Monday 5 November 2012

Day One and we're off

So here goes! It's that time again, we started a 21-day tour yesterday, but wasn't able to get this uploaded as in Trounson with no cellphone. What a first day, and today has been fantastic as well…

A grey and windy day dawned in Auckland, and we slowly gathered the troops from places around the central city. Coming into Spring it was feeling like a classic blustery day, which we hoped wouldn’t bring too much in the way of rain.

We headed across town towards the Waitakeres, picking up Phil along the way, and checking out his garden neighbouring the forest park, getting nice views of a yellowhammer and several tui. We then spent about half an hour looking out over some of the beautiful Waitakere Park with nice views over the kauri forest. We had excellent views of tui in bright sunshine showing their beautiful irridescent plumage and neck filoplumes, the gaudy but introduced (ooh-la-la) Eastern rosella, and a few distant New Zealand pigeon. A couple of grey warbler chased each other around us, and we kept eyes and ears out for sulphur-crested cockatoo, but no luck.

We then headed off out to the west coast to check out an Australasian gannet colony, on the way stopping to pick up some lunch. Now I really don’t know if these guys had diligently studied my earlier trip reports, or whether it was complete coincidence, but they viciously attacked the pie warmer, almost clearing it out! Marvin would have been so proud!

Out on the coast the wind was fair pumping in off the Tasman Sea, and there was a lot of white water along the coast. But the gannets were all in attendance, although very little sign of any eggs. It would seem that gannets right around the country are at least a month late in their breeding cycle this year. There was however a large white-fronted tern colony along the cliffs of the mainland and on the stack, and every now and then they would ‘panic’ into flight. It was clear there was still a bit of courtship going on with birds flying around with small silver fish in their bills. Having posed for a few group shots, when then headed back towards the east coast, and I was greatly surprised to see all lunch packages intact until we reached our lunch spot overlooking some ponds. We soon had several dabchick in the scope, and good views of Pacific black duck and Asutralasian shovelor, before then heading to another set of ponds and getting nice views of grey teal and all the other species…even a mallard or two. There were several broods of paradise shelducks along the way, and then we hit the east coast. Several New Zealand dotterel, one pair with at least three large fluffy chicks, and both South Island and variable oystercatchers were found on one of the coastal beaches.

We then gradually headed northwards towards Dargaville, checking out several places near Ruawai where the recent influx of vagrant Australian pelicans had been seen. Unfortunately the very strong westerly wind had not abated and made it unlikely that any self-respecting pelican would be floating around in the gale, so unfortunately it wasn’t to be.

We grabbed some stores in Dargaville and then headed on up to Trounson to our accomodation. An hour or so at rest allowed good views of kingfisher, rosella and a few other bits and bobs, before a lovely dinner at a local pub. Really good kiwi grub, and the peach crumble with custard, ice-cream AND cream was a real treat. Fully stocked up on calories we headed out to look for Northern brown kiwi. Just after arriving we heard a male calling, but all else was quiet and we had spent a fair bit of time on the ground before the first morepork was heard calling…and no sign of any kiwi. It wasn’t looking good. We decided to give it a bit more, and as we were discussing a plan a male called very nearby. Moving slowly towards the calling it stopped and moments later another bird called. We headed over to the edge of the forest and could hear the one bird just inside the bush edge snuffling and stomping around. Then all of a sudden I realised there was an intruder amongst us, and flicking on the spotlight a juvenile kiwi ran right between us all and into the forest, having come out onto the grass behind us! All too brief a couple of people had missed it, and as the stomping in the bush diminished we decided to head back in on the track and see what we could find. Just a few minutes down the track the spotlight hit a small chick from this season right on the edge of the track. Showing for a few moments it moved slowly off the track, and headed closer to the bird with the spotlight off we got into position. Flicking the spotlight back on we realised there was another kiwi, this time an adult male (and possibly one that had been calling out near the grass a little earlier) was right there as well, and we had great views of it feeding, and then walking up along a fallen tree, showing its whole body, bill and big stocky legs! Perfect, but where had the chick gone. Turning the spotlight off and waiting we heard something move relatively closeby and with the light on again saw the chick also move up onto another log and walk along that, but unfortunately not showing as well before disappearing. Figuring we should leave them to get on with their business, and having an absolutely stonking encounter with at least three kiwi, we back tracked and headed back to the carpark! Wow, what an awesome end to day one!

Bird of the day – Northern brown kiwi
Day total – Seen = 47 + 2 heard (dunnock, morepork); new for the trip = 47; total for the trip to date = 47

White-fronted terns nest on the rock stack just of the shore.

A 'panic' of white-fronted terns takes to the air over the colony.

Mostly white-fronted terns still without eggs, but some were incubating.

A stunning white-fronted tern banks in the sky.

An Australasian gannet approaches the colony looking for its nest.

Looking down trying to find the right nest, not wanting to land in the wrong place.

The troops line up for their mug shot.

A lot of white water up the coast with a honking westerly wind.

And looking out to sea into the teeth of the gale.

Two cave wetas sheltering under a log during our nocturnal walk…they are slower than kiwi and don't mind the flash!

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