You know it is going to be a great tour when the first things discussed upon meeting in the carpark are “Which Sauvignon Blanc is worth drinking?”, and “When do we get our first pie?”! We loaded the van, rather poorly as happens the first morning of every 21-day tour, and then headed out into the streets of Auckland. Navigating through all the early morning traffic we headed to a forested area in the west of the city, managing to spot copious numbers of spotted doves, and even one being hunted by a half-hearted cat that clearly was too well fed to really put any effort into the attempt.
At the forest area we had excellent views of tui and New Zealand pigeon, before a noisy sulphur-crested cockatoo flew over and then showed off perching in some nearby trees. A calling shining-bronze cuckoo would not oblige us, but good views of grey warbler and tomtit rounded things off. Introduced California quails, Eastern rosellas, and chaffinches also put in an appearance.
We then headed to a nearby Australasian gannet colony, where there was a little drizzle coming in off the sea every now and then. But that didn’t dampen the spirits and we had excellent views out over the breeding colony, where clearly many birds had not yet laid their eggs – a little late perhaps this season. The white-fronted terns appeared to be in full swing however, with many birds having small chicks sheltering beside them at the nest.
We then headed into a bakery to attempt our first assault, and it went smoothly. I have to say the group managed very well under a barrage of pies, pastries and cappuccinos, and we made our escape intact. WE headed to a nearby pond to have lunch and managed to find a few waterbirds – including New Zealand scaup, New Zealand grebe, little black and little pied cormorants, and some more confiding fantails. Next stop was a sewage ponds – it wouldn’t be a birding tour without one – and we managed to find a brown teal, which was rather a surprise. Canada geese and mallards rounded off a few more introduced birds for the day.
We then gradually headed north to Dargaville, making a couple of unsuccessful stops to search for Australian pelican, before getting to breakfast foods at the supermarket and then heading on northwards to our accommodations. We checked in and had a little time to relax before dinner and then out looking for Northern brown kiwi. All was quiet to start with, then morepork started to call and then we heard a few calls from distant kiwi. Then we spotted a female kiwi, and nearby a male called. We hoped for her to respond, but she didn’t, however we did have excellent views of her. We carried on search for banded kokupu in a nearby stream, and long-finned eels, plus a bunch of cave wetas. We decided to head back around towards where we had seen the female earlier and were rewarded with excellent prolonged views of her. Fantastic, we are off to a great start!
Day total – Seen = 50 + 2 heard (shining-bronze cuckoo, morepork); new for the trip = 50; total for the trip to date = 50