al. (1994).
Sooty Shearwater - Puffinus griseus C
Around 10 were seen crossing the Cook Strait on the 17th, c.80 were seen on the White Rocks trip from Picton on the 18th, 10 were seen on the Kaikoura pelagic on the 19th, 40 were seen from Taiaroa Head on the 20th, c.250 were seen crossing the Foveaux Strait on the 21st, c.1,000 were seen from Acker's Point on the 22nd including a few birds returning at dusk to their colony there, 50 were seen from Stewart Island on the 23rd, 500 were seen crossing the Foveaux Strait on the 24th, 5 were seen from Punakaiki on the 30th and 10 were seen crossing the Cook Strait on the 2nd.
Short-tailed Shearwater - Puffinus tennuirostris C
I only felt confident of the identification of 1 on the Kaikoura pelagic on the 19th although Adrian the Skipper assured me of the identification of a couple of more distant birds seen.
Fluttering Shearwater - Puffinus gavia C
Around 20 were seen always inshore on the day trip to Great Barrier Island on the 12th, 1 was seen near Tiritiri Matangi Island on the 14th, c.100 were seen on the Cook Strait Crossing on the 17th, c.200 were seen on the White Rocks trip from Picton on the 18th and c.250 were seen on the Cook Strait crossing on the 2nd.
Hutton's Shearwater - Puffinus huttoni C
An estimated 2,000 were seen from the Kaikoura pelagic on the 19th, 5 were seen from Taiaroa Head on the 20th and 5 were seen from the Seal Colony near Kaikoura on the 31st. This species is listed as Endangered by Collar et al. (1994) who state that it only breeds in two colonies (with less than 10,000 breeding pairs with major declines in colony size and number of birds) in the coastal watersheds of the Kaikoura Range. They suggest introduced stoats preying on both adults and chicks is perhaps the primary cause of the declines.
Common (Richdale's) Diving Petrel - Pelecanoides urinatrix
A single individual was seen crossing the Cook Strait on the 17th and 1 seen on the Foveaux Crossing on the 21st and 2 on the 24th presumably related to this species.
Parkinson's (Black) Petrel - Procellaria parkinsoni
A total of 3 were seen on our day trip to Great Barrier Island on the 12th. This species is listed as Vulnerable by Collar et al. (1994) who state that its population is c.2,200 birds being restricted to Little and Great Barrier Islands with predation by cats appearing to have been the biggest threat although birds are also killed in unknown numbers on tuna longlines.
Westland Petrel - Procellaria westlandica C
Around 10 were seen from the Kaikoura pelagic on the 19th. This species is listed as Vulnerable by Collar et al. (1994) who state that although numbers appear to have increased since 1958 it remains vulnerable owing to predation by introduced mammals and from the native Weka.
White-chinned Petrel - Procellaria aequinoctialis
Around 6 were seen from the Kaikoura pelagic on the 19th.
Cape Petrel - Daption capense C
Around 8 were seen from the Kaikoura pelagic on the 19th and 1 was seen crossing the Foveaux Strait on the 21st. Both capense and australe were probably involved but individual variation and too much else happening on the Kaikoura pelagics left me uncertain.
Antarctic (Southern) Giant Petrel - Macronectes giganteus
Around 6 were seen from the Kaikoura pelagic on the 19th and 1 was seen crossing the Cook Strait on the 2nd.
Hall's (Northern) Giant Petrel - Macronectes halli
Around 6 were seen from the Kaikoura pelagic on the 19th. This species is listed as Near-threatened by Collar et al. (1994).
Giant Petrel sp. - Macronectes sp.
Singles were seen but left unidentified on four dates.
Fairy Prion - Pachyptila turtur C
An estimated 250 were seen whilst crossing the Cook Strait on the 17th, 10 were seen from the Kaikoura pelagic on the 19th and c.1,000 were seen crossing the Cook Strait on the 2nd.
Prion sp. - Pachyptila sp.
Singles were seen on both crossings of the Foveaux Strait.
Cook's Petrel - Pterodroma cookii C
A single individual was seen on the crossing to Great Barrier Island off the northern tip of the Coromandel peninsula on the 12th. Marchant and Higgins (1990) suggest that this species is doubtfully distinguishable at sea from Pycroft's Petrel Pterodroma pycrofti. However as Cook's is known to breed on both Great and Little Barrier Island whereas Pycroft's breeds on islands to the south it seems reasonable to assume that the individual seen was indeed a Cook's Petrel. This species is listed by Collar et al. (1994) as Vulnerable with introduced predators on its breeding islands being the main threats.
Mottled Petrel - Pterodroma inexpectata C
Two were the reward for an extremely rough Foveaux Strait crossing on the 21st.
Great-winged (Grey-faced) Petrel - Pterodroma macroptera
Two were seen on the Kaikoura pelagic on the 19th.
Grey-backed Storm Petrel - Garrodia nereis C
A single individual circled the Kaikoura pelagic boat for around 30 minutes on the 19th.
White-faced Storm Petrel - Pelagodroma marina maoriana
Around 20 were seen on our day trip to Great Barrier Island on the 12th proving an early highlight of the trip.
Yellow-eyed Penguin - Megadyptes antipodes C
Around 15 were seen at 'Penguin Place' on Taiaroa Head on the 20th, 2 were seen from the Stewart Island pelagic trip on the 24th and 6 were seen at Flea Bay, near Akaroa on the 30th. This species is listed as Vulnerable by Collar et al. (1994) who state that its total breeding population is estimated at 1,410 - 1,770 pairs with it proving vulnerable (at least on South Island) to farm development, disturbance by humans and predation by introduced mammals.
Little (Blue) Penguin - Eudyptula minor C
Seen on twelve dates being seen on the day trip to Great Barrier Island, on Tiritiri Matangi Islands including birds returning to their colony at dusk, crossing the Cook Strait, the White Rock trip from Picton, the Kaikoura pelagics and Stewart and nearby Islands including a raft of c.35 near Acker's Point and several birds returning to their burrows at dusk. Around 40 White-flippered Penguins albosignata were seen at their colony at Flea Bay near Akaroa on the 30th.
Australian Gannet - Morus serrator C
Seen on fourteen dates with a daily maximum of c.300 at the colony at Muriwai Beach on the 13th.
Great Cormorant - Phalacrocorax carbo novaehollandiae
Only noted on three dates with 2 seen at Meremere on the 13th and singles seen on the 26th and 28th.
Pied Cormorant - Phalacrocorax varius varius C
Only noted on six dates with a maximum of 15 seen at a colony in the Queen Charlotte Sound on the 18th.
Little Black Cormorant - Phalacrocorax sulcirostris
Just 2 noted at Meremere on the 13th but quite probably widely overlooked.
Little Pied Cormorant - Phalacrocorax melanoleucos
A single individual was seen at Meremere on the 13th and 2 were seen on Kapiti Island on the 3rd. Probably widely overlooked.
Rough-faced (King) Shag - Phalacrocorax carunculatus C
The colony at the White Rocks in the Queen Charlotte Sound was visited on the 18th with c.40 birds being present roosting on the rock. This species is listed as Vulnerable by Collar et al. (1994) who state that in 1992 it was breeding on only four rock stacks with a population of just 524 birds in the most recent count. Early collecting by ornithologists, hunting for the fashion trade and, more recently, illegal shooting to protect fisheries are judged to have affected numbers, whilst disturbance from 'nature' tourists may be a threat today, as well as the activities of scuba divers, which can result in eggs being spilled from nests in panic departures when boats come too close and permitting subsequent predation by Kelp and Silver Gulls.
Bronze (Stewart Island) Shag - Phalacrocorax chalconotus
A single bird was seen at Bluff Harbour on the 21st, c.20 were seen on the trip to Ulva Island on the 22nd and c.40 were seen on a stack viewed from the Stewart Island Pelagic on the 24th. This species is listed as Vulnerable by Collar et al. (1994) who state that there are only eleven known breeding localities mostly located on isolated islands and are threatened by disturbance from visitors and possibly invasion by predators, and some birds are drowned in gill nets.
Spotted Shag - Phalacrocorax punctatus punctatus/oliveri
Spotted Shags punctatus were first encountered on the trip to the Queen Charlotte Sound, then on the drive to Kaikoura, near Dunedin and on Kapiti Island with a daily maximum of 30 recorded on the 20th. Blue Shags oliveri were seen on Stewart Island and at Haast with a daily maximum of 15 seen on the 24th.
White-faced Heron - Egretta novaehollandiae novaehollandiae
Widespread being seen on seventeen dates with a daily maximum of 25 recorded at Miranda on the 11th.
Great (White) Egret - Ardea alba modesta C
Just 2 seen at Okarito Lagoon on the 29th.
Pacific Reef-Heron - Egretta sacra sacra C
A pair were seen on Great Barrier Island on the 12th.
Australasian Bittern - Botaurus poiciloptilus C
At least 2 were heard at Meremere on the 10th and 1 was seen there on the 13th with several others heard. This species is listed as Endangered by Collar et al. (1994) who state that there were fewer than 725 individuals in New Zealand in 1985 with swamp drainage and the grazing of wetland margins being major factors in its decline, with shooting and collisions with powerlines being further contributory causes.
Royal Spoonbill - Platalea regia C
A pair were seen in flight at the Sinclair Wetlands Reserve on the 21st.
Black Swan - Cygnus atratus C
Seen on eleven dates with a daily maximum of c.500 seen at the eastern end of Lake Ellesmere on the 20th.
Canada Goose - Branta canadensis maxima C
Seen on seven dates with a daily maximum of 1,000 seen at Lake Ellesmere on the 20th.
Cape Barren Goose - Cereopsis novaehollandiae
A pair clearly of dubious origin proved rather tame at the Sinclair Wetlands on the 21st.
Paradise Shelduck - Tadorna variegata C
The first new species of the trip with two pairs being seen at the Mangere Sewage Works on the 10th. Seen on another fifteen dates often in good numbers with a daily maximum of c.100 recorded in the Eglington Valley on both the 25th and 26th.
Blue Duck - Hymenolaimus malacorhynchos hymenolaimus
Two pairs were seen along the Manganuioteao River near Orautoha on the 17th. A superb species especially enjoyable when watched negotiating the rapids. This species is listed as Vulnerable by Collar et al. (1994) who state that its total population is estimated at 2,000 - 4,000 birds having disappeared from lowland rivers because grazing and clearance of waterside vegetation has resulted in siltation and a consequent rise in nutrient levels and de-oxygenation of water.
Mallard - Anas platyrhynchos platyrhynchos C
Only individuals resembling 'pure' Mallards were noted with c.3 seen at the Mangere Sewage Works on the 10th and c.25 were seen along the Manganuioteao River on the 17th (cf. the previous species !). In New Zealand this species frequently interbreeds with the following species with several such presumed resultant hybrids (especially at Mangere) being encountered.
Pacific Black (Grey) Duck - Anas superciliosa superciliosa
An estimated 25 were seen at the Mangere Sewage Farm on the 10th and c.20 were seen at Miranda the following day. Thereafter just the odd bird was recorded on three dates. See the note regarding interbreeding under the previous species.
Grey Teal - Anas gracilis C
Seen at Mangere Sewage Works, Meremere, the Twizel area and on Kapiti Island in small numbers with a daily maximum of 25 seen in the vicinity of the Cass River on the 27th.
Brown Teal - Anas (aucklandica) chlorotis C
A total of 36 were seen on Great Barrier Island in the vicinity of Tryphena on the 12th. This species is listed as Vulnerable by Collar et al. (1994) who state that it has suffered from wetland drainage, introduction of predators, excessive shooting and possibly poultry disease. They estimate its population is fewer than 2,100 with c.1,400 being on Great Barrier Island.
Australian Shoveler - Anas rhynchotis variegata C
A single individual was seen at Mangere Sewage Works on the 10th.
New Zealand Scaup - Aythya novaeseelandiae C
Around 50 were seen near Tokaanu on Lake Taupo on the 16th, 5 were seen at the Sinclair Wetlands Reserve on the 21st, 2 were seen in the Eglington Valley on the 25th, c.100 were seen near Twizel on the 26th with 30 seen in the same area the next day and c.10 were seen at Lake Rotoiti near Rotorua on the 5th.
Swamp (Australasian) Harrier - Circus approximans
One of the most widespread species encountered and often proving common. Seen on twenty-three dates with a daily maximum of 20 recorded on the 10th.
New Zealand Falcon - Falco novaeseelandiae C
On the 25th a single individual was seen in flight near the boat terminal at Milford Sound and shortly afterwards it was again seen only in flight near the small airfield there. This species is listed as Near-threatened by Collar et al. (1994).
California Quail - Callipepla californica C
A party of 4 were seen on farmland near Meremere on the 13th, 2 were seen near Lake Taupo on the 16th, 10 were seen north of Dunedin on the 20th and 6 were seen near Flea Bay on the Banks Peninsula on the 30th.
Brown Quail - Synoicus ypsilophorus C
Only seen on Tiritiri Matangi Island where it was very common with up to 25 being seen daily.
Ring-necked Pheasant - Phasianus colchicus torquatus
Two were seen on farmland at Meremere on the 10th.
Indian Peafowl - Pavo cristatus
Two males were seen on the drive between Raetihi and Wanganui on the 17th.
Wild Turkey - Meleagris gallopavo C
A party of 10 were seen on farmland at Meremere on the 10th and the 13th.
Weka - Gallirallus australis australis / scotti C
A pair of australis were seen from the boat trip into the Queen Charlotte Sound on the 18th, c.6 scotti were seen on Ulva Island on the 21st and up to 12 australis were seen on all three dates spent on Kapiti Island. This species is listed as Near-threatened by Collar et al. (1994).
Spotless Crake - Porzana tabuensis plumbea C
A single adult was watched for an hour feeding around the small pool near the quay on Tiritiri Matangi Island on the 15th. Superb.
Purple Swamphen - Porphyrio porphyrio melanotus C
Seen on sixteen dates with a daily maximum of 40 seen in the Meremere area on the 10th.
Takahe - Porphyrio mantelli hochstetteri C
Seen on Tiritiri Matangi Island where 3 were noted on the 14th and 5 on the 15th and 6 were seen on Kapiti Island on the 3rd. On Tiritiri Matangi Island the first two males were introduced in 1991. This species is listed as Endangered by Collar et al. (1994) who state that its decline was due to competition from deer for food and predation by introduced mammals. In 1994 they state that the population in Fiordland numbered 150+ individuals with a further 40 on four island sanctuaries.
Eurasian Coot - Fulica atra australis C
Around 6 were seen near the Cass River on the 27th.
South Island (Pied) Oystercatcher - Haematopus finschi
An estimated 250 were seen roosting at the mouth of the Tamaire River at Miranda on the 11th, 15 were seen in fields near the Sinclair Wetlands Reserve on the 21st, 16 were seen between Bluff and Invercargill on the 24th, up to 25 were seen on three dates around Twizel and 8 were seen near Kaikoura on the 31st.
Variable Oystercatcher - Haematopus unicolor C
Widespread in small numbers being seen on nineteen dates with a daily maximum of 8 seen on the 17th.
White-headed (Pied) Stilt - Himantopus leucocephalus
Around 10 were seen at the Mangere Sewage Works on the 10th, 12 were seen at Miranda on the 11th, 2 were seen roadside on the 16th, 8 were seen near Dunedin on the 20th, up to 25 were seen on two dates in the Twizel area and 6 were seen on the lagoon on Kapiti Island on the 2nd.
Black Stilt - Himantopus novaezelandiae C
A single adult apparently paired to a Pied Stilt was seen at Lake Merino on the 26th, a first-year and a second-year bird were seen on a pool whilst driving towards the Cass River on the 27th and an adult was seen along the Ahuriri River on the 28th. This species is listed as Critical by Collar et al. (1994) who stated that the population was estimated at only c.60 birds with the decline attributable to nesting areas having been destroyed by drainage and by hydroelectric development (and by weed growth, tree planting and flood control programmes) and it suffers from heavy predation which is sharply increased by its nesting preference for dry banks, the favoured hunting habitat of cats and ferrets.
Red-breasted (New Zealand) Dotterel - Charadrius obscurus
A total of 4 were seen on the shell beaches at Miranda on the 11th and 1 was seen on a beach at Tryphena, Great Barrier Island on the 12th. Superb. This species is listed as Endangered by Collar et al. (1994) who estimate its population as c.60 on Stewart Island and c.1,350 on North Island with introduced predators posing a threat as well as disturbance by people (and their dogs) especially on the breeding beaches.
Double-banded Plover (Dotterel) - Charadrius bicinctus
Only seen at the various sites around Twizel where up to 20 were seen on all three dates.
Wrybill - Anarhynchus frontalis
Only seen on two dates with 5 seen at the Cass River on the 27th and 2 seen at Ahuriri River on the 28th. A very active species. This species is listed as Vulnerable by Collar et al. (1994) who state that it breeds on just 26 riverbeds in total but only numerous on 10 with the population numbering just over 5,000 individuals suffering from habitat deterioration (the encroachment of weeds) as hydroelectric schemes reduce the seasonal flushing of riverbeds, and from predation by stoats and cats.
Masked (Spur-winged) Plover - Vanellus miles novaehollandiae
Seen on twelve dates with a daily maximum of 300 seen in fields near the Sinclair Wetlands Reserve on the 21st.
Ruddy Turnstone - Arenaria interpres interpres C
Around 8 were seen at Miranda on the 11th.
Red Knot - Calidris canutus rogersi
An estimated 500 were seen at Miranda on the 11th.
Bar-tailed Godwit - Limosa lapponica baueri C
An estimated 1,000 were seen at Miranda on the 11th and 1 was seen at Okarito Lagoon on the 29th.
Brown Skua - Catharacta antarctica lonnbergi C
Three were seen on the Stewart Island pelagic on the 24th.
Arctic Skua - Stercorarius parasiticus C
Seen on eight dates in small numbers with 12 seen on the day trip to Great Barrier Island on the 12th and 8 seen off Kapiti Island on the 2nd being the largest numbers encountered.
Kelp Gull - Larus dominicanus C
Seen on twenty-five dates proving common and widespread with a daily maximum of 1,000 recorded at a rubbish dump on the 20th.
Red-billed Gull - Larus scopulinus C
Seen on twenty dates proving common in coastal locations with a daily maximum of 350 recorded on the 17th.
Black-billed Gull - Larus bulleri C
A single individual was seen at Lake Taupo on the 16th, c.100 were seen at Picton on the 18th, c.500 were seen feeding in fields between Bluff and Te Anau on the 24th, 25 were seen east of Te Anau on the 26th, up to 10 were recorded on all three dates in the Twizel area and 10 were seen at Picton on the 1st.
Black-fronted Tern - Sterna albostriata C
Only seen along braided rivers with 1 seen just south of Kaikoura on the 19th and 10 whilst heading south to Dunedin the following day, up to 50 on all three dates in the Twizel area and 2 just south of Kaikoura on the 31st. Extremely smart. This species is listed as Vulnerable by Collar et al. (1994) who state that its population has been estimated at 1,000 - 5,000 pairs, with introduced predators a major threat, alongside hydroelectric development, weed growth and tree-planting on river and lake margins.
Caspian Tern - Sterna caspia C
Around 8 were seen at Miranda on the 11th, 1 was seen on the crossing to Great Barrier Island on the 12th, 2 were seen off Tiritiri Matangi Island on the 16th, 1 in the Queen Charlotte Sound on the 18th and 1 off Jackson's Bay on the 28th.
White-fronted Tern - Sterna striata striata C
Seen on nineteen dates in coastal locations with a daily maximum of 40 seen at a colony at Muriwai Beach on the 13th and at a colony at the Pancake Rocks, Punakaiki on the 29th. Extremely graceful.
New Zealand Pigeon - Hemiphaga novaeseelandiae novaeseelandiae
Seen on twenty dates proving widespread if only in small numbers. A daily maximum of 15 was recorded on Kapiti Island on the 3rd.
Spotted Dove - Streptopelia chinensis tigrina
Around 4 were seen at the Mangere Sewage Works on the 10th and 10 were seen around Auckland the following day.
Kaka - Nestor meridionalis septentrionalis / meridionalis
Around 6 septentrionalis were seen on Great Barrier Island around Tryphena on the 12th, 10 meridionalis were seen on Ulva Island as well as a nest containing 2 eggs situated low in a crevice of a large tree on the 22nd, a single bird was seen in flight over Half Moon Bay on Stewart Island on the 23rd and up to 10 septentrionalis were seen on all three dates on Kapiti Island including at least 3 which were happy to be fed dates from a boy's tongue ! This species is listed as Vulnerable by Collar et al. (1994) who state that it is threatened by introduced mammalian predators, introduced wasps which compete for 'honey dew', introduced possums which also compete for food, and by the destruction of much of its habitat.
Kea - Nestor notabilis C
Up to 10 were seen at the Homer Tunnel/Milford Sound area on the 25th and 26th and 1 was seen at Mt. Cook on the 27th. A bit of a nuisance attacking the car ! This species is listed as Near-threatened by Collar et al. (1994).
Eastern Rosella - Platycercus eximius eximius C
A pair were seen near Muriwai Beach on the 13th and a single individual was seen near the bunkhouse on Tiritiri Matangi Island on the 15th and 16th.
Red-fronted Parakeet - Cyanoramphus novaezelandiae
Up to 25 were seen on all three dates on Tiritiri Matangi Island, 5 were seen on Stewart Island on the 21st, 6 were seen on Ulva Island on the 22nd and up to 15 were seen on all three dates on Kapiti Island. On Tiritiri Matangi Island the current population stems from aviary reared birds which were liberated in 1973.
Yellow-fronted Parakeet - Cyanoramphus auriceps C
At least 3 were seen on Ulva Island on the 22nd, 2 were seen on the Lake Gunn Nature Trail on the 25th with 4 seen nearby on the 26th and 10 were seen at Haast Pass on the 28th. This species is listed as Near-threatened by Collar et al. (1994).
Shining Bronze-Cuckoo - Chrysococcyx lucidus lucidus
A single individual was seen at the Whangamarino Wetlands Reserve on the 10th, 2 were seen at Port Fitzroy on Great Barrier Island on the 12th and 2 were seen at Meremere on the 13th.
Long-tailed Koel - Eudynamys taitensis C
A vocal pair were seen near the bridge at 9km along the road into Tongariro NP on the 4th and another was heard in forest west of Raetihi whilst with Kerry Oates later the same day.
Morepork - Ninox novaeseelandiae novaeseelandiae C
Heard at Titirangi before dawn on the 12th, an adult and 2 juveniles were seen along the Kawerau Trail on the 15th and a single individual was spotlighted on Kapiti Island on the 3rd with several others heard in the vicinity.
Sacred Kingfisher - Todirhamphus sanctus vagan C
Seen on fifteen dates proving especially widespread on the North Island. A daily maximum of 10 was seen on the 13th.
Rifleman - Acanthisitta chloris chloris / granti C
Two pairs of chloris were seen along the Lake Gunn Nature Trail in the Eglington Valley on the 25th, 8 were seen at Haast Pass on the 28th and 1 granti was seen in the Tongariro NP on the 4th.
Skylark - Alauda arvensis
Seen on sixteen dates with a daily maximum of 20 recorded on the 11th. A familiar background sound !
Welcome Swallow - Hirundo neoxena neoxena C
Seen on twenty-one dates with a daily maximum of 30 recorded on the 11th.
Australasian (New Zealand) Pipit - Anthus novaeseelandiae
A single individual was seen at the Tamaire River at Miranda on the 11th, 1 was seen near the Lagoon on Kapiti Island on the 2nd and 2 were seen on the beach near the accommodation there on the 4th.
Dunnock - Prunella modularis
Only seen on three dates with 2 recorded on the 21st, 1 on the 29th and 1 on the 4th.
Blackbird - Turdus merula
Seen on twenty-four dates proving common and widespread.
Song Thrush - Turdus philomelos
Seen on the same twenty-four dates as the previous species proving equally common and widespread.
Fernbird - Megalurus punctatus punctatus
A single individual was pished into view at the Sinclair Wetlands Reserve on the 21st.
Whitehead - Mohoua albicilla
Up to 20 were seen on all three dates on Tiritiri Matangi Island, 15 were seen on Kapiti Island on the 3rd and 10 were seen in Tongariro NP on the 4th. On Tiritiri Matangi Island two transfers were made from Little Barrier Island in 1989 and 1990.
Yellowhead - Mohoua ochrocephala
A party of 6 were seen at Haast Pass along the Bridal track which starts at the summit. This species is listed as Vulnerable by Collar et al. (1994) who state that the species suffers periodic crashes in response to the stoat irruptions that follow major beech mast production, and in populations with low productivity the period between crashes is probably insufficient for the birds to recover fully, and consequently declines are occurring and the range is contracting, with several populations having become extinct over the last 10 years. Introduced wasps may also compete for 'honey dew' restricting birds to a single brood then being unable to cope with upsurges in stoat numbers. Nick Allen has kindly commented that 'Yellowheads don't eat honeydew, they eat insects and other invertebrates, so do wasps - apparantly wasps prey switch as the day goes on from sugar sources to the more protein rich invertebrates, and thus compete both for honeydew/nectar and invertebrates with the forest bird species. There are some reports that wasps will even attack nestlings, dismembering them to be taken back to their nest. It has recently been found (after a "protected" population on Mount Stokes in Nelson went extinct) that rats are a major predator of Yellowheads - attacking the birds on their nests, as well as in their roosts (in tree holes) in winter. DoC is now trapping rats in the Hurunui mainland island, and will poison if that doesn't work. Rats increase in masting years, as do mice and their predator, stoats'.
Pipipi (Brown Creeper) - Mohoua novaseelandiae
Around 5 were seen on Ulva Island on the 22nd and around 6 were seen at Haast Pass on the 28th.
Grey Gerygone (Warbler) - Gerygone igata
A party of 4 were seen on Tiritiri Matangi Island on the 15th, 3 were seen on Stewart Island on the 23rd, up to 4 were seen on both days in the Eglington Valley, 4 were seen at Haast Pass on the 28th and 8 were seen in Tongariro NP on the 4th.
Grey Fantail - Rhipidura fuliginosa placabilis/fuliginosa
Seen on seventeen dates in fair numbers. A dark phase bird was seen in the Catlins on the 21st.
Tomtit - Petroica macrocephala
At least 4 macrocephala were seen roadside in the Catlins on the 21st, 8 were seen on Ulva Island on the 22nd with 5 seen on Stewart Island the following day, I was seen at Lake Gunn Nature Trail on the 25th with 3 seen there the next day, 2 were seen at Haast Pass on the 28th, I toitoi was seen on Kapiti Island on the 3rd and 4 were seen in the Tongariro NP on the 4th.
New Zealand Robin - Petroica australis
Up to 6 longipes were seen on Tiritiri Matangi Island on the 14th and 15th, 10 australis were seen on Motuara Island in the Queen Charlotte Sound on the 18th, up to 3 were seen at the Lake Gunn Nature Trail on the 25th and 26th, up to 8 longipes were seen on Kapiti Island on the 2nd and 3rd and 1 was seen in the Tongariro NP on the 4th. On Tiritiri Matangi Island transfers from central North Island forests took place in April 1992 and June 1993.
Silvereye - Zosterops lateralis lateralis
Seen on ten dates with a daily maximum of 6 seen at Haast Pass on the 26th.
Stitchbird - Notiomystis cincta hautura
Only seen on Tiritiri Matangi Island where 3 were seen on the 14th and 8 on the 15th with the Wattle and Kewarau Trails being favoured areas - especially at the artificial feeders ! On Tiritiri Matangi Island 37 were introduced in September 1995. This species is listed as Vulnerable by Collar et al. (1994) who state that it is thought to have been exterminated from North Island as a result of predation, disease and collecting now surviving on a few island sanctuaries with 4,000 - 5,000 individuals on Little Barrier Island being the only self-sustaining population.
New Zealand Bellbird - Anthornis melanura
Seen on twelve dates on Tiritiri Matangi Island, Motuara Island, Ulva and Stewart Islands, Haast Pass, Kapiti Island and Tongariro NP with a daily maximum of 50 recorded on Kapiti on the 3rd.
Tui - Prosthemadera novaeseelandiae novaeseelandiae
Seen on seventeen dates proving common and usually aggressive to virtually all other species. A daily maximum of 50 was recorded on Kapiti Island on the 3rd.
Yellowhammer - Emberiza citrinella
Seen on eighteen dates proving common and widespread.
Chaffinch - Fringilla coelebs
Seen on eighteen dates proving common and widespread.
Greenfinch - Carduelis chloris
Seen on twelve dates in fair numbers.
Goldfinch - Carduelis carduelis
Seen on seventeen dates proving common and widespread.
Redpoll - Carduelis flammea
A single individual was seen at Meremere on the 10th and the species was encountered virtually daily from the 21st to the 29th with a daily maximum of 10 recorded on the 21st.
House Sparrow - Passer domesticus
Seen on twenty-five dates proving common and widespread.
Starling - Sturnus vulgaris
Seen on twenty-three dates proving common and widespread.
Common Myna - Acridotheres tristis
Up to 30 were seen daily from the 10th to the 16th but then never seen again.
Kokako - Callaeas cinerea wilsoni
A single individual was seen along the Wattle Trail on Tiritiri Matangi Island in the vicinity of the Stitchbird feeders on the 14th. This species is listed as Endangered by Collar et al. (1994) who state that it has suffered from predation by introduced mammals, competition for food from exotic herbivores, and the destruction of forests. They estimate the total population at 1,500 - 2,000 individuals.
Saddleback - Philesturnus carunculatus
Up to 25 North Island Saddlebacks rufusater were seen daily on Tiritiri Matangi Island and 1 South Island Saddleback carunculatus was seen on Motuara Island on the 18th. This species is listed as Conservation Dependent by Collar et al. (1994) who estimate a total population of c.2,650 on 10 islands.
Australian Magpie - Gymnorhina tibicen
Seen on nineteen dates proving common and widespread.