Wednesday 14 November 2012

South Island here we come!

First off we headed for the Manawatu River Estuary to see what we could find. This spot is renowned as one of the best shorebird sites in New Zealand, largely because of its ease of access and viewing, which probably allows for one of the best vagrant species lists for the country also.

The tide was approaching full as we arrived and we found a small group of bar-tailed godwit and red-knot feeding and roosting on the edge of the tide. There was no sign of the smaller shorebirds, such as wrybill, so we scanned for these. There were several Royal spoonbills perched on a log out in the middle of the river, and small numbers of white-fronted terns flying around also, but no sign of the gull-billed terns, until one was seen flying off down the river towards the mouth.

As the tide moved the birds around a bit, we decided to head down to the spit as smaler birds could be seen roosting amongst the driftwood, and as we did one of the gull-billed terns arrived and showed nicely with the Caspian terns. A bird in near breeding plumage it will be interesting to see if these birds attempt to breed over the next couple of months.

We headed down towards the spit, and as we were about halfway the flock on the spit lifted and some birds including a small flock of wrybill headed past us and went and landed where we had been! Ha, typical. We carried on to the spit, found a few red knot and godwit and headed back to our original spot where we found about 7 wrybill tucked into the sand roosting, and three sharp-tailed sandpipers. Excellent.

We then headed south, grabbing lunch and investigating a sewage pond (the lunch was grabbed before we got to the sewage pond!) and we sat and had nice close views of NZ grebe (dabchick), grey teal, shovelor and there were several pied stilt families with small chicks running around also.

On to Plimmerton where we ate our lunch by the Plimmerton Fire Station, looking longingly at the piece of beach where sometimes 20-30 shoreplover roost during the winter months. We walked and scanned the shoreline in both directions but to no avail. Nevermind, the lunch was good! So it was then on to the ferry terminal, where we saw the odd fluttering shearwater passing by, but not much else.

he ferry crossing was incredibly quiet, with just a white-capped albatross, a distant Buller’s albatross, and a single Westland petrel, plus a lonely little Cape petrel. As we neared the entrance to Tory Channel we started to see a few fluttering shearwaters, and then a few more as we got in, with red-biled gulls and white-fronted terns. Closer in to Picton we had a few brief Dusky dolphins and checking through the pied and spotted shags couldn’t find anything out of the ordinary. A single parasitic jaeger (Arctic skua) was also seen.

We docked at Picton, drove a short way to our accomodations at Waikawa Bay and then went for dinner. Another great day!

Bird of the day – Wrybill x5, Gull-billed tern x3, Cape petrel x1
Day total – Seen = 51 + 3 heard (pheasant, morepork, greenfinch); new for the trip = 3; total for the trip to date = 122

The shorebird flock at the Manawatu Estuary with Caspian terns and the gull-billed tern in behind them.

Male yellowhammer posing.

Mike says 'Where the heck are they?'

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