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Friday 26 April 2013

New Zealand

Waitakere Ranges and Omaha 


The park and ranges are not far from Auckland, in fact less than 30 minutes away, it has a visitor centre full of goodies overlooking a vast sub-tropical forest. Of the fauna one of the many attractions is the Kauri Tree, they are quite simply enormous both in girth, similar to my waistline nowadays, and in height. Like Redwoods they are staggering to observe as many have their own little ecological system up higher with a number of other fauna growing out of them, the trees in the park are about a 1000 years old but some can be double that.

There are a number of walks you can go on, from short ones which myself and Shaun were doing around an hour, to all day walks, the interior is very dense, if you leave the footpath you can become disorientated and lost, people have.
As we started our walk the first birds that gave themselves up were Sulphar Crested Cockatoo, an Australian introduction, as with most Parrots they were heard before we saw them, they are loud.

Tom Tit

Grey Warbler

Going deeper I got onto a Fernbird in an open marsh section, trying to get a photo of this proved impossible, I then had brief views of a Rifleman and then as we moved on a Grey Warbler. The density 
of the habitat made it very hard to get onto anything, tantalizing glimpses and then gone.

The best bird by far and one that I have not seen came as we exited the forest, a pair of Tom Tits, although a common endemic I had missed them on the first trip in 2007, the male in particular was a little cracker. The photos I got of him were not great as I forgot to up the ISO for the umpteenth time, never less there not too bad.

New Zealand Pigeon - bigger than our Woodie significantly

A New Zealand Pigeon was outside as we drew up near the car finished the walk off, not a lot of species seen; New Zealand doesn’t have a big list of birds but just enjoyable walking through the Forest. 


My daughter and Shaun had booked this up for 4 days for a getaway break for us all, the house was stunning, right next to a 2 mile beach that had no one on it, and at the end of the beach was a Bird Reserve, exceptionally stunning .The reserve was a breeding site for New Zealand Dotterel and Fairy Tern, both very rare and endangered, unfortunately both had bred and moved on as we were now starting Autumn. 2 days in and I headed down the beach for a walk, Gannet, Banded Dotterel, Arctic Skua and Caspian Tern were all seen on the way, I did find 4 NZ Dotterel but these were feeding distantly out at low tide when I got to the end. Amongst them were Bar Tailed Godwits, Banded Dotterel and both Oyc’s,after a good look round I then headed back, age, 70 odd degrees and all the gear I was carrying, camera, bins, backpack and telescope was taking its toll. It used to be so easy when all I had was bins.

The endless beach

What beach's are for, fun - Erin and Shaun

Banded Dotterel

Caspian Tern

The next day I grabbed an hour at dawn and walked inland and found a lake, a proper little oasis, this held a number of Waterfowl, no fewer than 14 Brown Teal which is a rarity, 4 Australian Shoveler, 10 Grey Duck, a pair of Paradise Shelduck and Pukeko’s everywhere. 
Silvereyes and Fantails were everywhere as usual and a White Faced Heron put on a good show for the camera.

Brown Teal 

Grey Duck

White Faced Heron

Australasian Shoveler

During the stay I also went and saw Auckland Blues play at Eden Park, for those that know me I am a big Rugby fan having followed Saracens for years, this visit was a Fathers day present from my daughter. Glad to say that the Blues won, comparing it to the English game and there is no doubt that there is more tenacity at the breakdown, I think that this comes from a naturally strong and athletic people. 

Eden Park

Try time

Great to watch and a marvelous atmosphere so a big thank you to my daughter Julie and Shaun and the company of Jeff and Danni. 

Saturday 20 April 2013

New Zealand

Miranda Shorebird Centre 

This was one of the places that I really wanted to visit having heard, both from the internet and word of mouth it was a must see when you’re in NZ.
Armed with my daughters Suzuki Swift I set out at dawn from Auckland and in little over an hour I was driving down the coast road at Miranda, the centre was still closed so I explored further up the coast.

I had not checked the Tides but it was quite obvious from the number of Variable and Pied Oystercatchers piling in that I had got very lucky indeed.
After going through these, Pied Stilts and Bar Tailed Godwit were also present I headed back down the coast road to the car park which I had passed earlier, waders were coming in thick and fast to the shallow pools.

Ringed Variable

Walking out to the 1st hide produced Pacific Golden Plover and a single Marsh Sandpiper amongst the hordes of Stilts arriving, had a good look at the P G Plovers as some were well into summer plumage, or as it was autumn were they losing it, the latter most likely. 

Pacific Golden Plovers

Moving on to the hide and many Terns were assembled, these included mostly White Fronted but there were also 33 Caspian’s present, dwarfing all were 4 Royal Spoonbills. Black Billed Gulls were also present in numbers and White Faced Herons were also very common. Out in the Firth of Thames I counted at least 10 Arctic Skuas doing the usual, ambushing Terns. 

The view

All the time I was watching a variety of waders were flying overhead in behind me, the pools were calling so I headed there pronto, I also met a very nice couple on the way who knew of Suttons Lane, Hornchurch just round the corner from me, it’s a small world and if you’re reading this, hello to you both. 

When I arrived there must have been upwards of 4000 waders at roost, 2000 of these at least were Wrybill, a bird that I have never seen, similar to winter plumed Sanderlings with the obvious difference of a horizontally curved bill. Going through the rest produced 3 Sharp Tailed Sandpipers and around 40 Banded Dotterel, another which was on want to see list having only seen them very distantly on the previous visit of 2007.

Wrybill in the foreground with 2 Sharp Tailed Sandpipers on the mud.

Lesser Knot

The remainder was made up off large numbers of Stilts, Bar Tailed Godwits and around 600 Lesser Knot, these were cracking looking birds in partial summer plumage, again a 1st. 
In the end I didn’t get any further than the pools but quite simply enjoyed what I was looking at in front of me, I stayed for at least 4 hours until the tide turned and got some photos as they left.


Wrybill and Banded Dotterel

Pied Stilt

Banded Dotterel

Hoping I have got this one right -New Zealand Dotterel, only 1700 left in NZ

Lesser Knot

To finish off the day I visited the centre, could easily have emptied the wallet in there but behaved myself, until the next time…..  

Sunday 14 April 2013

New Zealand

Arrived back late Saturday after an 18 day visit to see our daughter, son in law and of course the grandchildren and glad to say we were blessed with good weather most of the time.

The countryside/towns are exactly as I remembered it from my last visit of 2007, totally unspoilt and litter free , England of old in some ways but with a sub-tropical landscape thrown in regarding the fauna.Birdwise the English influence is everywhere, House Sparrows abound in large flocks and Song Thrush, Yellowhammer, Skylark and Blackbird are all common birds.

Here and there I slipped away to do some birding and visited some cracking sites forwarded by Graham (Ekins), Miranda Shorebird Centre(stunning), Mangere Sewage Ponds and Tiri tiri Matangi island to name but a few. If you are ever out there Tiri is worth the visit even without the endemic birds, it is a beautiful island and straight out of a novel.

Of course the real reason for the visit was to see the family, my daughter and Shaun put up with us well and we got to see our grandson Quinn for the first time, a typical boy of 1, anything over 12 inches has to be climbed or walked into. Our granddaughter Erin is growing fast and starts school in 5 weeks’ time, the hardest thing on the holiday was getting on the plane and leaving them all. 

Erin, myself, Quinn and Chris


Due to the number of photos I took, over a 1000 I am going to spread the reports out starting with the Parks around Auckland.

My daughter and Shaun adjoin a smallish park and I visited this a number of times, after a while trying to get close to a Kingfisher became a challenge. The park held Spur Winged Plover, Eastern Rosella, Grey Warbler and the ever present Silvereyes, these are simply everywhere.

Monarch - slightly worn

Pukeko - just about everywhere

Eels competing with wildfowl for scraps

Spur Winged Plover

Myna - another very common bird

A touch of colour - Eastern Rosella


Spotted Dove

Australian Magpie

I will post more shortly.