Wednesday, 5 February 2020

Day one - hot hot hot

Up and meeting with everyone in the carpark of the Hotel.  Everyone had slept fast, and the heat of the day had not yet arrived – perhaps it will be cooler today!?  We packed the van, got acquainted with our new travel companions, and then set off across Auckland.
First stop a gannet colony on the scenic West Coast.  Beautiful calm conditions with feeding gannets visible way off out to sea, and a gentle swell breaking on the beach.  Thousands of gannets congregated on the cliffs, with a lot of lovely large grey plumaged juveniles getting ready for their first flight.  They were exercising constantly, and it was clear that in just a couple of weeks the colony would really start to empty out as the juveniles departed.
We checked out the coastline for other species, a few kelp and red-billed gulls, the odd white-fronted tern, and some variable oystercatchers.  Also, with the feeding gannets offshore some large all dark shearwaters – probably flesh-footed, but way too far to positively ID.  Silvereye, yellowhammer and welcome swallow along the coastline also.
We then headed off to our first bakery stop.  Completely unprompted a pie was bought!  Along with a fine assortment of sandwiches in what truly has to be record time for a first bakery stop! Wow!  We carried on along the roads through rolling hillsides and pastures.  A few harriers, the odd purple swamphen and paradise shelduck, all good.
We arrived at small estuary and walked down to have lunch.  Within moments a fairy tern resting on the mud was spotted, with a Caspian and a white-fronted in the same scope view for comparison.  How nice is that!?  We also had great views of buff-banded rails running about, white-faced herons and pied stilts.  Plus, our first New Zealand dotterel, red knot and a bar-tailed godwit.  Lunch was dealt with in record time, and so we moved on to a slightly different spot for more NZ dotterel and out first juvenile double-banded plover.
Heading further north we stopped at a small pond where the temperatures had peaked for the day at 33.5 C.  But that didn’t stop a nice selection of waterfowl being spotted with both New Zealand grebe (dabchick) and Australasian grebe side by side, Pacific black duck, New Zealand scaup, Australasian shoveler and a few brown teal!  What a great little spot.
Heading on northwards, we checked into our accommodation in the late afternoon.  Just enough time for a quick rest, then a beautiful dinner and then out to the countryside for dessert!!  This came in the form of five kiwi sightings, plus a very small chick that was more moving grass than kiwi.  But four of the sightings were prolonged excellent views.  One huge female feeding in the open in front of us for about ten minutes.  A very close and confiding morepork was also a crowd pleaser, and to top it all off the kiwi calling was insane with calls every few minutes for the first hour or so.  Amazing!  Bed and dreams of nocturnal birds! 
Day total – Seen = 55 inc 2 heard (skylark and European greenfinch); new for the trip = 55; total for the trip to date = 55
Watching the gannets go by 
The gang enjoying the sunshine and guano

Along the coast

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