We have just had a few days in Noumea (New Caledonia). Birding was not the main purpose of the trip, but we hoped to see some birds whilst we were here. In the central township there isn’t much – Common Myna, Red-vented Bulbul, House Sparrow, Common Waxbill, Silvereye, Grey Fantail, Spotted Dove, Feral Pigeon, Silver Gull on the shore, and one or two Sacred Kingfisher. We did see some Ruddy Turnstone on the shoreline and Wandering Tattler, quite a large number of Wedge-tailed Shearwater going anti-clockwise around the coastline, and at the nearby Hippodrome with a lake there were some Pacific Golden Plover and a lone Nankeen Night Heron. The most interesting birds are at Parc Provincial de la Riviere Bleue. We had a trip arranged with a guide, but unfortunately it doesn’t take much wind or rain in New Caledonia for these trips to be cancelled. Our backup plan was a trip to the zoo (Parc Zoologique et Forestier Michel-Corbasson) – we did manage to get in for 30 minutes and got a quick view of a Kagu (Cagou) before that closed as well. I wasn’t very happy. Noumea is an expensive place to get to; the eating and accommodation are expensive, so it would have been nice to see some birds whilst we were here.
We are just back from 2 weeks birding in Australia, visiting Capertee Valley in NSW, Julatten and Mt Lewis in North Queensland, and Werribee and You Yangs near Melbourne. These are some great birding spots. One surprise for us was a very obliging Black Bittern (pictured above) at the north end of the Esplanade in Cairns. You can see some of the locations we visited on the Australian birding sites page.
A Wilson’s Phalarope (non-breeding plumage) turned up at Westshore, Napier causing great excitement for NZ birds. The bird appears quite settled on a little pond with Pied Stilts, Banded Dotterel and a few Grey Teal for company. We enjoyed a good long look at it. It was first mistaken for a Marsh Sandpiper, but it’s legs are not as long and it feeds quite differently (and has a distinctive white rump in flight). This is the 4th NZ record for the species.
Spotted Shags breed on Somes Island in the middle of Wellington harbour, but they are seen infrequently just a couple of kilometres away on the mainland. I have seen them occasionally around Queens Wharf and Oriental Parade, and sometimes a flock appears on the old wharf in Evans Bay near Wellington airport. Today I found this chap on the rocks near Eastbourne township, starting to come in to breeding plumage.
There are several pairs of Bittern in the Lake Omanu area near Foxton. Possibly as many as 10 birds. Unfortunately you often only get to see them when you flush them, and that is how we saw this bird which then got chased by an Australian Magpie as it flew off round the lake.
It is pretty unusual to find a Grey Duck in New Zealand that is really “grey”, and not a hybrid with a Mallard. One that truly resembles a Pacific Black Duck. We found a pair today on the pond at the back of Foxton Beach on Palmer Road. Nice white facial markings, dark bill and green speculum.
The White Heron is back again this year – has been a regular winter visitor staying for periods of several months near the boatsheds at Hutt River estuary, and alongside the river near Shandon golf club.