Tuesday 28 January 2014

Starting out

Well luckily the heavy rain, thunder, and lightening of the day before had cleared and broken cloud and sunny conditions prevailed…although the wind that had blown it all away was still with us.

We packed the van – always a trial and error experience on the first morning – and then headed for our first stop, a forest stop nearby in the beautiful Waitakeres.  We had excellent views of tui in bright sunshine showing their beautiful irridescent plumage and neck filoplumes, as well as great views of New Zealand pigeon and fantail and then a small group of sulphur-crested cockatoos flew in to show off.  A few more Australians made an appearance, with masked lapwing and Eastern rosella added to the list.  We then headed out to the nearby Muriwai Beach gannet colony where there was a stiff breeze blowing, but plenty of action with a lot of chicks in the colony, and lots of adults coming and going.  Nice to also see lots of white-fronted terns around, with young birds just learning to fly, and even one seen to eat a grashopper that got too close!  We spent quite a bit of time just enjoying the spectacle and the photographers were in heaven with lots of birds to choose from for flight photography.

We then headed off and made a quick stop at a bakery to grab lunch, before heading to a small wetland pond area where we had our first waterfowl, with plenty of paradise shelduck, mallard, Pacific black duck, and a few grey teal.  It didn’t take long for several New Zealand dabchick to be spotted, including an adult and juv, the latter of which was being given the hurry up by the adult who obviously thought it was time for the teenager to depart!  We also had great views of little pied and little black cormorants side by side, and white-faced heron, and several broods of New Zealand scaup.

Next we headed on northwards, checking out a couple of stops for the recently arrived Australian pelicans, but alas they were nowhere to be seen.  A few gulls, terns, and cormorants would have to do.  Then a quick stop in Dargaville to stock up on breakfast goods, before heading on up to our accommodation for the evening, where we checked in and then had a quick breather before heading out for dinner.  And what a dinner it was!  The local tavern turned on a real feast for us, with massive steaks and fish meals, and then a beautiful dessert.  Of course this was all washed down with some good kiwi beer and wine!

However, not too much to drink as we then headed out after dinner for our first kiwi opportunity, with a walk through a local forest area for Northern brown kiwi.  We heard at least 5 different male kiwi calling during the course of the evening, and managed to get brief but ok views of one bird, and then really good prolonged views of a second bird a bit later.  So a nice start to the tour with our first kiwi species under the belt!  We also saw several brush-tailed possums (not so great!), plus long-finned eel, cave weta, and freshwater crayfish.  Not too bad considering we were almost tucked up in bed before the strike of midnight!

Day total – Seen = 52 + 3 heard (dunnock, North Island robin, morepork); new for the trip = 52; total for the trip to date = 52

Geoff looked unimpressed with awesome views of spotted dove!

Looking out over beaut forest for tui, pigeon, and tom it (and sulphur-crested cockatoo)

Spot the guys with the big lenses!

Which way to point the camera?

Muriwai Beach gannet colony

The gang!

It wouldn't be a birding tour without a sewage ponds!

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