Wednesday 12 February 2020

Day eight - squawking falcons!

Up early and off to look for bittern.  Not an easy bird in New Zealand.  And they proved that this morning.  After a bit of driving and an hour standing and watching we had nothing to show for it.  Except some coot, a few fleeting fernbird, and a lovely vista!
We headed off and checked out some locations for blue duck and had really nice views of a male and female with a large juvenile from this season.  We watched them feeding along the edge of the river and the juvenile diving and feeding.  We wandered along the river a bit spotting a few other introduced bits and pieces, including a California quail and youngsters, a dunnock, and yellowhammer.  It was a super nice sunny morning, and just lovely to be out.
We headed back to the accommodation, packed the van, grabbed lunch and then got on the road.  After a bit we stopped and found an area literally bristling with fernbird.  We had good views of about 4-5 birds, and the gang managed a few photos as well.  There were certainly some juvenile birds around, and perhaps this was helping with them being so visible this morning.
We carried on, beautiful views out over Lake Taupo, and looking back to the mountains.  Then on towards the East Coast. Stunning scenery, and then a lot of pine forest, but back into the native and mountainous sheep farming country.  We wound our way into the hills and finally came to a forest where we had a lovely lunch enjoying the native forest surrounding us, and then went for a walk.  It was relatively quiet in the forest, being pretty warm and near the middle of the day.  But we heard tui and bellbird chiming away, got whitehead and grey warbler, and several robins.  And then a snatch of juvenile falcon call…  Hmmmm, that sounded close.  We searched and search.  The beech trees just above us had to be hiding them, but it was almost impossible to see up where we though the intermittent calls were coming from.  And then finally after about half an hour of searching, a fluttering of wings and enough to locate where they were.  In the end, two juvenile falcons in the top of a beech tree.  We had them in the scope and pretty good views, even better when they turned to face us, but still high and not really able to be photographed.  Then the one moved to another tree, allowing much better photos and views.  What a little stunner.  Every now and then, possibly as an adult was glimpsed the juveniles would call, and finally we had two birds flying and circling over us, with an adult and at least one of the chicks flying!  Perfect.  What an awesome encounter.
We decided to head on, walking through more beautiful forest and then back to the carpark.  We headed on towards the coast, and made a stop in Napier to look for one of the long staying plumed-whistling ducks.  We found it after a bit, getting lovely views.  And some really nice observations of little pied cormorants and all of the various plumages, from juveniles with no white, through to full white-breasted morphs.  And as if perfectly placed, two little black cormorants for comparison!
We then did a little tour of Napier, looking at the beautiful Art Deco architecture, before checking in to the accommodation.  Another lovely dinner, another great day!
Day total – Seen = 57 inc 1 heard (spotless crake, whitehead, tomtit); new for the trip = 5; total for the trip to date = 110
The happy falconers!

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