Long-tailed Cuckoos have a status of “locally common”. They are around in bush where Whiteheads are found, but can be really hard to see. With some help from Whanganui local Paul Gibson we visited a good spot (Waitahinga trails, about 12 km north of Bushy Park) where we heard and saw several birds. More often seen flying overhead – once they land in a tree they can be really hard to spot. They sit quite still on a branch when they call.
It is unusual to see the endemic New Zealand Dotterel breeding so far south in the North Island. There is a pair attempting to breed on Waikanae Beach again this year. A very popular spot for whitebaiting, dog walkers and general family fun, so it is quite a challenge for these birds. There are signs and a simple fence to try and keep people out, but we’ll see how it goes again this year.
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.
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.
The introduction of Rifleman into Zealandia was curtailed because the numbers of birds in the Eastbourne area are down. So it is good to see that there are some birds breeding. I watched a pair of birds taking grubs to their nest in a dead tree above Days Bays. It is always hard to get a good photo of these little birds as they flit around in the canopy.
On Saturday we had a lovely day on Kapiti Island. The beach area has Bellbirds, Red-crowned Parakeets and NZ Pigeons feeding in the sun on the low bushes. We followed the Wilkinson track up to the trig (about a 2 hour walk) with plenty of Kaka, Robin, Saddleback, Stitchbird, Whitehead and Tui on the way up. There are Weka (Western, not the NI subspecies) in the bush and a good view from the top. We didn’t see or hear any Kokako, which are more likely to be seen on the Trig track which we were discouraged from going up. The day spoilt only by the efforts of Kapiti Island Nature Tours, the ferry operator. One of the reasons I haven’t been for a few years has been the escalating costs of the visit, and the fact they really want you to do a half day tour or stay overnight at the top end (which is REALLY expensive). On arrival at the island you are subjected to a compulsory 30+ minutes history talk about the island – it is very interesting to hear about the whalers once or twice, but I’ve heard the story so many times I don’t need to hear it again. Why can’t they deliver a safety briefing on the ferry ride across and then let you go see the birds when you arrive? I’ve decided that I prefer Tiritiri Matangi.
About 20 Fernbirds have recently been released at Pauatahanui wetlands near Porirua. We found two pairs today. They are quiet birds that spend most of their time well hidden in the reeds, but they aren’t really shy of humans and with patience you can see them flit between bushes. These birds are banded and are being monitored closely.