Tuesday 9 February 2016

Holiday Monday, and so it begins

Luckily the rubbish weather of late, had decided to take the day off, and it was actually a pretty decent day underway in Auckland as we met, packed the van, and then departed for the western part of Auckland.  Spotted doves seemingly sprang from every telephone wire and fence post as we headed west, and through to a forested area.  With a long weekend in full swing (being Waitangi Day on Saturday and therefore a holiday Monday), we soon found the carpark at the forest fairly full.  However, the New Zealand pigeons and tui didn’t seem to mind, with both putting on good shows.  And even the rowdy Australians put in an appearance with several sulphur-crested cockatoos flying around the native forest.
We then headed on out to the coast, and to a large Australasian gannet colony.  Everything was in full swing, including the surfers relishing the big swells and beaut conditions on a holiday day.  The gannets had chicks of all sizes, and even some late eggs, so there were chicks exercising and looking like they were about to fly, and others that were only about two weeks old.  Evidence of a strange breeding season, with clearly a lot of failures and relaying.  As it was so nice we spent a good while enjoying the sunshine and watching the comings and goings.
We then headed back across to the east coast, grabbing some lunch on the way.  Only two pies made it into the breakfast hamper, but I suspect that percentage will grow and word spreads!  We had lunch by a lovely little wetland area, with nice views of New Zealand grebe, scaup, and other waterfowl.  The best bird was a brown teal, perhaps the same bird (or another) that was seen at a nearby sewage ponds back in November?  Anyway, some good birds, and then nice views of silvereye and grey warbler to round things off.  We crept back past the sewage ponds, but nothing out of the ordinary there, and so called at a small estuary area.  There were several New Zealand dotterel – our first chance to see these – and then several families of variable oystercatchers.  One family had two very small chicks, and we watched as one of the adults ran up and fed them the meat from a cockle it had just taken.  Very cool.
We then headed northwards, making our way towards Dargaville for a supermarket stop (a good sign when these guys headed straight for the beer and wine section), and then on to our accommodation for the night.  Nestled in a lovely picturesque setting, we settled in nice and early, a chance to unwind and enjoy an hour, before then heading out for dinner.  And what a great dinner at the Kaihu Tavern.  Grant and Raewyn again turned on a beautiful meal and great atmosphere.
And then it was off out for our first kiwi mission.  We headed out just before dark to a local park area.  A distant morepork called on dusk, but couldn’t be persuaded to come in, and the Southern Cross slowly burnt into the night sky as darkness fell.  We then headed into the forest in search of our near-mammalian quarry, only to find a brush-tailed possum almost immediately.  We heard and glimpsed a kiwi scurrying off, and several times thought we heard one.  Several pairs called off in the distance, males responding to the calls of what sounded like a very grumpy female.  But after doing a full circuit we hadn’t seen a bird.  We decided to head back in and do the first bit of the track again, and then we heard what could only be a kiwi.  Shuffling in the leaf litter…we waited, and finally were rewarded with pretty good views of a large female feeding in an opening between the tree ferns.  Several minutes of feeding ensued and we all had her in the binoculars, fantastic!  We headed back to the carpark happy, looking at the night sky now ablaze with stars.  What a perfect evening!

Day total – Seen = 45 + 1 heard (morepork); new for the trip = 45; total for the trip to date = 45

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