Saturday, 29 October 2011

Dental work and kiwi

To be completely honest I probably don't look after my teeth as well as I should, but this was the first time I'd ever had toothache like this.  The first two days of the tour I had bad toothache, and when it kept me awake most of the third night, enough was enough.  So Phil Hammond got a 6:15am wake up call and ended up guiding the Hauraki Gulf pelagic with the more than capable skippering and guidance of Brett Rathe on Assassin.  The guys headed off out on an absolutely spectacular day, whilst I went and paid a visit to the dentist, I wasn't upset at all...honest!  Grrrrr...

Long and the short of it was I had a pretty bad infection and needed antibiotics (would you believe today is the third day without booze!), and seems they didn't need me after all with great views of NZ storm-petrel, black-winged petrel, and all the usual suspects, plus three Bryde's whales, common dolphins, massive blue sharks and sunfish!  Way to make a guy feel unwanted!

Bird of the day – New Zealand storm-petrel x4, white-faced storm-petrel x1, weka x2
Day total – Seen = 38; new for the trip = 16; total for the trip to date = 84

So yesterday we were up and rested, heading away with overnight bags packed...possibly the smallest overnight bags I’ve ever seen!  Not sure what that means but I guess we will find out on the island.  We headed off towards Gulf Harbour, again with the sun shining, and arrived to find a reef egret and white-faced heron side by side on the rock wall near the pier.  Nice comparison.

The ferry arrived and we headed out to the island with about 100 school kids...glad we are staying over night and have a few hours on the island without anyone else.  Pretty quiet crossing with only a single flesh-footed shearwater seen until we got to the island and could see out beyond where there was a flock of white-fronted terns feeding and at least one, probably two Arctic skuas (parasitic jaeger) wheeling around amongst the terns.  There was also at least one, possibly more Buller’s shears, and may have been more but too distant.

We headed up for the briefing and then up through the trails to the bunkhouse.  On the way it was hard to miss the whiteheads, bellbirds, and tui on the way, and there were plenty of stitchbirds around the feeders and elsewhere.  We checked into the bunkhouse, unpacked, had lunch and then had a rest before heading out again in the afternoon.

We headed back down to the wharf and sat beside one of the ponds waiting, waiting, and waiting.  A brief glimpse of a spotless crake spurred us on and eventually we were rewarded with awesome prolonged views of a spotless crake feeding along the edge of the pond.  The brown teal pair and ducklings had kept us entertained right the way through the wait, and a fernbird even popped up right beside us about 1.5m away, so a pretty nice way to spend the afternoon.  We then headed slowly back up to the bunkhouse and finally managed to get a good view of a kokako having not heard a peep from one all day.

Back at the bunkhouse we had possibly the best meal of the trip (I have to say that because I cooked it!), BBQ steak and lamb, with salad and potatoes, followed up with dark chocolate for dessert...mmmmmmm!  We then headed out for our nocturnal ramble, heading right the way down to the other end of the island.  No kiwi called until 2100 which was a bit of a shock, and shortly thereafter we had great views of a morepork which sat perched and then hovered right above us, perfect!  A bit further on we had a pretty good sized tuatara right on the track and had really nice close-up views.  We walked back towards the bunkhouse thinking a kiwi was going to jump out at any stage (in fact by this stage I was thinking the damn things had gone back to bed!), and we were within 2 minutes of the bunkhouse when we found a kiwi right beside the road.  We ended up having excellent prolonged views, possibly some of the best I’ve had of this species, so very very happy.  A short walk back to the bunkhouse for a milo and bed! 

Bird of the day – Little spotted kiwi x5, saddleback x1, stitchbird x1
Day total – Seen = 47 + 1 heard (little blue penguin); new for the trip = 12; total for the trip to date = 96

The manuka is currently in flower...yeah yeah, I know this is a BIRDING trip!

Male stitchbird near one of the feeders

Male bellbird

Sacred kingfisher against the sky

Brown teal getting jiggy...

...and all in front of junior!

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