Tuesday 19 February 2019

Day eight - ducks and crakes

We headed out early to a wetland area, in the hope of seeing Australasian bittern. This species is not that easy to see in either New Zealand or Australia, and so it is definitely on the ‘wish to see list’.  We slowly drove an area keeping an eye out, but nothing except a few purple swamphens (Pukekos).  We stopped the van and decided to stand and keep watch, looking to the skies also in case of a flying bird.
Problem was we kept getting distracted!  There were fernbirds calling all around the place, but none seemed to want to sit at the top of the vegetation and show themselves, and there were spotless crakes all around us as well.  One of them decided to ‘not very quietly’ creep through the reeds at about waist height, showing itself as it went.  Welcome distractions, and as there were no bittern to be seen, very welcome. We decided to head and check out a bunch of black-billed gulls and cormorants – getting nice side by side views of little pied, great and little black cormorants.  And rather convenient was the fact that the little pied seemed to show almost every plumage, from full white all the way down, to just a touch of a white chin.
We also watched scaup, dabchick, and black swan, and then a nice grey gerygone showed itself off well.  We decided to move on, but again a pair of fernbird got us distracted, and this time really showed quite nicely.  So very happy.
We headed back to the accommodation, packed the van, and then headed out to the river in search of our main target – blue duck.  We pulled up at our first spot, and there just a small way down the river was a blue duck – wow!  Sometimes it happens like that, sometimes it definitely doesn’t!  The bird was an immature, but we had great views of it in the water and then perched on a rock.  Through the scope you could clearly make out the shape and structure of the bill, and we all had extended views.  It then flew off up the river, and we realised there was another pair of adult blue duck just a bit up the river, so we headed further upstream and got really nice views of these guys too.
We spotted miscellaneous finches, silvereye and more grey gerygone, before deciding to head back into town, grab some lunch, fuel and then head off towards Hawkes Bay.  The drive was through some spectacular countryside, so we had plenty to look at, before arriving at a forest reserve.  We had lunch and then wandered a trail looking out for some of the forest specialties we needed.  We got good views of rifleman, and then even better views, and then good views of a tomtit, and then even better views.  Great to see these little birds right beside us, really showing themselves off.  There were red admirals around, as well as some nice mistletoes about to burst into flower, and lots of other cool trees and shrubs.  We had more grey gerygones, whitehead, bellbirds, and tui…ears were kept sharp for long-tailed cuckoo, but not a peep all afternoon.  But all of a sudden we did have a burst of falcon call, but from under the canopy couldn’t see anything.  Back at the carpark we kept our eyes skyward…”there’s one…no just a harrier…but there’s a falcon!” as it swooped in to see off the harrier!  A very fleeting glimpse, with hopefully better to come.
We headed on into Napier, stopping quickly at a small park to see two plumed whistling ducks, as well as Australasian coot, grey teal and our first Australasian shoveler.  A lone cattle egret was a bit of a surprise!  We then headed to a wetland area to see what we could find, and there were a lot of grey teal, a small flock of Royal spoonbills, and our first black-fronted dotterel.  These little stunners were relatively common and we had some nice looks at them and banded dotterel.  Down the end of the wetland we spotted two white-winged black terns, and so headed for a closer look, spotting some sandpipers in the process.  But hang on, there’s a spotless crake, out in the open. Our second location for this species today, and third for the trip!  Nice one! We got better views of the white-winged black terns on the ground, and then feeding over water, and then checked the sandpipers, and the first was a pectoral sandpiper!  Excellent, there were a couple of sharp-tailed sandpipers around as well, so pretty good birding.
It was then on to our accommodation, checked in to our rooms, freshened up, and then a lovely dinner near the water.  Life is good!

Bird of the day– Blue duck x5, Tomtit x2, Pectoral sandpiper x1

The gang looking for a kiwi

Spotting shorebirds

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