Tuesday 28 January 2014

Fairy tern hopeful

After the lovely clear night before with sightings of kiwi under the belt, it was strange to wake up to drizzle.  However, a few little showers over breakfast were all that eventuated, and byt the time we left the accommodation and headed north it was scattered cloud, all be it a little blustery.  We headed to Tane Mahuta, the very impressive kauri tree found just north of Trounson in the Waipoua Forest, where we did the short walk, checking out some of the plants and managing beaut views of a grey warbler feeding a recently fledged juvenile, and nice views of a male tomtit.  Not a lot of other bird action around, so we decided to head back to the south and to a site for Australasian little grebe.

We found the pair of grebes on their usual pond, which was great, as the birds had apparently taken off for a week or so recently, so nice to see them back there.  We then headed down into Waipu, grabbed some lunch at a bakery, and then headed to a nearby estuary to enjoy our lunch in beautiful sunshine, overlooking the estuary.

Before we even got out of the van a fairy tern had been spotted in the distance, and upon getting out we quickly had it in the scope, and had found another one also roosting on the mudflats.  They were a long way off and the heat haze was pretty bad, so we hoped for better views.  But in the meantime we ate lunch, and checked out the other birds nearby, which included a lot of variable oystercatchers and New Zealand dotterels, a reef egret, and a good flock of bar-tailed godwit and red knot.  To round things off several banded dotterel and some turnstone were present.

Finishing lunch we decided to get a little closer to one of the fairy terns, which had by now flown over the channel for a bit hunting fish, and had then landed closer to us.  On closer inspection we realised it was the recently fledged juvenile bird.  However, there were at least two adults around also, and every now and then one would fly in with a fish and feed the juvenile.  We had several fantastic views of the adults hovering over the channel right in front of us, only to plunge right into the water and come up with a fish which it then fed to the juvenile.  Cracking stuff!  And in between all this we had variable oystercatchers, red knot and bar-tailed godwit, and New Zealand dotterel running and feeding around us.  Plenty to look at and point the camera at!

After a few hours enjoying the area and the birds we decided to head on south to another location in the hope of seeing buff-banded rail.  And sure enough, we had a bird pop out right in front of us, and showing off pretty well.  It disappeared for a bit and then came back out and went back to where it had appeared from, only to come out again with two tiny little chicks following it!  Very cool!  We kept a watch out for it, but it didn’t appear again, so we had to amuse ourselves with tui and bellbird feeding in flax flowers, brown teal feeding in the shallows, and variable oystercatchers and purple swamphen (pukeko) running around the place.  All with brilliant sunshine and a cooling breeze – perfect!

But it was soon time to head to the accommodation, quickly checkin and then head off out for dinner, having worked up a pretty good appetite!

Day total – Seen = 51; new for the trip = 13; total for the trip to date = 65

The big tree!

With the group at the base...


Looking at the fairy terns

Photographers in action
Etienne getting close to a New Zealand dotterel

Red knot feeding on the mudflats

Fairy tern hovering waiting for the plunge

Heading back with a fish to feed the juvenile

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