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Wednesday 17 October 2018

New Zealand - Bethells Beach

 October 13th

Now back from Queenstown, I had heard from the family that Bethells Beach held breeding New Zealand Dotterel, one of the birds I was hoping to see on our visit.

I had already visited the beach previously courtesy of Shaun when we went for a look see with Quinn, it’s a beautiful black sand beach with a pretty wild coastline.

Needless to say it attracts Surfers, Dog Walkers and Ramblers which keeps the birds on the move, on our 1st visit I saw 3 birds distantly which quickly disappeared with the level of traffic down the beach.
Hence I made a visit on the above date leaving the family home in darkness and arriving as dawn arrived, no one else was here except the mad Englishman.

Walking up to the beach produced Kingfisher, Eastern Rosella, California Quail (males are smart), Fantails and Silvereyes, a good start as I hit the main beach.

I had only started the long walk up, being mindful to keep well down and away from the sand dunes where they breed, when up pops a New Zealand Dotterel. 

Smart looking waders somewhere in between a Ringed and Grey Plover for size, they are endangered and there are only around 1700 birds left in New Zealand.

Once a common bird, the decline is due to habitat loss (a familiar story in the UK), predation by introduced mammals and disturbance.

I ended up finding 2 on the beach; their breeding season is from late September to March so I suspect the 2 that I saw have only just arrived/started to breed.

One good thing what they do here is to identify the nests and then put an exclusion zone around each nest. 

During the beach walk I was glancing out to sea occasionally to see what passed, Red Billed Gulls, Pied Shags, Gannets, White Fronted Terns and a small Tern that could have been a Fairy Tern, a distant Shearwater could have been anything.

A good visit and well worth the walk down the beach for the scenery alone.

Saturday 13 October 2018

New Zealand

South Island

What can I say, a stunning place and stunning scenery, absolutely love the Town,we had heard about it and it surpassed expectations for us both,we have had a fantastic time here with our family,a big thanks to them both.

The house where we stayed at for 3 days would have slotted straight in to Emerson Park,quite something else and with all the mod con’s,it also offered out of this world views of the Southern Alps.

Heading towards Queenstown
Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu in the distance

Being with them all has been the icing on the cake and as per the previous post,our grand children 
Erin and Quinn have given us a lot of joy and happy times to remember.

We have been out a lot not surprisingly around the South Island,Arrowtown had a lot of history as an old mining town and we also had a boat trip out on Lake Wakatipu, the scenery that this offered was spectacular to say the least.We have also had drives through the mountains, one bird that I have been looking for is New Zealand Falcon since we arrived, I understand endangered, no sightings in the mountains but plenty of Australasian Harriers.These were seen at the lower altitudes and behave more like our Common Buzzards in regards to foraging and foraging habitat, quite at home in Woodlands as well. 

I also connected at last with Black Billed Gull, it seems from the numbers present perhaps a common species around Queenstown?Not sure as to where they breed or there breeding grounds but all seen were adults barring one.

Other birds seen were New Zealand Scaup, Grey Duck although I suspect a lot of interbreeding with Mallards with some of those seen, good views of Tui and my 1st Bellbird singing,also had a couple of calls which I couldn’t identify but suspected they were ‘good’ birds. 

New Zealand Scaup



Grey Duck

As mentioned lots of English species here, Chaffinch’s and House Sparrows are everywhere and I have also seen Yellowhammer, Skylark, numerous Blackbird and Song Thrush and also quite a lot of Redpoll. 

Some of the trees here have to be seen to be believed,they are enormous both in height and girth, one tree in Queenstown Park is a type of Redwood, Sequoiadendron giganteum or Wellingtonia, hopefully I have that right.Its size and girth are enormous, I understand that many were planted in the late 1870’s.Quite humbling when you realise that you are looking at a tree that is around 140 years old.

Having this amount of water on your doorstep, its not surprising there are a lot of water based activities, boat and ship rides, flotilla plane, para gliding, jet boats and the best of the lot, shark boats. 

These are 2 man and you are taken out as a passenger,they are very fast and manoeuvrable, they also dive and leap out of the water just like a Great White, they are very spectacular but also not cheap.

Jet boats

Shark boat - spectacular

Summing up,we loved Queenstown. 

Tuesday 9 October 2018


October 5th

When we were here with our family 5 years ago I went on a Whale and Dolphin tour of the Hauraki Gulf, always been in my head as I saw some good birds although at a different time of year, April.

This time Chris came with me in the hope of hopefully seeing a Whale and some Dolphins, she had never seen either, on the bird front I was not expecting too much as most would be preparing for nesting at their breeding grounds.

Previous to us boarding we came across a flock of Red Billed Gulls bathing in fresh water along with an adult Black Backed Gull, the Red Bills are a nice looking Gull, as yet I have still not seen a Black Billed Gull. 

Auckland is a beautiful city with the Skytower dominating all, as we cruised out of the harbour we got some great views before we speeded up heading for the Gulf. 

Sitting on the front soon proved a mistake as both of us got drenched along with 20 or so others, there was around 70 on board, most like me thought the front would be the best, especially for the Dolphins. 
On the previous day they had connected with Bryde’s Whale, a pod of Orca’s, which I have never seen and 100’s of Dolphins so hopes were high.

Starting seeing birds about a mile out, firstly Australasian Gannets and then some White Fronted Terns as we started the search for the ocean giants.
The catamaran travels at a fair old trot, around 25 knots, its hard photographing birds at that speed, what you are relying on is for them to sight a whale, however after 3 hours we still hadn’t caught up with one although we did encounter a small group of Dolphins.
We slowed to look at these and I did manage to get a few photos, mainly Buller’s Shearwaters but also White Faced Storm Petrel and Common Diving Petrel, 2 bigger Shears seen at distance looked good for Sooty’s.
Also seen was Lions Mane Jellyfish and a Sunfish on the trip, eventually we found our target in a 25 metre Bryde’s Whale that gave distant views, I got some photos of this and also some more sea birds.

After a while it disappeared and it was time to head for home, the whale was great to see but we didn’t catch up with any Orca’s unfortunately. 

In view of this and the limited views of the Bryde’s and only 5 Dolphin, the company gave everyone on board a voucher to return at any time in the future, fair play to them.