Sunday 2 February 2014

Best laid plans

Most of us were up nice and early and headed back to the Stilt Ponds to watch the tide coming in again.  This time with the sun coming up the light was fantastic, but meant that the shellbanks were looking into the sun, but the light onto the Stilt Ponds themselves was beautiful.  A large flock of about 500+ wrybill was already starting to gather on the edge beside the Stilt Ponds, and before long we had spotted several sharp-tailed and curlew sandpipers.  Then the long staying marsh sandpiper flew in and landed in amongst the pied stilts on the pond – nice!

Shortly after the bar-tailed godwit and red knot started to fly in and wheel around the ponds, landing in the shallow water.  The photographers were in heaven, and sneaking in to the edge of the ponds allowed great views of the marsh sandpiper, sharp-tailed, and wrybill.  With the morning light and no wind the reflections were fantastic!  We spent time scanning the birds to try and find anything unusual, or the black-tailed godwit that we had seen briefly the day before, but nothing made itself obvious.

So it was time to head back to the accommodation and pack up, and then headed up and over to Whitianga.  It was beautiful and sunny, but having heard from our skipper for the planned afternoon pelagic it sounded like it was very windy out on the water, and it was forecast to be very windy all afternoon.  It was not looking good!  As we headed up and over from Tairua and had a view of the sea, we could sea swells rolling in and a good stiff breeze.

We arrived at our Whitianga accommodation and checked in, and then heard from the skipper that the pelagic was not going to go ahead with 30-35 knots of wind out on the water.  So a pretty disappointing outcome, but understanable under the conditions.  We headed down to the local bakery and consoled ourselves with pies!  Then some spare time in town to run errands, post postcards, etc before heading out to a forested area nearby to see what we could find.  It was a lovely walk through the native forest to see some large kauri trees, but there was not a lot of bird activity.  Heading back to the coast we checked out a couple of local patches around the town, with a visit to see a small pied cormorant colony, where there were birds coming and going and roosting beside nests.  We also checked out several ‘fenced’ areas along the beach where New Zealand dotterel were nesting, and found a good number of pairs.  At one site a couple of us got a little caught out by the incoming tide and surf, but luckily not too much damage to camera gear, and some nice photo opportunities with the dotterel.

Before long it was time for another dinner, and of course a few more wines!  All in all a pretty good day!

Day total – Seen = 51 + 1 heard (Eastern rosella); new for the trip = 2; total for the trip to date = 100

Stunning little marsh sandpiper came in close whilst feeding

Red knot flock in flight over the Stilt Ponds

White-faced heron snapped as it flew past over the ponds

Sharp-tailed sandpipers feeding really close along the shore

Beaut little wrybill with reflection

Young pied stil feeding on the Stilt Ponds…dunno why they call it that!

Young pied stilt tries to chase off the marsh sandpiper

Sharp-tailed sandpiper pauses whilst feeding

Wrybill coming in closer whilst feeding

Pied cormorants flying past

Sky lark singing and hovering near the Stilt Ponds

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