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A Report from

New Zealand, July 29 - Aug 15 2002,

Dave Klauber & Dennis Dipietrantonio

From July 29 to August 15 I did a birding trip in New Zealand as the last stage of a 3-month trip to the region (Papua New Guinea, Australia, New Caledonia). It should be noted that this is not the best time to visit, as many birds are quiet during this season, and many seabirds, especially pterodromas, are out to sea. In addition this is the slow season for many tourist and birding activities, and several operators were away on vacation, most notably Philip Smith of the Stewart Island kiwi tour. A non-birding friend, Dennis Dipietrantonio, accompanied me the whole time. I missed seeing all the kiwis, a big disappointment, but managed to see most of the endemics. I was planning on visiting Stewart Island, but at the last moment decided against it, missing Kaka and some subspecies. There were two reasons, the first being that Philip Smith, who does night excursions for kiwis every other night, was away on holiday and he had the sole concession to go to the area. Secondly, there was a fisherman's convention during the time I planned to visit, and almost everything was booked, with the sole restaurant / pub being closed to cater to them. There is a woman who does overnight hiking trips to Mason Bay, where kiwi is seen, but she was away the one day I was planning to arrive. Her company is called Ruggedy Range Wilderness Experience, and she charges about $260 New Zealand per person. Of great assistance were Karen Baird and Chris Gaskin of Kiwi Wildlife Tours - contact:  Karen arranged our Tiri visit and supplied us with useful information and brochures when we arrived. Chris painstakingly drew detailed maps on locations for Blue Duck, Rock Wren, Black Stilt, and others.


Lonely Planet New Zealand - accommodation, meals, etc

Where to Watch Birds in Australasia & Oceania - Nigel Wheatley

The Field Guide to the Birds of New Zealand - Heather & Robertson

Jon Hornbuckle's Nov 99 trip report, downloaded from Worldtwitch

Most importantly, Karen Baird and Chris Gaskin of Kiwi Wildlife Tours provided me with useful information, hand-drawn maps, and logistical assistance, both before and during the trip.


CARS - I rented from Budget, arranged in New Zealand. I had made a previous arrangement with Hertz, but flight delays and itinerary changes in effect cancelled it. New Zealand has an arrangement called continuous rental, where they will let you drop off cars at no extra charge, and have another waiting for you at your arrival point - airport or ferry. This gives the advantage of a lower rate for a longer period rental.

Gas is more expensive than the USA; I believe it ranged from $1.10 to $1.20 NZ per liter. Prices in more remote areas of the South Island are higher.

AIR - Internal flight prices vary a lot, but can be reasonable. We flew from Christchurch to Auckland for about $130 NZ each on a local budget carrier (Pacific Air?). You can of course pay a lot more, especially on short notice with Air New Zealand or Qantas. Best deals can be had on the web. My international flight was the last leg of a frequent flyer ticket on American / Qantas from New York.


The unit of currency is the New Zealand dollar. We received about $2.12 to the US dollar. I brought traveler's checks, American Express, US dollars, and some cash. Most places accepted credit cards, although several would not take American Express. Prices in the trip report are in New Zealand dollars.


There are a wide variety of accommodations, ranging from Backpacker's to expensive hotels. We usually opted for mid-range motels, averaging $50 - $80 for a double, most with a fridge and a hot water kettle with tea and coffee. We bought cereal and usually had breakfast in our rooms, and always ate dinner in a restaurant


You can buy telephone cards in local shops, which can be very useful for arranging ferries and accommodation. Many towns had Internet cafes with reasonable rates. My MCI international calling card worked fine for calling the USA, although Dennis was paying only 30 cents per minute to call the USA with his NZ calling card.


Tiri Tiri Matangi island is a must to see Saddleback, Stitchbird, Kokapo, Takahe, and if you're lucky, Little Spotted Kiwi, most of which are difficult if not impossible on the mainland. Kapiti Island is supposedly a better spot for seeing the Kiwi, having about 90% of their total population, but logistics are not straightforward for overnight stays. Contact is John Barrett at:

I would recommend skipping Whirinaki and doing Pureora State Forest Park, which is better for Kaka and Kokako is possible.


I saw 102 species, with 48 lifers (4 more if you count the new albatross splits). Biggest misses were the Kiwis, Kaka (would have been easy on Stewart Island), Rock Wren, Flesh-footed Shearwater and pterodromas (wrong season). Highlights were excellent looks at Blue Duck, Yellow-Eyed Penguin, and the seabirds, especially albatrosses, on the Kaikoura Sound trip. Inquiries about specific species will gladly be answered at:


July 29, Monday - travel day

My 9 AM Qantas flight from Sydney was cancelled, and the later flight got me into Auckland around 4:30 PM. Karen and her father John picked me up ($85NZ), along with Dennis, who had arrived earlier. We hit rush hour traffic, and got a look at a Buff Banded Rail at a wetland north of the city at dusk. We stayed at Chris & Karen's, a very nice house in the forest, with excellent, abundant meals by Karen. We saw the resident Morepork that evening, and went over logistics. Chris drew the first of several detailed maps for specific species

July 30, Tuesday - Tiri Tiri Matangi

Karen drove us to Sandspit and dropped us off by a water taxi at 9:30 that she had arranged. It was expensive - $220 NZ each way - but at that time of year the much cheaper public ferry only ran on Thursdays and weekends. We did a circling of a small island near Sandspit, where there were a few shorebirds, and a possible Shore Plover. Reuben the boat owner also drove around Tiri before landing. We saw several Australasian Gannets and one Parasitic Jaeger harassing White-fronted Terns. Karen had made arrangements for us to overnight in the bunkhouse on Tiri, loaned us sleeping gear, and bought food for us. We got settled and ate lunch at the bunkhouse, where the Takahe were tame as chickens with Pukekos, or Purple Swamphens, then descended a short path to a nearby pond where there was a very tame Brown Teal. We returned to the bunkhouse and took a trail past the lighthouse that passed near the coast away from the taxi-landing site. Most of this trail was not very productive until we went to the ridge trail and the forested areas on the same side as the dock. Tui, Bellbird, Red-Crowned Parakeets and New Zealand Robin were fairly common throughout, but we saw more endemics in the forested area - Whitehead, Stitchbird, and brief looks at Saddlebacks. Stitchbirds were common at feeders, but otherwise scarce. We returned to the cabin around 5 for dinner, seeing Paradise Shelducks in a field near the bunkhouse. We set out after dark to try for Little Spotted Kiwi. One Blue Penguin was seen on the path to the dock. We heard a couple kiwis call, then silence, except for a Morepork in the forest near the lighthouse. We visited the warden around 8:30, and he accompanied us to a spot near Homer Beach, about a 30 minute walk away where Great Winged or Gray-Faced Petrels were breeding. I was advised by Karen's father Johnny that an Indian war whoop like call would bring in the Petrels at our feet, and it sure did! We even had one bird in the hand. We heard another kiwi in the forest near the bunkhouse, but could not see it. The bunkhouse costs about $20NZ per person, I think, and has excellent cooking facilities and a large refrigerator. You bring your own bedding and food. Nights can be cold. Weather was sunny with some clouds and windy.

July 31, Wednesday - Tiri and north of Auckland

Another nice day, weather-wise. Apparently we had just missed 2 weeks of rain prior to our arrival. We had a few hours until the water taxi pickup at 11, so birded the forest between the lodge and the taxi dock, supposedly a good spot for the few Kokakos on the island. Stitchbirds were abundant at the feeders, and we saw more Saddlebacks, Brown Quail, and I lucked out with a Spotless Crake by the small pond near the dock, in spite of the high water level. Finally at ten to 11 I lucked out with a pair of Kokako feeding along the path a few minutes north of the small pond. I found Dennis by the dock, but when we returned 5 - 10 minutes later, they were gone. We returned to Sandspit where Karen was waiting, and went to a nearby town for lunch.  Karen took us birding to Straka Lake, near Waiwera, Waimera Beach, and Wenderholme. We had NZ Dabchick, the only Gray Teal of the trip, Pacific Black Duck, Australasian Shoveler, NZ Scaup, NZ Dotterel, Eastern Rosella, and the first NZ Pigeon of the trip, among other birds. Night with Chris & Karen, with more logistics and maps. Weather was sunny and pleasant

August 1, Thursday - Miranda wetlands

Karen drove us into downtown Auckland, where Dennis and I picked up a Budget rental car and set out for Miranda wetlands, about a 90 minute drive. The best time to be there is high tide, according to Chris, and we arrived around 1 PM at high tide. The headquarters will loan you a scope, for only a $5 refundable deposit, so I borrowed their scope and walked the 20-30 minutes to the end of the mangroves where the shorebirds congregate. There was a small flock of Wrybill (it's not easy to see the sideways curve of the bill), as well as a large flock of Oystercatchers, mostly South Island, as well as Variable Oystercatcher, Black-Winged Stilt, New Zealand Dotterel, Red Knot, and Bar-Tailed Godwits. There were also some Wrybill on the small ponds between the beach and the road. Dennis, the non-birder, spotted the lone Black-Billed Gull flying over. Red-billed Gull, Caspian Terns, and White-fronted Terns were also here. The visitor's log mentioned an Australasian Bittern in the mangroves, but we didn't see it. We then drove south towards Whirinaki Forest, making the mistake of spending the night in Murupara at the Murupara Motel for $70. The motel was OK, and the owner loaned us a large bird book of New Zealand birds by a British artist from the early 1900's- a very impressive book. Lonely Planet says there is a variety of accommodation and food in Murupara, but there was only a basic pub and a civic center that sold terrible food. Chicken Cordon Bleu was actually gray patties of a disgusting meat. Weather again was pleasant, sun & clouds

August 2, Friday - Whirinaki Forest Park and drive to Taupo

After a terrible early breakfast of burned eggs (they open at 5 AM) at the Sunset Café, we drove to Whirinaki Forest Park, past Minginui, to try for Blue Duck. Chris had told us to drive to the end of the road that first crosses, then goes along the river until you get to a round parking area.  We erred and went past this, to the end of the road, and spent about 90 minutes walking a trail through the forest, seeing Tomtit and NZ Robin. Kakas were heard and I got a bad look through the trees at 2 flybys. We returned to the main parking area and took the trail to the left to the canyon or chasm, about a 15 minute walk to a bridge over the stream where you can see up and down river a ways, but no Blue Duck. We did see Yellow-Crowned Parakeets en route, high in the trees, as well as Whiteheads. About noon we drove back on route 38, and took route 5 to Taupo, Turangi, and another spot for Blue Duck past Rangipo along the Desert Road, route 1. After the prison, you go over a bridge, and you take the second (?) left, which is east, marked for a ranger station - I think it's called Kaimanawe Road. After a few minutes you will reach a bridge over a river gorge. Just before this bridge is a road to the left which descends to a dam, and crosses over the dam to where there is a pool fed by the stream. This is supposed to be a spot for Blue Duck, but again, no luck. Night at Sportsmen's Lodge, Turangi, for $50, with shared kitchen facilities. Good weather again.

August 3, Saturday - Rt. 46/47 near Whakapapa and drive to Wellington

Another try for the duck at the pool near Rangipo, with no luck. We drove back to Rangipo and west on 46, onto 47 west, to a bridge just west of the turnoff to the Whakapapa ski area -  Whakapapaiti stream. There was a Pipit by the dirt road just past the bridge, and we saw a pair of Blue Duck flying upstream. We walked to the stream and saw another flying back south, where it landed upstream right before the curve in the stream. There were in fact two ducks, and we found a path just east of the bridge that took us to an overlook right on top of the ducks. We had great long looks, heard them calling, watched them feeding, and I got good Camcorder footage of them. This completed the North Island targets, so we drove to Wellington, where we spent the night at the centrally located Halswell Lodge for $85. I had made an earlier phone reservation for the 9:30 high speed ferry to Picton. The slower speed is cheaper and better for seabirds, but unfortunately the early ones were booked. Good weather for most of the day, although it was freezing in the early morning and drizzled in the evening.

August 4, Sunday - Ferry to Picton and drive to Kaikoura

We dropped off the rental car and got on the ferry. In the harbor were Fluttering Shearwaters, a few Black-browed Albatrosses, and I believe one Westland Petrel. It was very windy, probably blowing the birds into the harbor. A few Fairy Prions, Giant Petrels, and one or two Common Diving Petrels were seen en route, especially as we approached land on the South Island. Just past the dock at Picton was a Spotted Shag. Picking up the rental car with Budget went smoothly. The person who takes people to Marlborough Sound for the King Shag was away on holiday. We could have booked a water taxi for about $200, but decided to go straight to Kaikoura. There is also a mail boat that goes there once or twice a week, but the nearest day was Friday. It was very windy on our drive to Kaikoura, with mixed sun and clouds. There is very impressive coastal scenery, and we made a stop for seals, where we also saw Black-fronted and White-fronted Terns, as well as the 3 gull species. Night at the Seaside Motel in Kaikoura, an excellent waterfront studio for $85.

August 5, Monday - Kaikoura Sound with Ocean Wings

This was a highlight of the trip, if not THE highlight. I had booked the 9:30 AM bird trip (be sure to specify birds, unless you want to swim with the dolphins), and we were the only two on it. Our guide, Simon, was knowledgeable about the albatrosses and most of the seabirds, but was not a birder and did not know how to separate the Shearwaters. The weather was overcast with some light rain. On the way out were Buller's Shearwaters and one or two Buller's Albatrosses. Within 10 or 15 minutes Simon put out chum, and immediately there were birds everywhere. Over the next hour we saw White-capped Shy, Salvin's Shy, Black-browed, 3 subspecies of Wandering, and Northern Royal Albatrosses, all next to the boat except the Royal. Both Giant Petrels, including a rare white morph southern, both subspecies of Cape Petrel, and Fairy Prions were seen. Sailing back closer to shore gave us one Stewart Island Bronze Shag, along with Spotted, Pied, Little Pied, and Great Cormorant, and Black and White-fronted Terns. Absolutely the best albatross trip I have ever taken, in terms of both variety and closeness of looks. Also seen were Dusky and Hector's Dolphins right next to the boat. We returned at noon in rainy weather, and decided to drive across the Lewis Pass to Westport, which took us the rest of the day, including a few stops for lunch and scenery. I forgot the hotel that we stayed in, but it had a washing machine and dryer, which was much needed.

August 6, Tuesday - Cape Foulwind, Paparoa Forest, and Punakaiki

In the morning we made a brief stop along the river for shorebirds, but the tide was wrong, and all we saw were Pacific Black, or Gray Duck. We went to the northern part of Cape Foulwind, by the lighthouse, but it was very windy and we only saw a few Gannets. Next stop was the southern end (there is a trail that goes along the cliffs linking the 2 spots), where Weka was waiting in the parking lot. They are very tame here, even walking up to cars. It's a short walk to the fur seal colony, where we saw seals and more Weka. After we drove to Punakaiki, stopping for about 90 minutes at the Bullock Creek trail in Paparoa National Forest, a couple of km north of Punakaiki. Other trip reports mention Fernbird here, but we didn't see any, sticking to the left fork that followed the stream. A flyby and briefly perched NZ Falcon was the first of only two that we would see the whole trip. At the tourist office the woman referred us to Bourke's Road, an unsigned road about 7 km south of town. It's a short paved road that only goes about half a kilometer to the beach. There is a swamp to the north that is supposed to be good for Fernbird, but again, no luck. However, the big surprise was an adult Black Stilt in the fields to the north, near the beach, hanging out with 2 Black winged Stilts. Also in this and surrounding fields were Weka, Oystercatchers and a variety of mostly introduced passerines, including Common Redpoll. We returned to town for an early dinner, then returned south to a mining company building a few kilometers south of town at dusk. Westland Black Petrels fly in just after dark to their burrows in the hills, and we saw quite a few, mostly silhouettes. Next we returned to the Bullock Creek Trail to try for Great Spotted Kiwi. After the car park at the end we walked up to the fork, and turned right. Before we reached the gate, we heard one calling back to the left, probably in the forest on the other side of the creek. We went over to that area, but never heard another one, in spite of using a tape. We returned to the right fork and spent about 2 hours seeing nothing but a possum, and hearing Moreporks. There is lots of gravel on the trails, making quiet walking difficult. Night at the motel on the beach, very nice large studios for $90, the off-season rate.

August 7, Wednesday - Paparoa Forest, Fox Glacier, and Haast

I returned solo at 5 AM, about 2 hours before dawn, for the kiwi. I didn't even hear one, although Moreporks were calling quite often. I returned to the motel at 7:30,and after breakfast we stopped at Bourke's Road. We saw the Black Stilt again, this time closer to the main highway on the south side, in a small pool, harassing a BW Stilt - maybe chasing a competitor for the third Stilt that was there? I tried the swamp for Fernbird with no luck, but I had a good look at a pair of Double Banded Plover / Banded Dotterels that flew close by. The same birds were in the fields as on the previous day. Next was a drive to the Fox Glacier. We splurged on a helicopter ride onto the glaciers for about $250 each, and this was a scenic highlight. We did some more sightseeing / birding in the area, but saw little of note. No Keas were around the Fox Glacier parking lot. We drove south to Haast for the night, staying at the Haast World Heritage Hotel for $75.

August 8, Thursday - Jackson Bay, Haast Pass, Glenorchy

I set off alone on the 40 minute drive to Jackson Bay, where there is a colony of Fiordland Crested Penguins. Although the books say they start breeding in July, all the locals said it was the wrong season, and they were right. I arrived just after dawn in the pouring rain, and took the 20-minute walk to the beach, where there was nothing. I waited 30 minutes, and returned to the hotel for Dennis. We set out for the Haast Pass, and it finally stopped raining after an hour or so. We stopped at the Blue Pools track, and took a short walk through the forest to the pools. I had a bad look at Brown Creeper, and good looks at Rifleman for the first time. We drove to Queenstown and arrived at Glenorchy by nightfall, in preparation for a try for Yellowhead. Night at the Glenorchy Hotel for $65, shared facilities, no fridge or hot water kettle, with a good restaurant.

August 9, Friday - Routebourne track and drive to Te Anau

An early cold morning start for the 30 minute drive to the Routebourne track. There is a short walk to the base of a waterfall through a forest. I used a tape, and we soon saw 2 or 3 Yellowheads in the treetops, as well as a few Brown Creepers. The Heather and Robertson guide has a bad picture of this bird - it is much duller than shown, more dark gray and less bright brown, based on my sightings. A few Yellow-crowned Parakeets were also in the trees near the waterfall, along with Rifleman. We left around 9:30, driving to Queenstown to book a Milford Sound cruise for the next day. The rest of the day was spent driving to Te Anau through Route 6 in the unrealized hope of seeing Kea in the alpine areas. We had booked a room at Te Anau Downs, 27 km from Te Anau, at the Queenstown office. While in Te Anau I tried to make arrangements for Stewart Island, finding out there was a fishing tournament the same time we would be there, and almost everything was booked. Since we couldn't get to see the kiwis anyway, as Philip Smith was away on holiday and owned the sole concession, we decided to blow off Stewart Island. We ate in Te Anau, since the Te Anau Downs restaurant was closed, and arrived at a deserted hotel. We found the rooms were unlocked and moved into one, since we had already pre-paid the $65. An irate caretaker arrived at 8 PM saying we were in the wrong room, the only unpleasant experience people-wise for the trip. Her main gripe was she did not want to have to return the next morning to clean the room, since someone else wanted that particular room. I don't know why she couldn't have given them our original room. The hotel was in a nice place, and has a backpacker's section that was closed for the off season. It also reduces the drive to Milford Sound by 30 minutes.

August 10, Saturday - Homer Tunnel and Milford Sound

Another pre-dawn start to allow for time to bird the Homer tunnel area before our 11 AM cruise. We parked just after a bridge, off a side road to the right, a couple of km before Homer Tunnel, which is the Gertrude Valley. Chris had recommended this as a place for Rock Wren. There was snow on the ground, and it was snowing and raining lightly. I walked above tree line to an open bowl with good habitat, although snow and ice covered a lot of ground. I heard a distant whirring noise that I believe was the wren, but saw nothing. A lone Kea soared overhead, looking nothing like a parrot but very much like a hawk. I saw another on my walk back, and a Rifleman at the forest edge. Returning to the car, we made a brief stop before the Homer tunnel and I walked through 3 - 6 inches of snow along the nature walk, seeing nothing. We drove to Milford Sound for the 11 AM cruise in terrible rainy weather. I was lucky to see 2 Fiordland Crested Penguins on the shore, but there was little else of note, other than Bottlenose Dolphins and a baby fur seal at the dock rolling over constantly in the water, and many spectacular waterfalls partially obscured by the rain and fog. We returned to the Homer Tunnel track, with no luck, being chased away by workers due to avalanche danger, then to Gertrude Valley again. By now the rain had melted much of the snow, making the ground very wet and soggy. We both went above treeline to the bowl area, seeing many small snow avalanches. I circled the bowl with no luck, except another 2 Keas. Dennis saw a NZ Falcon catch what looked like a Blackbird. When I joined him the falcon was eating, allowing us a very close approach. We saw another Kea on the way out in the forest amid the rain. Altogether a wet, miserable day, and a major miss with the Rock Wren. We spent the night in Te Anau at the Lynwood Lodge for $65 with another much-needed washing machine and dryer.

August 11, Sunday - Drive to Kaka Point and Nugget Point

Slept in this morning, then drove out along route 94 and 1 to Balclutha, then south to Kaka Point. About 15 minutes outside Te Anau was a pond with a large flock of roosting Black-billed Gulls, along with some White-fronted Terns, Shoveler, and NZ Scaup. We drove out to a very windy Nugget Point lighthouse, seeing over a hundred Buller's Albatrosses not far from shore. Royal Spoonbills nest on the rocks past the lighthouse, but none were there in this season. Fur seals could be seen on the rocks below.  We checked into the somewhat pricey but very nice Nugget View Motel for $85 for a large studio with a nice sea view in the early afternoon. There are rooms that are cheaper and more basic for about $65. Mike and Jackie, the owners, were very helpful, loaning us their bird books and giving us information. Mike is a fisherman and knew a bit about the birds. They provided us with a continental breakfast for about $7 that afternoon so we could have it whenever we wanted in the morning. We returned to the lighthouse around 4 PM, then went to the penguin blind a bit further down the hill. Although there were a few surfers in the bay, a few Yellow-eyed Penguins came in and walked up the hill before nightfall, stopping along the way for a while, maybe to dry off. I think there were about 10-12.  The local restaurant in Kaka Point served an excellent meal.

August 12, Monday - Surat Bay, Sinclair Wetlands, and Otago peninsula

Jackie had told us Sea Lions could be seen at Surat Bay, about 20 - 30 minutes drive south of Kaka Point. We arrived at a dead end with a small basic rope bridge across a stream with no obvious path to the ocean. We walked along the bay side around to the ocean, nearly stumbling into a sleeping sea lion, then seeing a family (?) group of 4 playing on the beach. It was extremely windy, and we headed back to the car just as it started to rain. We drove to Sinclair Wetlands, well sign-posted about 30 minutes before Dunedin. It was very windy and rainy, and after 2 brief tries for Fernbird, we gave up and drove to the Otago peninsula. We went to the Royal Albatross colony headquarters, and quickly returned the few kilometers to Weller's Rock for the Monarch Wildlife Cruise - $27 each for about 75 minutes. Fortunately the rain had mostly subsided. We went past a large Stewart Island Shag colony, below the Royal Albatross breeding grounds, where we could see 3 nearly grown Northern Royal Albatross chicks. We then went out to a fishing boat, where there were good looks at Buller's Albatross, a Black-browed Albatross, and a Southern Royal Albatross, along with Cape and Northern Giant Petrels. We returned to shore, and to the Royal Albatross colony for their tour. We had closer looks at two of the chicks, and we were on top of the Stewart Island Shag colony. It was rainy at times, but much better than earlier. This now completed most of my target birds that I could hope to see, and we drove through the middle of the peninsula to Larnach Castle, an overpriced $95 for a room in the converted stables with shared bath. I wasn't feeling well, and immediately after dinner I got very sick with something, throwing up for most of the night.

August 13, Tuesday - Dunedin, no birding

Dennis drove us to Dunedin, where I barely made it to the Leviathan Hotel for $75. He toured the brewery while I spent the day in bed with the runs. Another wet, miserable day

August 14, Wednesday - Sinclair Wetlands and drive north

I was somewhat recovered, although in some pain from my violent purges, but we went back to Sinclair Wetlands with the weather much improved. We chatted with the caretaker again, then walked past the duck ponds and saw 2 or 3 Fernbirds, with the help of a tape loaned by Karen. Even with the tape this bird is a skulker, rarely allowing looks at the whole bird, although we had it nearly at our feet once. This was basically the end of birding. On the drive to Christchurch for a 6 PM flight we were hit by a car while doing a u turn on highway 1. Both cars were badly damaged, but apparently nobody was seriously hurt. The very helpful police drove us to the next town, Ashburton, where we caught a 6 PM bus to Christchurch, staying at the Ascot Vale Motor Lodge for $82

August 15, Thursday - Fly to Auckland, little birding

We caught the 8:30 flight to Auckland, picked up another rental car, then drove to the Waitomo glowworm caves. There were Tuis in the parking lot, but we did little birding. Another trip highlight was the visit to the Otorohanga Kiwi House Bird Park, not far from Waitomo. We saw captive Great Spotted and Brown Kiwis, and they also have most of the other endemics in cages. At least I saw a Kiwi, albeit caged. It was still impressive to watch these birds feeding and walking around. They have 2 cages with different sets of birds, only letting each group out for 3 - 4 hours. As we were there around 1:30, when they change over, we saw both groups. We drove back to Karen and Chris' place in Warkworth, north of Orewa (and Auckland).

August 16, Friday - No birding

We relaxed at Karen's, packed, and left around 2 PM for the airport and our flights back home. Following are notes on some species of interest


ENDEMICS  are in capitals

NEW ZEALAND GREBE /  DABCHICK - One seen with Karen at Straka Lake / Waimera region, north of Auckland

LITTLE SPOTTED KIWI - Several heard on Tiri Island, when I gave up. Tough to see, and tapes are not allowed here. One is resident close to the bunkhouse. Kapiti Island might be a better bet

GREAT SPOTTED KIWI - only one heard at the Bullock Creek track, Paparoa National Forest, on the west side of the South Island. Supposedly possible along route 6 east of Westport, and further north. A tough one to see

Wandering Albatross - All 3 subspecies (exulans, gibsoni, chionoptera) seen on the Kaikoura trip with OceanWings, most within 3-10 meters sitting on the water

Royal Albatross - One seen on Kaikoura trip, unsure to subspecies. Northern Royal chicks on Otago Peninsula near Dunedin, and one Southern seen on Monarch cruise from same area, off the tip of Otago peninsula

Black-browed Albatross - several seen in Wellington harbor, subspecies unknown, and nominate race seen on Kaikoura trip

Shy Albatross - both White-capped and Salvin's seen well at close range on Kaikoura trip. Salvin's is quite striking

Buller's Albatross - a few seen on Kaikoura trip going out; many seen off Nugget Point south of Balclutha, and a few seen on Monarch cruise from Otago peninsula

Buller's Shearwater - many seen sailing out from Kaikoura the first ten minutes only.

Hutton's Shearwater - a few seen near shore returning from Kaikoura ; apparently there are usually large rafts, which we did not see

Fluttering Shearwater - quite a few seen in Wellington harbor from the Picton ferry

Common Diving Petrel - one or two seen approaching land from Picton ferry; a few more seen on Kaikoura trip

Great-winged / Grey-faced Petrel - seen at night on Tiri, about 30 minutes walk from bunkhouse. Around 10 PM we were taken to where they nest, where we gave an Indian war whoop-like call. This brought them to our feet, and we had one in the hand

Westland Black Petrel - many flying overhead after dusk just south of Punakaiki; to visit their nest sites prior arrangements must be made with the owner, who lives in Christchurch

Cape Petrel / Pigeon - both subspecies (southern and Snares) seen on Kaikoura trip; a few also seen on Monarch Cruise

Fairy Prion - a few seen on Picton ferry, approaching the South Island, and also seen well on the Kaikoura trip

Southern Giant Petrel - one or two seen on the Kaikoura trip, including good looks at a white morph bird

Northern Giant Petrel - several seen on the Kaikoura trip, one or two on Picton ferry, and a couple on the Monarch cruise. Hard to separate from Southern GP in some plumages unless the bill is seen well

YELLOW-EYED PENGUIN - 10-12 seen returning to their burrows before dusk from the blind at Nugget Point, south of Balclutha

FIORDLAND CRESTED PENGUIN - Only two seen on land on the rainy Milford Sound cruise. They had not returned to their colonies on Jackson Bay and north of Haast

Blue Penguin - one seen at night on Tiri walking up the path from the boat ramp, and two seen briefly swimming en route to Tiri

Australasian Gannet -seen at and en route to Tiri, on Picton ferry, Cape Foulwind, Kaikoura, and one on Milford Sound

STEWART ISLAND SHAG - One bronze form seen on rocks at Kaikoura, and a colony on Otago peninsula at the albatross colony, with both forms 

SPOTTED SHAG - Fairly common on South Island - first seen at Picton dock

PARADISE SHELDUCK - Common everywhere on both islands, mainly in farmland

BLUE DUCK - A pair, and possibly three birds seen near Whangapapa ski area, on route 47 just west of ski area turnoff. Blends in very well with the rocks

BROWN TEAL - One very tame bird on pond below bunkhouse at Tiri

NEW ZEALAND SCAUP - On North Island at Straka Lake, with Karen. Seen several places on South Island - near Queenstown, outside Te Anau, and at Sinclair Wetlands

NEW ZEALAND FALCON - Only two birds; one briefly at Bullock Creek trail, Paparoa National Forest, and one killing and eating prey in Gertrude valley

WEKA - Common at Cape Foulwind, and a few off Bourke's Road south of Punakaiki

Spotless Crake - one seen at Tiri, on small pond near dock

TAKAHE - Tame and common on Tiri

Buff Banded Rail - one seen at dusk at swampland north of Auckland


VARIABLE OYSTERCATCHER - Fairly common on both islands

BLACK STILT - On adult seen on Bourke's Road, south of Punakaiki. Usually found in vicinity of Twizel, Lake Pukaki, Lake Benmore

NEW ZEALAND / RED-BREASTED DOTTEREL - Seen en route to Tiri, on island near Sandspit, Waimera Beach with Karen, and Miranda wetlands - all North Island

DOUBLE-BANDED PLOVER / BANDED DOTTEREL - A pair of flybys near the beach at the end of Bourke's Road, south of Punakaiki

WRYBILL - A medium sized flock at Miranda wetlands

SHORE PLOVER - Possibly one seen on island near Sandspit, en route to Tiri. Karen said they returned to the island a few days later and had one banded bird there

RED-BILLED GULL - Clements now splits this from Silver Gull; common throughout

BLACK-BILLED GULL - one at Miranda wetlands, a few on coast driving from Picton to Kaikoura, and a large flock east of Te Anau at a pond along the road

BLACK-FRONTED TERN - Some along the coast driving between Picton and Kaikoura, at Kaikoura, and driving from Dunedin to Christchurch at a river

White-fronted Tern - fairly common along coasts of both islands and Tiri

NEW ZEALAND PIGEON - Reasonably common, although never numerous, on both islands

KAKA - found on both islands and Stewart Island. We heard a few at Whirinaki Forest, only glimpsing 2 birds flying through the trees. A big miss

KEA - tougher than I thought it would be. A few birds seen in Gertrude valley, near Homer Tunnel, on both visits. None in parking lots - wrong season maybe?

RED-CROWNED PARAKEET - Only seen at Tiri, where it was fairly common

YELLOW-CROWNED PARAKEET - Whirinaki Forest on North Island, and Routebourne track past Glenorchy on South Island

MOREPORK - Split from Southern Boobook by Clements. Seen well at Karen and Chris' house. Heard and glimpsed on Tiri; many heard at Bullock Creek track at Paparoa Forest on South Island

RIFLEMAN - Blue Pools track in Haast Pass, Routebourne track past Glenorchy, and one seen at edge of forest in Gertrude Valley.

ROCK WREN - Another big miss, although we had terrible weather and the season was wrong. One or two probably heard in Gertrude Valley, but nothing seen. A false alarm when a Rifleman appeared in the forest at the very edge of treeline

FERNBIRD - Another skulker. Finally seen well at Sinclair Wetlands, tape assisted

WHITEHEAD - Common on Tiri, also seen at Whirinaki and Kaimanawe road south of Rangipo.

YELLOWHEAD - One of the more difficult endemics. We found it fairly easily at the Routebourne track past Glenorchy. A tape was used, but maybe not necessary to find it

BROWN CREEPER / PIPIPI - A treetop bird that I first dismissed because it looks much darker and grayer than the illustration in the book. A couple seen badly (and dismissed) at the Blue Pools track in Haast Pass, and at the Routebourne track past Glenorchy

TOMTIT - Seen at Whirinaki, and again en route to the Blue Duck site; on the South Island at Paparoa Forest

NEW ZEALAND ROBIN - Whirinaki on North Island, and west coast of South Island

STITCHBIRD - Tiri only, where it is common

BELLBIRD - Fairly common on both islands and Tiri, seen on 6 of 16 days

TUI - Common on both islands, seen on 6 of 16 days

KOKAKO - Only saw one pair at the last moment on Tiri; also possible at Pureora State Forest

SADDLEBACK - Only seen at Tiri


New Zealand Fur Seal
Hooker's Sea Lion
Hector's Dolphin
Bottlenose Dolphins
Dusky Dolphin
Bushy Tailed Possum


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