Dianne and I are back from 3 weeks birding in Madagascar, a tour arranged by Detlef and Carol of Birder’s Rest (they do Peru, Indonesia and NZ birding tours). The bird above is a male Schlegel’s Asity, one of the highlights of the trip. Much of the Madagascar rainforest has been lost to mankind, but there are still tracts where the Lemur’s and other native wildlife remain. We found Andasibe-Mantadia national park particularly good, as were Berenty and Ankarafantsika. Travel is not that easy as the roads are often pot-holed, but once at the destination the birding is good. Madagascar has a number of unique bird families, including Vanga’s, Asity’s and Mesites.
These birds are named because of the streaky feathers across their face. On my recent trip to Nelson I drove down the road towards Kaikoura to Lake Elterwater, which is a nice wildlife refuge and full of water at this time of year. On a previous visit I had found the lake pretty dry, but currently water is quite high around the viewing platform and a pair of Hoary-headed Grebe were floating past. Up until recently these birds have been Australian vagrants, but a couple of birds have bred at Lake Elterwater in the last couple of years. There may be 4 or 5 birds with the new status of rare native. They are similar in size to the New Zealand Dabchick and Australian Little Grebe, but easily distinguished in breeding plumage.
A short trip to the top of the South Island in September to see a couple of rare native birds in the region. Australian Wood Duck or Maned Duck used to be Australian vagrants. They are quite common in Australia, and a couple have been nesting in the Mapua region near Nelson since 2015. I understand there are now about 12 birds. On my second visit to the Playhouse cafe pond I found three birds (two females and a male) on the grass beside the pond. Hoping they breed again this year.
Not a great photo, but enough to show the Little Egret back at Lake Omanu near Foxton Beach. There were also two White Heron (Great Egret) – one at Lake Omanu and one at Foxton Estuary itself. We’ve seen Little Egret in almost every country we have visited, and there seems to be always a few that winter over in New Zealand each year.
On our way to the UK we had a stop-over in Dubai for a couple of days, and we took the opportunity to go our birding with a local guide from UAE Birding. We had an excellent day out, getting over 70 species and adding some new ones to our lifelist. This included the Cream-coloured Courser shown above. They don’t have many endemics, but it is easy to find a wide range of species quite close to the city.
Another rare bird from our recent South Island trip, Dianne and I found a pair of Black Stilt feeding in a small lake near Lake McGregor and Lake Tekapo. This is near the natural breeding grounds for Black Stilt, of which there are about 100 pairs.
Dianne and I had a holiday in Queenstown, so we took the opportunity to look for Rock Wren at the well known Homer Tunnel site. On the Te Anau side of the tunnel there is a small carpark on the right hand side, and currently there seem to be two pairs of Rock Wren in the area. We had good views of one pair for a few minutes, before they headed off into the rocks. Both birds were banded, and it was good to see DoC traps in the area for predators. Rock Wren are uncommon, and only found in the South Island alpine areas, much of which is quite hard to access.