Tuesday 3 November 2015

A day amongst giants and fairies

We were up a little later this morning after our nocturnal activities, and everyone breakfasted and readied themselves for the day.  A shining-bronze cuckoo calling nearby stirred everyone up, and running around the accommodations all were alerted to the bird, which stayed put and was seen well by everyone.

We then headed north towards the beautiful Waipoua Forest, where we wound our way between the kauri trees towards Tane Mahuta, ‘Lord of the Forest’.  We wandered into the cool, mossy forest, along the little boardwalk, and stood in front of this spectacular tree.  There was not a lot of bird action around, but there didn’t need to be.  Standing in awe in front of such a tree was enough.  We snapped a few photos, then headed back out, finding some diminutive greenhood orchids in flower, probably the kauri greenhood (Pterostylis agathicola).  We did hear more shining-bronze cuckoos calling, and spotted a grey warbler, but it was time to head south again.

We headed back through Dargaville and across to a small pond near Waipu.  Pulling up we spotted a pair of New Zealand dabchick on the pond, and then in another spot, a nest with two eggs exposed.  This was strange for a grebe, but within a very short time, an Australasian little grebe snuck into the nest, covered it with weed and then snuck away again – clearly the bird had been off the nest when we arrived, perhaps just nearby, and our arrival caused enough concern to cover the nest.  We had excellent views of the pair of Australasian little grebes coming in to the nest to add extra material, and swimming around, and then departed to let them get back on with incubation.

We grabbed some lunch from a local bakery, again more pie crumbs hitting the floor, before heading to a local spot to look for fairy tern.  With binoculars in hand we sat and ate lunch and then as we were nearing the end a fairy tern in breeding plumage flew across in front of us.  We had good views but wanted more.  We headed out to search, and found some confiding variable oystercatchers, a few distant New Zealand dotterels and a few other bits and pieces, and then the same fairy tern flew right past us and landed nearby!  It bathed for a while and then preened nearby, giving fantastic views of this, New Zealand’s rarest bird.  Just 40 individuals are left of this subspecies.  We soaked it all in, before heading away, seeing another bird fly over the neighbouring fields, obviously heading to another waterway.  That is 2 birds out of 40!  A little way along the road, three cattle egret were a surprise!

We headed south along the coast, making a stop for a very confiding New Zealand dotterel, who allowed a close encounter, and then headed to a local reserve area to see what we could find.  Firstly, a family of mum, dad and four duckling brown teal made a nice appearance, and then some nice confiding Paradise shelducks, pukekos, and our first bellbirds of the trip.  A single kaka flew high overhead, first one way and then back the other…clearly it couldn’t make up its mind!  We then chased around a few kingfishers, Eastern rosellas, and found a confiding New Zealand pigeon feeding on leaves.

However, 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 = 48 + 2 heard (Cook’s petrel, greenfinch); new for the trip = 13; total for the trip to date = 63

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