Up really early this morning…the sun wasn’t even up! We packed the van and headed for a wetland area in the hope of catch an early bird with a worm…or maybe an eel. We drove for a bit and then parked and overlooked an area of wetland, which when we arrived was very foggy and visibility less than 100m. We waited as the sun slowly rose and started to warm the area, and the fog came and went… Finally after about forty minutes or so the fog started to really thin out, and as it did we spotted a dark shape on the edge of a small pond. Hunched on the bank it could have been a log, but then all of a sudden it turned and showed a pale face and long bill – there was our Australasian bittern! The fog steadily burnt off and we had fantastic views of the bird stretching its wings, preening and shuffling around, whilst a white-faced heron fed nearby. We watched it for about 40 minutes in all, during which time we spotted another bird off on another marshy area about 100m away from it. Excellent!
We scanned the rest of the wetland area, but no other bittern, but we did have greenfinch and chaffinch, our first of the tour! Can’t believe it had taken so long, but there we have it! There were also shovelor, pukeko, swamp harriers, great cormorants, and black swans around, so plenty to watch and enjoy.
We then decided to hit the road and head off towards Whitianga. We made a stop in Tairua for coffee, and then up over the windy section to Whitianga. With time in our pockets we headed down to a spot to watch some of the local NZ dotterel on the beach, probably our last of the trip. We then grabbed some lunch and checked into our accommodation, before heading down to the marina to jump on our afternoon pelagic.
We boarded ‘Sapphire’ with Ian our skipper and headed out, seeing an Eastern reef egret on the way, and before long the first fluttering shearwaters, white-fronted terns, and several Arctic skuas that were chasing the terns. A couple of little penguins also slipped past in the water. It was another beautiful day, although overcast, but as we headed out the sun started to show through the clouds and it gradually became brighter and brighter. The sea was almost flat calm with just a slight swell, so perfect conditions…perhaps too perfect!
We made a couple of scenic stops, and cruised past a rocky island where we spied a New Zealand fur seal lounging about, and then headed out into deeper water. A few Buller’s shearwaters and white-faced storm-petrels started to appear, but overall it was fairly quiet bird-wise. After a bit more travelling we arrived at a point we liked the look of, and stopped to put some chum in the water. It didn’t take too long for a couple of Buller’s shearwaters to swing by, and then flesh-footed shearwaters and black petrels to come in. White-faced storm-petrels bounced about in the slick, feeding on droplets of oil and bits of fish. Then we spotted our first Pterodroma petrels, hoping for Pycroft’s petrel, but almost all of the first ten or so birds that passed seemed to be Cook’s. Over the course of the next hour and a half we had about 25 Pterodromas pass by close enough to get decent views of, and most of them appeared to be Cook’s. However, there were at least two birds that were definite Pycroft’s with shorter bills, darker head and shawl patterns, and more bulky chested appearance. As our time drew to a close we spotted several more Pycroft’s and then gradually started to head back in. We passed through a band of birds streaming back towards the Mercury Islands, and almost all of these appeared to be Pycroft’s, so we saw probably another ten birds. Two very fleeting little shearwaters also put in an appearance, and as we got closer, more fluttering shears, etc.
Arriving back at the Marina after an excellent afternoon on the water, we were all famished and headed to a nearby restaurant for another great meal and a few drinks! Everyone will sleep well tonight!
Day total – Seen = 50 + 1 heard (Canada goose); new for the trip = 5; total for the trip to date = 106
Bird of the day – Bittern x1, ???????
|Waiting for the fog to clear
|Bittern in the sunshine
|New Zealand dotterel on the lawn
|Checking out the scenery
|Black petrel swimming on the water
|Cook's petrel in flight showing the upper surface
|Pycroft's petrel flying low to the water
|Flesh-footed shearwater in flight
|White-faced storm-petrel in flight bouncing off the water
|Beautiful Mercury Bay