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A Report from

New Zealand July-September 2002,

Saul Cowen

This summer I spent 9½ weeks in New Zealand, 6 weeks of which was on Codfish Island (Whenua Hou) doing conservation work with Kakapo.  As Codfish Island is a restricted area which is not open to the general public I won't dwell too long on the birdlife, which although abundant, is not likely to be enjoyed by any visitors to New Zealand unless they do any conservation work with the Department of Conservation.  However I'm hoping my account may be enough encouragement to persuade some people to look seriously at doing conservation work for the DoC.

However in the other 3 weeks I was in the country I did get to do some birding.  I was travelling with a schoolfriend, Pete Budge who, although not a birder, was keen to see some of the more exciting birdlife.

Journey to Auckland:  With a 3hr stop-over in Singapore, we were only able to see House Crow and Common Myna around the airport.


July 1st

We arrived in Auckland expecting thunderstorms but we were greeted by brilliant sunshine.  From the plane on the taxi to the terminal I saw Australasian (Swamp) Harrier, Masked Lapwing and Red-billed (Silver) Gull.

We were picked up at the airport by a friend of Pete's parents so after having my boots cleaned(!) we headed into Auckland.  Common birds around Auckland were frankly disappointing, with Common Mynas, House Sparrows, Eurasian Blackbirds and Common Starlings being the most abundant.  Fortunately there were some native birds with White-faced Heron and Masked Lapwing being very common and also Australasian Harrier and Sacred Kingfisher were seen as well.  Driving along Manakau Harbour I managed to pick out a Variable Oystercatcher and several Little Pied Cormorants.  At our hosts house in Blockhouse Bay Song Thrush and Chaffinch were added to the ever growing list of feral species, and a pair of Australian Magpies at a nearby viewpoint were not nearly as exciting as my first in Australia were.  We hadn't been feeling too tired all day but at about 8pm we both suddenly passed out.  I was unlucky enough to fall asleep during dinner, which fortunately seemed to go unnoticed!  We stayed the night at Aspen Lodge just outside the city centre and went to bed as soon as we got there, hoping we'd be up in time for our 8.15 bus to Rotorua.

July 2nd

We got up at the unearthly time of 6.30am mainly because we had to walk to the bus station and we only had a vague idea where it was.  Fortunately we arrived with 5 minutes to spare.

The trip to Rotorua was fairly uneventful, the scenery surprisingly similar to the North of England except for the occasional extinct volcano!  There was only one new native bird, Paradise Shelduck which were common by the roadside and the only new exotics were two Black Swans on the Waikato River just outside Hamilton.

Once we arrived in Rotorua we checked into Cactus Jack's Backpackers and then walked out towards Whakarewarewa (pronounced Fa-kari-wari-wa) Thermal Reserve, a Maori village set in amongst the geysers, mud pools and hot springs which are found in this highly geo-thermally active region.  For a small fee we were taken round the reserve by one of the villagers.  It was a truly fantastic experience, one I would recommend to anyone, even if the smell of hydrogen sulphide is, at times, unpleasant to say the least.  There were birds at Whakarewarewa as well, but the only ones of note were our first New Zealand Fantails (supposedly still a race of Grey Fantail but the differences are very noticeable and this must surely be worthy of full species status) and some of the best views of Lesser Redpoll I've ever had!  On the walk up to reserve we had great views of Silvereye as well as the omnipresent Blackbirds and Song Thrushes.

July 3rd

Today we revisited Whakarewarewa for a Maori concert and to shoot some video footage (we forgot the camera the previous day).  The birds weren't any different despite more prolonged searches.

However by doing this we passed up any chance we might have had of visiting Mokoia Island.  With hindsight we really shouldn't have, but in all honesty Pete would've probably preferred the concert to Whiteheads and an off-chance of Stitchbird.  However in the evening I did give Pete his first real introduction to NZ birding.  At the silica flats in Sulphur Bay we watched a mixed flock of 70+ Red- and Black-billed Gull along with Black-winged(Pied) Stilts, Pukeko(Purple Swamphen), Masked Lapwing and Caspian Tern.  I had forgotten how huge the latter are, they are truly enormous terns!  In addition Little Black, Little Pied, and Great Cormorants were out in Lake Rotorua.  Unfortunately the Double-banded Plovers were not in evidence, they may not have returned from Australia.

Further along the lakeshore we picked up our first New Zealand Grebes which were much easier to see than I had imagined.  New Zealand Scaup almost outnumbered Mallards and all three Cormorants were much in evidence.  Pukeko were common and approachable as well.

July 4th

We had a bit of adrenaline this morning when I wrongly assumed we were on the 11.25 bus not the 8.45.  Fortunately Travelpass sorted it for us and we were put on the waybill for the 11.25 to Wellington.  The journey down was pretty dreary and birdless apart from the Paradise Shelducks which were welcome respite from the Australian Magpies which were the only other bird around.  The highlight however was the 'Desert Road' adjacent to Tongariro National Park.  Despite the park containing 3 of NZ's most active volcanoes, none of them were properly visible.  However the scenery was fantastic and the miles of tussock grassland backed by snow-capped mountains looked perfect for New Zealand Falcon.  Alas, it wasn't to be!  Reaching Wellington mid-evening we decided to go out and 'celebrate' July 4th with an American and a Canadian(!).  We woke the following morning at 8.10, leaving us 10 minutes to pack, check out and catch the shuttle bus to the ferry terminal!  Fortunately the bus was 20 mins late, but we couldn't have counted on that!


July 5th

The ferry crossing to Picton on South Island was largely fine, even though the weather wasn't great.  There were some birds on the sea: Fairy Prion, Gibson's, Campbell and Pacific Albatross, White-fronted and Black-fronted Tern and Red-billed Gulls 'sky-surfing' on the up-draughts created by the ferry.  Once in Picton we got a coach south to Kaikoura.  The road south was spectacular with the Seaward Kaikoura Range on one side and the sea on the other.  Once in Kaikoura we were greeted by Rifleman and Dunnock in the Topspot Backpackers hostel garden.

July 6th

We were greeted by a phenomenal sunrise over the sea this morning.  We headed through the small township of Kaikoura to the 'Whaleway Station' for our morning's whale-watching trip.  We had breakfast at the café and then headed out on the coach to South Bay for the trip.  The trip out lasted several hours which was enough to see 6 different Sperm Whales, some at very close quarters, hundreds of Dusky Dolphins.  The whales were impressive in size, but active they were not and just rested at the surface before plunging into the deep below.  The birdlife was pretty evident as well, with Northern Royal, Grey-headed, Antipodean and White-capped Albatrosses, Northern Giant Petrel, Cape Petrel and Hutton's Shearwater all being logged.

Cape Petrel Daption capense

In the afternoon we just relaxed, enjoying the stunning surrounding with impressive, snow-capped mountains to the west and a perfectly calm ocean in the east.

July 7th

This morning we headed out to sea once again, this time just for seabirds.  However the weather wasn't particularly favourable.  The same calm weather which had followed us more-or-less all the way down had meant there were fewer tubenoses than usual.  However we did get close up views of Gibson's, White-capped and Campbell Albatrosses, Northern Giant-petrel, Cape Petrel, Fairy Prion, Fluttering Shearwater, Kelp Gull and White-fronted Tern, along with more distant views of Black-fronted Tern, South Island Oystercatcher, Hutton's Shearwater and Common Diving-petrel.  Unfortunately, not as exciting as we had hoped.

Gibson's Albatross Diomedea gibsoni

In the afternoon we went out again, this time to swim with Dusky Dolphins.  We spent a period of about 45 minutes in the water with the dolphins, staggered in 15 minute bursts, which was as long as most people could tolerate the ice cold water.  It's difficult to describe the array of emotions we experienced in the water, varying from sheer awe to the odd anxious moment (when you realise how powerful and surprisingly large they are). Having said that it was an extremely enjoyable experience, one which I would definitely repeat. The dolphins kept their distance in order to prevent us touching us and they had very short attention spans.  As a result the best way to keep a dolphin interested was by spinning round in circles and 'singing' through your snorkel.

July 8th

Much better day seabird-wise.  The wind had improved a little and it was evident from the numbers of new species there were.  In addition to previously logged species we had Buller's and Salvin's Albatrosses, Southern Giant Petrel, Spotted Shag and White-faced Heron (these last two were on rocks with NZ Fur Seals). Coupled with the fantastic weather this was a perfect end to our stay in Kaikoura.  It was easily our favourite town in New Zealand with a really nice ambience to go with the superb scenery and marine tourist attractions!  The hostel was great too!

In the afternoon we got another coach down to Christchurch to spend the night, the only bird species of note being several Australasian Harriers feeding on roadkills.

We spent the night at the central YHA hostel, but due to a booking error we didn't have any rooms booked.  We spent the night separated with complete strangers although they didn't make us pay!

July 9th

Up early this morning for the bus down to Lake Tekapo in the Mackenzie Basin.  We stopped for breakfast at Geraldine at about 10am.  We got back on the bus just as the engine started up, and for some reason I checked my pockets for my passport and wallet.  My wallet was AWOL  After quickly dashing inside to check the wayside restaurant we had eaten at, I found it on the floor next to where we had been sitting.  And not a moment too soon!

Just after 2pm we arrived at the YHA hostel at Lake Tekapo.  We couldn't check in until 5pm, so we wasted time by tuning and playing the hostel's guitar, skimming stones on the lake and admiring stunning scenery that out-did even Kaikoura. We visited the Church of the Good Shepherd but we were literally five minutes too late to go inside.  Bird-wise the township was pretty poor with just House Sparrow and Australian Magpie.  However we were in Lake Tekapo for a particular species we had planned to see on one of the river deltas entering into the lake.

July 10th

Today was Black Stilt day!  This extremely rare wader is hardly ever seen outside the Mackenzie basin but even there they are hard to track down.  We planned to hike (or tramp as is the term in NZ) to the Cass River delta which we worked out to be a 20km round trip.  We took necessary precautions, plenty high-energy food, warm clothes and good walking boots and left details of our hike along with an ETR with a couple of Danish girls at the hostel.  We headed out about 8am round to the west side of the lake.  On the lake itself there were NZ Scaup, Eurasian Coot, Paradise Shelduck and best of all, Great Crested Grebe - formerly not uncommon in NZ but now declining dramatically.  In a small conifer plantation we ran into a small flock of finches which were mainly Greenfinches and Chaffinches but some other species may have been present.  Once we had got onto some higher ground we could really appreciate the bleakness and rugged beauty of the area.  Much of the surrounding countryside was covered in snow with just the odd areas of hoary tussock grassland left.  In the far distance we could make out what we believed to be the Cass River Delta.  However as we got closer we realised that this delta wasn't the Cass but must be another, flowing from Lake Alexandrina and Lake Macgregor.  However the site looked promising.  Among the hordes of Canada Geese and odd Paradise Shelduck, Pete spotted two waders.  They were indeed stilt shape and black but at that distance I was reluctant to get too excited, especially with the possibility of hybrids.  However as we made our way down to the edge of the delta it was obvious we were extremely lucky to see a pair of Black Stilts.  What made it even sweeter wasn't the fact that they were pure bred birds without rings/bands, which meant they were some of the few wild bred individuals but that we could watch these impossibly graceful birds whilst surrounded by some of the most stunning scenery either of us had ever seen.  We spent about an hour watching the stilts feeding and eating our own lunch.  This was only spoilt by the geese and the large amount of litter we found around the area where we had lunch.  We came back with three times as much rubbish as we produced ourselves.

We got back at 5pm with a few blisters and other pains but these were numbed by the euphoria of having seen such a fantastic bird.  However checking how far we had walked we discovered we had walked over 20km that day, the Cass River was a round trip of over 40km!  So we were doubly fortunate to see the stilts where we did.

Lake Tekapo

July 11th

Caught the late morning bus and headed south to Queenstown.  We stopped off at Mount Cook, which as New Zealand's highest mountain was quite impressive especially with the Tasman and Hooker glaciers running down either side of the mountain stopping short of Lake Pukaki.  The journey down to Queenstown was fairly uneventful, with occasional Paradise Shelducks and Australian Magpies seen.  When we finally reached Queenstown we booked into Mcfee's Guesthouse on the edge of the lake.

July 12th

Up early for the day trip to Milford Sound.  We headed south from Queenstown to Te Anau where we had breakfast.  The drive was nice enough but we spent most of it catching up with sleep.  Then we headed north along Lake Te Anau with the Murchison Mountains (Takahe country) in the background.  It was a spectacular start but just a taste of what was to come in Fiordland National Park.  We made various stops at tourist areas along the Milford Road at Mirror Lakes, The Chasm etc. but unfortunately nowhere that was suitable for Yellowhead (Mohua) or Blue Duck (Whio).  However we did see Silvereye as well our first NZ Bellbird and 'South Island' Tomtit at The Chasm and we made a special stop at a car park near the Homer Tunnel for Kea.  There were about 5 Kea around the car park and while several coach-loads of tourists tried to take photos of them the bus drivers endeavoured to keep the Kea away from their buses.  There destructive reputation is not to be dismissed.  Having said that they are stunning birds and worth the loss of a view windscreen wipers.

We unable to check the area north of the car park for South Island (Rock) Wren partly because we were in a hurry to catch the ferry at Milford Sound and partly because this area is one of the most dangerous for avalanches in the world in winter and spring.  This fact is rarely mentioned in guidebooks to the region, but in any case it would be unwise to search this area during the avalanche season.  We were lucky that the weather had been kind to us but we had been told that there was no guarantee we would be able to reach Milford.

The landscape up until Milford Sound was out of this world but Milford was something else.  After negotiating the slightly dodgy (no lights) Homer Tunnel we descended into the valley.  We had booked a cruise around the fjord which was well worth the extra money.  The cliffs and waterfalls as well as the snow-capped mountains looked straight out of Lord of Rings (they probably were!).  Unfortunately the birds were less than thrilling with only interesting species being a Great (white) Egret with Little Pied Cormorant and Red-billed Gull.  We had hoped for Fiordland Crested Penguins here but unfortunately for us a child slipped on a stairwell on the boat and hit his head which meant an early trip back to port missing the best area for penguins. We were just slightly gutted!

Then it was back on the bus to complete the 400km round trip back to Queenstown.

July 13th

Today was our opportunity to do the tourist thing.  Unfortunately the previous two days' travel was a little too much and we spent much of the morning in bed.  We eventually got up to see the Winter Festival Parade which was, to be perfectly honest, not much better than Devizes Carnival Parade!  In the afternoon we had booked a ride on the Shotover Jet which shoots up and down the Shotover River at phenomenal speed.  It was a fantastic adrenalin rush and well worth it but with the wind chill factor it was easily the coldest we'd been in New Zealand including swimming in Kaikoura!  We didn't go in for the bungee jumping for which Queenstown is famous, as I'd already done a jump in Australia and Pete was advised not to by his doctor.

In the evening we were treated to easily the best fireworks display I've seen (not saying much mind).

July 14th

We spent the morning just wandering around Queenstown waiting for our early afternoon bus to Invercargill.  We weren't able to do this leg of the journey with Intercity or Newmans with Travelpass so we went with Atomic Shuttles which was fine except that the driver put on Muriel's Wedding(!) for our enjoyment(!!!) and everyone on the bus was too polite to tell him that we would rather sit in silence.

In the evening we went to YHA Tuatara Lodge in the centre of Invercargill where we had booked ourselves in.

July 15th

After phoning Codfish in the morning we found we weren't required at the airport until the 16th.  As a result we were left kicking our heels in Invercargill for a day.  Aside from the cinema and a few nice cheap restaurants there's not a lot to Invercargill.  There are a number of good birding sites for species like NZ Plover but unless you have your own transport you've little hope of getting to them.

We spent most of the day looking forward to Codfish Island and Kakapo.

July 16th

Reasonably early start before getting a taxi to the airport where we found the South East Air hangar with a little more difficulty than we really should've.  We met the quarantine officer and we were checked very thoroughly for any furry stowaways.  Fortunately we were clean and we loaded our kit and some of the Codfish supplies onto a rather flimsy looking Cessna.  We were strapped in rather too intimately (there were 4 of us including the pilot).  The flight over was fairly brief but with brilliant sunshine and hardly any wind it was pleasant, especially with some fantastic views over the Takitimu Mountains and Stewart Island.  I even managed to see an albatross sp. from the plane.  The landing on the island was pretty exciting as we landed on the beach at Sealers Bay, but only after the pilot had flown low over the beach at speed to check the conditions.  Once on the island we quickly unloaded everything from the plane and headed the 100 yds inland to the hut.  As we did so we saw our first Red-fronted and Yellow-fronted Parakeets (Kakariki), Kaka and Fernbird.  Once in the hut another quarantine session after which were introduced to the hut and the people we would share it with.  The facilities on the island were pretty basic with a cess-pit for a toilet and hot water depended on a heater and a coal fire.  However we did have electricity and everything we could need (including internet and stereo).

Sealers Bay, Codfish Island (Whenua Hou)

Over the course of the 6 weeks on the island we were mainly doing radio tracking telemetry of Kakapo with a bit of feedout (helping distribute hoppers of pellets for the supplementary feeding programme) and occasionally helping with  captures and weighs.  The work required a large amount of fairly arduous tramping and I got a fairly nasty blister on my right heel.  The blister wasn't great but I got an infection through it, which although didn't affect the wound, caused my whole foot and lower leg to swell up to 1½ times it's normal size.  I was off for 9 days while Pete was working twice as hard 'up the hill'.  However after having to hop everywhere for over a week, my guilt was pretty much cancelled out.  The only other hazards we faced were sandflies which are notorious and rightly so.  Their bites are extremely painful and they managed to find their way into our sleeping bags when they had the opportunity where they would lie in wait for us.  Clever little b******s!

The wildlife on the island was fantastic of course.  Both species of Kakariki abounded along with Kaka, some of which were a little too curious for there own good (one managed to get trapped inside the hut).  Tomtits were also common, and often quite tame (one took sandflies of my sock).  NZ Bellbirds and Pipipi (Brown Creeper) were also quite common but took less notice of us.  Australasian Pipits were occasionally seen in the dunes.  NZ Pigeons were not difficult to find as there were usually a few around Sealers Bay but occasionally we found some in the depths of the forest which gave us a little bit of a fright when they came charging towards us (they're big birds!).  Tui were less easy to find but some were quite showy, unlike Rifleman which were quite common but difficult to get good views of.  Fernbirds were also elusive but it was possible to get great views of them in the morning when I checked the weather-station.  Grey Gerygones were very sparse with just 5 birds seen in total.  One bird we were surprised to see so much of was the Morepork.  Supposedly they are the same species as the Southern Boobook in Australia but they are quite distinctive and I think with the geographic isolation of New Zealand they may well deserve full species status soon.  We were lucky enough to see several birds during both the day and night.  During the night the only other birds stirring were Kakapo and penguins.  We managed to see Little Blue, Yellow-eyed and Fiordland Crested but the views of the latter were less than satisfactory.  Yellow-eyeds were not uncommon but shy and Little Blues often slept under the hut, wailing and even snoring into the small hours of the night.  Other seabirds around and off the island included Spotted and Stewart Island Shags, Little Pied Cormorants, Red-billed and Kelp Gulls, Broad-billed Prion, White-capped, Gibson's and Campbell Albatross, Northern Giant-petrel and White-fronted Tern.  2 pairs of Varied Oystercatchers were around the Sealers Bay area.  Around the island we found the bodies of many Sooty Shearwaters plus several Mottled and one Cook's Petrel, testament to abundance of seabird life on the island in the austral summer.

The two birds Codfish is famous for are the Campbell Island Teal and Kakapo.  The teal are fairly plain but the colours are not too subtle to make it unattractive.  In fact with the dainty white eye-ring and laughably small wings they are pretty cute little ducks.  Like the Kakapo they're not actually native to Codfish but part of a programme to save this very rare race of the Subantarctic Teal.

The Kakapo are without a doubt the stars.  We were involved with pretty much every bird on the island over the 6 weeks.  Just everything about the birds is great.  They are highly intelligent birds, but poorly co-ordinated so it doesn't show very often.  They are fantastic climbers and can get very high up without the use of wings.  As a result the beak and claws (talons rather!) have to be very sharp and strong, so captures often meant some blood letting (us not the birds, although they did have some blood samples taken during our stay).  One of the most remarkable things about them is the smell, they have a very distinctive fruity smell.

All in all they are fantastic birds.

Kakapo Strigops habroptilus

We met many different people many of which we became great friends with.  It was great to be part of team which does such valuable work, with such a fantastic bird.  As far as I know anyone can go over to Codfish to do feedout work or even stay on longer to do telemetry.  Spring 2002 saw many volunteers coming to the island to do nesting minding for this historically successful breeding season which saw 24 new Kakapo hatched and raised.  It is unlikely that this will be repeated any time in the near future but for information it is worth visiting the Department of Conservation website at

August 28th

After six weeks working on Codfish we were pretty tired.  We spent the last day showing new volunteers around the island while the rest of the team went to another island to do some captures there.  We had been told that helicopter would be back to pick us up and take us back to Invercargill at about 5pm.  So imagine our surprise when we were having a leisurely late lunch at 3pm and heard the whirring of rotor blades.  We had 10 minutes to change and pack 9 weeks worth of stuff!  We just about managed do it and say our goodbyes in about 15!

And we only left behind a few tapes, a CD and a towel!

The helicopter trip was a first for both of us and it was quite exciting although after a while it was pretty boring.  We were given a lift into Invercargill by fellow volunteer Kris and booked into the Tuatara Lodge once again.

August 29th

Spent most the day in the cinema as well as a bit of window shopping which were the only things we managed to find worth doing.  We played cards with a couple of Codfish volunteers with whom we had been playing cards with for over 2 weeks prior.  Otherwise we just caught up with sleep.

August 30th

Today we got a Campbeltown shuttle bus down to Bluff at the very tip of South Island for the ferry over to Stewart Island.  We were a little anxious about the crossing as we had heard that few ferry crossings are as rough as the Foveaux Strait.  Our worries were not to be without foundation.  The sea was very rough and even though the boat was a catamaran I was very lucky to avoid sea-sickness, Pete was less fortunate.  And the only birds were Cape Petrels and a couple of Campbell Albatrosses.  When we finally reached Oban it was like another planet.  Halfmoon Bay was as still as a mill-pond, respite from the rough sea beyond.  We didn't do much today apart from book trips to Ulva Island.  Around Oban the birdlife was obviously richer than on the mainland with Kaka and Tui in abundance.  Song Thrushes were also very common.  Both Red-billed and Black-billed Gulls were around the harbour and a pair of Varied Oystercatchers were there as well.  Kakariki were less common and less confiding than the ones we had seen on Codfish.

In Oban we stayed at Shearwater Inn which was nicely placed approximately equidistant between Golden Bay and Halfmoon Bay.

August 31st

Today we got a water-taxi from Golden Bay wharf to Ulva Island.  We got the earliest boat going so we had the island to ourselves for much of the time.  The crossing was brief but allowed us to see both Great Cormorant and Stewart Island Shag and when we got to shore we were greeted by a pair of Varied Oystercatchers.  Inland from the jetty we found Weka, Tui and both species of Kakariki to be common.  Pipipi were easily found along the trails near to the jetty and post office(!) as were Kaka and Rifleman.  Lesser Redpoll were also seen in the pines near the jetty.

Further along the trails away from the jetty we ran into a NZ Robin which followed us closely for about 50yds along the trail.  We met a second about 1km further on.  When we reached the western-most tip of the island we began searching for Saddlebacks (Tieke).  Sure enough after some concerted effort we found two preening in the shade of some trees.  At the beach there were more Weka and a Stewart Island Shag.  However when the wind dropped and at sheltered beaches around the island, sandflies were once again a problem.

We arrived at 11am and we were picked up at 3pm which had left us plenty of time to explore this small island but although we managed to see both NZ Robin and Saddleback we failed to see the dazzling Yellowhead.

That evening the weather was calm enough to go on our kiwi cruise.  We were taken in a fishing boat to Ocean Beach on the south side of Paterson Inlet to the same area where David Attenborough had his famous meeting with the Southern Tokoeka (formerly the Stewart Island race of Brown Kiwi).  We wandered around the area in the pitch dark for 2 hours but we did manage to see two females, one of which wandered around on the boardwalk in front of us for 30 seconds which was long enough to film it lumbering around in the darkness.  It was quite an expensive trip but well worth it.  However it was spoilt a little by the large numbers of Ship Rats in the area, part of a plague which has been a real problem on Stewart Island in 2002.

September 1st

Having left our cameras behind the previous day, today we returned to Ulva Island, where we managed to re-find every species except Saddleback which eluded us this time.

We returned early to visit a friend we had met on Codfish and share stories about the island.

September 2nd

We left the hostel early for the ferry back to Bluff.  The sea was incredibly calm and we even managed to see a group of 10+ Little Blue Penguins porpoising out to sea.  We were also accompanied by a couple of Cape Petrels and a Campbell Albatross.

Once we were back in Bluff we caught the shuttle bus back to Invercargill.  We spent the time in Invercargill catching a film at the cinema and sending a couple of parcels to friends on Codfish and the Chathams.  We caught a taxi to the airport and caught an AirNZ flight to Christchurch and then on to Auckland where we caught a shuttle bus to Auckland Central Backpackers where we spent the next two nights.


September 3rd

Did the tourist thing around Auckland, went to Kelly Tarlton's, the Auckland Aquarium which was worth the trip over to the other side of the city.  In the evening we enjoyed a meal at a Chinese restaurant with the friends of Pete's parents, Tony and Pauline, who had met and fed us when we arrived.

September 4th

This morning we were taken out by Tony to the Waitakere Ranges to the west of Auckland to see the Kauri trees, which are among the largest trees in the world and are highly endangered.  They are certainly very impressive but unfortunately the birdlife wasn't, with NZ Fantail being the only bird of any note.

In afternoon we said our goodbyes to Tony and New Zealand and caught our flight back to Singapore and then on to London.

Species List in Taxonomic Order**:  * = new species for observer ( ) = feral species

** - according to the Hand Guide to the Birds of New Zealand, Robertson/Heather/Onley

Southern Tokoeka* - 2 females on night walk at Ocean Beach
Great Crested Grebe -  a few at Lake Tekapo opposite ice-rink
NZ Grebe* - common in Lake Rotorua
Northern Royal Albatross* - a few off Kaikoura
Gibson's Albatross - several off Kaikoura, also off Codfish Island
Antipodean Albatross - a few off Kaikoura
White-capped Albatross - common off Kaikoura and Codfish and also in Cook Strait
Salvin's Albatross* - a couple off Kaikoura
Campbell Albatross - common off Kaikoura, Codfish and in Cook Strait
Grey-headed Albatross* - 1 off Kaikoura
Buller's Albatross* - 2 off Kaikoura
Pacific Albatross* - 1 in Cook Strait
Northern Giant-petrel* - fairly common off Kaikoura, 1 off Codfish Island
Southern Giant-petrel - 1 off Kaikoura
Fluttering Shearwater - a few off Kaikoura
Hutton's Shearwater - very common off Kaikoura
Common Diving-petrel* - a few off Kaikoura
Cape Petrel - very common off Kaikoura, odd birds in Foveaux Strait
Fairy Prion - quite common off Kaikoura and in Cook Strait
Broad-billed Prion* - one flew over the beach at Sealers Bay in a gale
Little Blue Penguin* - common on Codfish Island, and also seen just outside Halfmoon Bay
Yellow-eyed Penguin* - fairly common on Codfish
Fiordland Crested Penguin* - uncommon on Codfish and not seen at Milford Sound
Australasian Gannet - a few off Kaikoura
Great Cormorant - common at Rotorua, seen occasionally throughout
Pied Cormorant - a few around Auckland and Kaikoura
Little Black Cormorant - common at Rotorua
Little Pied Cormorant - common more-or-less throughout
Spotted Shag* - fairly common around Kaikoura and off Codfish Island
Stewart Island Shag* - a few off Codfish and around Oban, Stewart Island
Great Egret - 1 Milford Sound
White-faced Heron - common throughout, even in central Auckland
(Black Swan) - 2 over Waikato River just outside Hamilton
(Canada Goose) - abundant on Lake Tekapo
Paradise Shelduck* - common roadside bird throughout
(Mallard) - common Lake Rotorua
Subantarctic Teal* - Campbell Island subspecies introduced to Codfish Island, a few
NZ Scaup* - common Lake Rotorua and a few Lake Tekapo
Australasian Harrier* - fairly common throughout
Weka* - common on Ulva Island
Purple Swamphen - fairly common roadside bird in North Island, apparently less so in South
Eurasian Coot - common Lake Tekapo
South Island Oystercatcher* - locally common especially Kaikoura
Varied Oystercatcher* - 1 Auckland, several Codfish and a few around Oban and Ulva Island
Masked Lapwing - common throughout
Black-winged Stilt - several Sulphur Bay, Rotorua
Black Stilt* - 2 Lake Alexandrina river delta, Lake Tekapo - easily one of highlights of the trip
Kelp Gull - common Wellington south
Silver Gull - abundant throughout
Black-billed Gull* - fairly common Sulphur Bay, Rotorua and also Oban
Caspian Tern - a few Sulphur Bay
White-fronted Tern - common in marine areas Wellington south
Black-fronted Tern* - fairly common off Kaikoura
NZ Pigeon* - 1 just east of Lake Tekapo, common on Codfish Island
(Feral Pigeon) - a few Auckland, Wellington and Rotorua
Kakapo* - introduced population on Codfish Island, many different individuals seen
Kea* - group of 5 around car park just east of Homer Tunnel, Fiordland
Kaka* - common Codfish Island and Stewart Island
Yellow-crowned Parakeet* - abundant Codfish and fairly common on Stewart Island
Red-crowned Parakeet* - abundant Codfish but uncommon on Stewart Island
Southern Boobook - common on Codfish, not heard elsewhere
Sacred Kingfisher - a few throughout
Welcome Swallow - widespread but never common
Rifleman* - 1 Kaikoura, common Codfish, fairly common on Ulva Island
Silvereye - common in North Island, not seen elsewhere except in Fiordland
Grey Gerygone* - scarce on Codfish
(Blackbird) - abundant throughout, Codfish birds have developed variation on usual alarm call
(Song Thrush) - abundant throughout
(Dunnock) - common throughout
(Skylark) - uncommon throughout
Australasian Pipit - a few on Codfish
Fernbird* - uncommon on Codfish
Pipipi* - fairly common on Codfish and Ulva
Grey Fantail - fairly common throughout
Tomtit* - fairly common, seen in Fiordland, Codfish and Stewart Island
NZ Robin* - uncommon but easy to find on Ulva
Tui* - common on Codfish and Stewart Island
NZ Bellbird* - fairly common, in same places as Tomtit
Saddleback* - a few on Ulva Island, quite elusive at times
(House Sparrow) - abundant throughout
(Chaffinch) - abundant throughout
(Lesser Redpoll) - fairly common throughout
(European Goldfinch) - common throughout, especially Rotorua
(Eurasian Greenfinch) - many around Lake Tekapo, not seen elsewhere
(Yellowhammer) - a few at Lake Tekapo and also on Codfish Island
(Eurasian Starling) - inevitably abundant throughout
(Common Myna) - abundant in North Island
(Australian Magpie) - abundant throughout

Total = 87 species (70 native)

Total new species = 38

Not exactly an impressive total but the list does include 3 penguins, 1 kiwi, Black Stilt, Kakapo, Subantarctic Teal, Saddleback and 9 species of albatross. 

We managed to see well over half the NZ endemics which isn't bad going considering we didn't visit Tiritiri Matangi Island for Takahe, Kokako, Stitchbird, Little-spotted Kiwi and Whitehead or Kapiti for a similar range of species.  All these species will be planned for next time although I would rather see Takahe in the Murchison Mountains in Fiordland and Kokako in Te Urewera in Eastland.  The latter area is also good for Blue Duck.

Any questions about anything in this report please feel free to email me at


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