Monday 5 November 2012

Day Two and a mega pelican day!

Well its always nice awaking to the realisation you were successful in your kiwi hunt the night before. We had a slightly later start because of the nocturnal activities the night before, and headed off northwards around 0830. We stopped in at Tane Mahuta, the very impressive kauri tree found just north of Trounson in the Waipoua Forest. Relatively quiet bird wise around the place, but nice views of pigeon, fleeting view of a male tomtit and even more fleeting glimpse of a shining bronze-cuckoo that was happy to call but not happy to show itself off. We did find some nice orchids though, with perching Earina and Lady slipper (neither in flower), and a stunning flowering Pterostylis, possibly Kauri greenhood. Also a lot of white climbing rata flowering which was nice to see.

We then headed back towards Dargaville, made a last ditch effort to scan the river by Dargaville for any wayward pelicans, and then off towards Waipu. On the way we managed to find a NZ pipit which obliged and gave good views, and also got some nice views of rural NZ and out towards the Whangarei Heads. And it was nice to see the pair of Australasian little grebes on their normal ponds, with at least one dabchick also. Always nice to see them side by side and get a feel for the difference in jizz and plumage colour. No sign of the little grebes breeding though.

Then down in to Waipu to pick up some lunch and off to a lunch spot to scan for fairy terns. Bumping into another birding tour group is a pretty rare event, but we just happened to at this little picnic spot, so swapped a few lines over lunch and had great views of a pair of fairy terns that were on a sandbar nearby. We ended up getting pretty close and got really nice scope views of these really stunning little terns, with just 6 breeding pairs expected this season. Hopefully this will be a good season for them! They ended up heading off up the estuary and we watched them hover over the water feeding, before scanning the godwit and New Zealand dotterels and anything else, and then heading off.

We were literally 5km from Mangawhai Heads when a text message came through on my phone – ‘8 pelicans in Mangawhai harbour now’ Sioux Plowman….WHAT!!! At first I thought somebody had installed a video camera and was having a practical joke, then realising this must be right, the foot went down a little harder on the accelerator. After all the stops yesterday in the wind for nothing, this was too good to be true…but it was true! I hurriedly called her back and she said she had just received a message, and as she gave general directions on how to get there we turned corners and were there. Pulling down to the boat ramp I scanned the estuary and there they were!!!!! Unbelievable! We pulled up, jumped out, and about 500m away were what turned out to be nine Australian pelicans on a sandbar in the middle of the estuary. We gradually walked closer and got to within a few hundred metres, getting nice views through the scope and a few reord shots from a distance, but what an absolute mega! I need to buy Sioux a beer! We also had another fairy tern pass by very close, and then spotted another off in the distance, so another pair here as well…something like 40% of the breeding population within a few hours!

We enjoyed the moment and then headed back to the van, heading through Mangawhai and on to Tawharanui Regional Park. On the way we spotted a couple of kookaburra, who led us on a bit of a merry dance before we got them in the scope, and the stunning views of a pair of buff-banded rail very close and feeding in the open, with a third a way off but right out in the open. Awesome, as some of the group had just spent time in Oz looking for these little blighters and missed them. Always nice to pull sometimes tricky birds like this back!

So by now it was beer o’clock, so we headed back into Warkworth, checked into the accomodation and then on for an awesome dinner at the Bridge House Bar, great food as always!

Bird of the day – Buff-banded rail x4, pipit x1, kookaburra x2, pelican x2
Day total – Seen = 52+ 1 heard (shining bronze-cuckoo); new for the trip = 5; total for the trip to date = 59

The gang in front of Tane Mahuta, what a sight (the tree or the gang?).

The crown

Greenhood orchid, probably Pterostylis agathicola or Kauri greenhood.

The full plant, stunning little thing and so easy to miss.

THERE THEY ARE! Looking at the pelicans in the distance...

…in the distance!

Variable oystercatcher walking through the surf

YIPEEE!!! Australian pelicans, a new species for a Wrybill Birding Tours, NZ trip list and a NZ tick for me!

Fairy tern in flight

Celebrating the 9 pelicans! That's them over Bill's left shoulder in the centre!

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