Tuesday 9 February 2016

Sunny sunny, fairy terns in the sun

It is always a good feeling getting up in the morning knowing that you have a kiwi under the belt! We breakfasted and then left a little later than normal, based on our late evening the night before.  The sun was shining and all was well in the world.
We drove northwards, heading towards the beautiful Waipoua Forest, home of the giant Kauri tree – Tane Mahuta.  We wound our way through the scenic countryside, and then through the forest itself, stopping to do the short walk to the tree.  What a spectacular tree – over 2000 years old – amazing to think of the bird species that would have been around when this tree was half its current age!  We enjoyed the spectacle, took some photos, and spotted a couple of tomtits, as well as several pigeons feeding on large tawa drupes.
We then headed back to the south, making a quick stop in Dargaville, and then heading east towards Waipu.  On the way we made a quick stop at a small farm pond where we watched a pair of Australasian grebes and a pair of New Zealand dabchicks go about their day.  They seemed to be rather civil neighbours, with no fighting observed, but we know that is not always the case!  A sacred kingfisher also showed well, a nice sunlit specimen.
We then grabbed some lunch at a nearby bakery and headed to a small estuary where we had our lunch in the sunshine.  And it was interesting to note the number of pies had increased amongst the lunch packs!  The word is getting out!  Before the crumbs had even stopped falling, we had spotted two fairy terns roosting on the mudflats, amongst a big number of New Zealand dotterel, variable oystercatchers, and a smaller number of banded dotterel, bar-tailed godwit, and red knot.  We finished our lunch and then walked out to where all the birds were, getting nice views and photographs of everything on the way, before getting really good scope views of the fairy terns.  In fact we found another bird roosting also, so had views of around 8% of the total New Zealand population right there in front of us!  Although they were all adults already moulting out of breeding plumage, they are still stunning little creatures, with the beautiful yellow bill and dark cap, gently receding.  We spent some time observing them, as well as all of the other birds, finding two wrybill amongst the waders, and then decided to move on.
We carried on south along the coast, generally wandering towards Warkworth where we are to stay for the night.  We headed for a spot where we hoped to find buff-banded rail, and had hardly arrived when we spotted on.  As we watched we spotted three walking around on the edge of the pond, and then a couple more opposite.  We also found a few brown teal paddling around, and some preening on the banks and then found another spot to settle in and watch the comings and goings.  The buff-banded rails played hide and seek, giving pretty good views, and other bits and pieces put in appearances.  We then went for a little drive and found one or two pukekos (purple swamphens), and then our first bellbirds.  After a short walk we found a Takahe, and watched this almost prehistoric looking critter feeding on short grass.
We then decided it was time to head for the accommodation, checking in and having a brief rest, before a slap up dinner.  Another great day!

Day total – Seen = 52; new for the trip = 17; total for the trip to date = 62

Bird of the day – Wrybill x3, fairy tern x2

Vertical panorama of Tane Mahuta

"It's behind you!"

Nice light in the forest

Rail stalkers

Brown teal on the water

The sneaky buff-banded rail

Young bellbird looking moulty and ragged

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