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.