Thursday, 27 October 2011

Fun with gannets - Day 1 - 21-day tour

We were all up bright and early and ready for action.  The sun was shining, there were still All Black supporters reeling from the close victory over France, and everyone was poised like a coiled spring.  We headed out through the sprawl of Auckland to the west to the Waitakere’s where we had a stop overlooking a nice patch of kauri forest.  Along the way we had quick views of spotted dove, and a bunch of other introductions, but nearing the park we had our first views of tui, New Zealand pigeon, and purple swamphen (pukeko).

Standing in the sunshine overlooking the forest we had good views of tui, pigeon, fantail, silvereye and heard shining bronze-cuckoo and tomtit.  A very confiding male North Island robin came and checked us out and sang his heart out right in front of us.  Eastern rosellas flitted around the place giving colourful but brief views and another noisy Australian flew out of the forest scrakking away as it flew – Sulphur-crested cockatoo in the bag.

We then headed up the coast and checked out the beautiful but rugged West Coast at a local Australasian gannet colony.  The birds were all in attendance, mostly with eggs, although the odd small chick was also visible.  There were also about 400+ white-fronted terns in attendance, some nesting and some with quite large chicks, quite a spread of breeding stages.  A pair of variable oystercatchers were down on the beach, and tui, yellowhammer and a sacred kingfisher were seen around the area.

We then grabbed some lunch enroute, and headed on towards Waiwera where we sat and ate lunch overlooking a patch of tidal mudflats with mangroves.  Fleeting glimpses of buff-banded rails were not enough to put on the list, but it was a nice spot for lunch.  We then headed on to some wetland areas with small numbers of New Zealand grebe, New Zealand scaup, Australasian shoveler, grey teal, Pacific black duck, and black swan.  A lone little black shag sat in the sun looking on.

We then headed northwards, basically making a b-line for Dargaville and the Kauri Top 10 holiday Park.  We checked in to our accommodations, and then settled in, having an hour or so to check out the local birds – tui, rosellas, etc.  After dinner at the local Kaihu Tavern (built in 1855) we headed out with Herb from the holiday park into Trounson Kauri Park.  Expectations were high and before too long we heard the first male kiwi call.  However, they made us work for it, with two rather obscured views before a last-minute good but brief view of a bird out in the open grass.  We did had fantastic close views of a morepork for several minutes, as well as kauri snails, banded kokopu, long-finned eel, fresh-water crayfish, glow-worms (actually a fly maggot!), cave wetas, and even a possum.  All in all a great night, and excellent first day of the tour.

Bird of the day – Northern brown kiwi x2, Australasian gannet x1, New Zealand dotterel x1, New Zealand pigeon x1, North Island robin x2.
Day total – Seen = 51 + 3 heard (shining bronze-cuckoo, dunnock, North Island tomtit); new for the trip = 51; total for the trip to date = 51

The gang

The rugged West Coast looking south


The rugged West Coast, looking north

Gannets doing their thing

Coming in to land

A nice backdrop

White-fronted tern against the sky

Surf's up

White-fronted tern bringing in a small fish

White-fronted terns nesting

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