Wednesday, 13 February 2019

Day One - KIWI!

The morning looked a bit grey, and it was cool, but as everyone met at the bus, the smiles were firmly in place.  Off to a good start.  We did the necessary intros and exchanged a little information, and then on to our first stop – Gannet Central!  As we arrived a shower of rain put on a spurt, and staying put in the van for three minutes waiting for the weather to pass certainly paid off.  The rain stopped, the sun came out, and the day steadily baked from that point on with a ripper of a 30 deg C day!
We walked out to watch the gannets doing their thing, and marvelled at the views. Good numbers of large almost fully grown chicks were in place, showing that this had been a very good breeding season. There were one or two with still a little down on them, but mostly they looked ready for action.  I suspect that in the next 1-2 weeks the colony will really empty out as youngsters take their first flight, a flight that will lead most of them towards Australian waters.
We enjoyed watching the adults swinging around in the light winds and doing circuits over the colony, before alighting beside their nest, mate or chick.  And of course all the associated noise and waggling of beaks and heads.  The white-fronted terns that had been present and breeding earlier in the season had cleared out, but a few could be seen in the distance out on the rock offshore, and variable oystercatchers were visible down on the rocks.
We decided to head back to the van and start our journey northwards.  We spotted a couple of silvereyes on the way, and then eyes peeled we departed, heading back through lovely rolling scenery to the east coast.  We put a few miles under our belts before arriving into a little town, and having our first bakery experience.  Well, it didn’t take much persuasion and the pies were being dragged out of the pie warmer! This group knows what’s up!  We then headed out to an estuary and sat in the sunshine enjoying the view out over the estuary.  Black-winged stilts, white-faced herons, variable oystercatchers and a New Zealand dotterel all in view.  Further out a flock of bar-tailed godwits, themselves thinking about heading back to the northern hemisphere where all of us will be heading back to at the end of this tour!  Also, some Caspian terns, white-fronted terns, and then…could it be…yes a single fairy tern.  Unfortunately, a long way off, but clearly a smaller more dainty tern off away from the group of white-fronted terns.
We explored and found a few more dotterel to get nice views of, more variable oystercatchers, and then thought we would check out another nearby location.  We didn’t find much new there, so as the tide was high, decided to head north and have another go tomorrow.  We basically made a b-line for Kerikeri, and arriving late afternoon checked into the accommodation and put our feet up for a bit.  Then of course time for dinner – a really nice first meal and a few vinos and beers – and then off out for our first mega-target! Northern brown kiwi!  We arrived at the location, got into order and had a quick chat, and then into it.  Shortly thereafter the first male called, and from that point until we left we must have had nearly 20 male kiwi calls, and at least 3 female calls!  Amazing.  We headed along a trail and heard what was probably two birds very close in the bushes, grunting and making noise, and then one bird – a male – let rip and called a bunch of times from only about 6m away!  We carried on down the track a little and then another male called just a bit further, so we headed its way just as a female responded.  We got everyone into shape and there was the male as it headed towards the female!  Excellent!  Pressure off we headed down the trail a bit further spotting a young morepork very close in a kanuka bush.  It sat and peered and twisted its head this way and that, then flew a short way.  We saw it a couple more times before we let it slip into the night.  A short way down the trail James said ‘there’s one here’ and there right beside the trail only a few metres away was a tiny little juvenile kiwi – perhaps just 3-4 months old!  We watched it in very dim light as it snuffled around and eventually made its way off, but how awesome was that!  We decided to head slowly back up the trail, and on the way had another four kiwi that gave pretty good views, and had a morepork not that far off give some wonderful calls.  So back near the van it was decided it was time for bed.  We had been incredibly lucky with six kiwi in total, a lot of calling and the morepork was a bonus!  A pretty amazing first day…
Bird of the day – to come when they have finished sleeping, but I suspect most will be Northern brown kiwi, perhaps a few for morepork!?
Ahhh, not a bad spot!

The gang!

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