Saturday, April 21, 2018

Awhitu Regional Reserve

Great to be back on the Awhitu peninsular with Tricia Aspin our expert guide to the area. This is an annual event and I have enjoyed many such visits to some beautiful parts of this peninsular including many farmland areas that Trish has managed to gain us access to with wonderful wetlands and ponds.

Wetlands are my favourite habitats and I could spend hours here so will return. Its a deceptively long drive up this peninsular but this helps keep this area remote and rather special. 

Bot Soc at Awhitu Regional Park.

This is the first time that we have actually visited the Awhitu Regional Park. Its at a great location overlooking the  Manukau harbour.

 Many thanks to Cherrelle for taking the group photo with my camera........................................

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Shoal Bay High Tide Roost Count - April

High Tide 9.48am 3.4Metres. Calm Sunny Warm
Combined Totals  at three Chenier Shell banks at (Big) Shoal Bay

Wrybill   x 54
Pied Stilt x 189
SIPOS    x 244
VOCS    x 15
NZ dotterel x 2
SBBG   x 5
White Faced Heron x 4
Banded Dotterel x 5
Caspian Tern  x 2


Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Tawharanui Regional Park

There are a few good hills to climb here to get great views of the surrounding ocean. However first its good to walk around the lagoon and soon we come across white faced herons hunting skinks in the long grass at the sides of pathways. Its great to watch them try to mesmerize their prey by their rhythmic neck movements.

More to follow...............

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Motuora Island Today

Who needs an alarm clock when you are woken at 6am by the morepork calling from the large old oak nearby.  I am torn between trying to see it in the tree at dawn or getting ready for my trip to Motuora today,

 In the end the morepork misses out and I'm soon on my way to Sandspit to meet up with others to catch the 8am water taxi to Motuora. It's good to catch up with familiar faces and some new too.

Today clearing vegetation around the cliff top gannet colony, relocating penguin boxes along the shore and shifting sand bags for a future visit job of repositioning the water tank moved on a previous visit.

The highlight today as well as just being on this delightful island that I have been coming to since August 2012 is a visit to the Pycroft petrel burrows to weigh and measure two chicks born to the Island and that will very shortly head off for three years on the wing before hopefully returning to Motuora to breed.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Old Trees.

I keep banging on about old trees. The first casualty of Auckland development projects are old trees and the biodiversity that goes with them and we are losing them at a very fast rate. The powers that be' think we can just plant new trees as mitigation to replace their loss and everything will be ok. Well it wont for fifty years at least.

 Tonight I have just been rewarded by this understanding as the morepork has settled in the large old oak nearby and is calling. I quickly take the opportunity enjoy this  experience. It took me back to younger years in the UK when I would watch barn owls hunting in a valley near my home.

 I have just written an article for a local paper about the sign off by our local Board to a land/Reserve swap which will result in  the loss of trees in the area that I have been listening to this morepork last week. Although I have always been wary off and against giving animals anthropomorphic characteristics it's as if he/she has come to say thanks. Updated 16.04.2018

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Nowhere would we rather be!

High tide or low tide you have to face mud at some stage  when kayaking in an estuary. You will have to deal with it on your way out or way home.

Today its on our way out. However, this suits us well as we are carrying a collection of heavy water containers of different sizes and opting for a shorter paddle to the island considering the persistent South westerly breeze with a longer haul across the mud to begin with.

 This was later rewarded with a comfortable paddle back with empty drums. Sit -on kayaks that we are using today are far more useful for carrying gear and relatively safe in  sheltered waters.

Red knots getting ready to migrate

A good day for mustelid catches

Later over dinner and a glass of wine with my 'Monday friend', I know its Saturday but good friendships know no bounds (LOL), we agree that today there is nowhere we would rather be.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Auckland NZ Dotterel Forum -2018

Great to catch up with  dotterel minders and others at the Dotterel Forum held at the Art Gallery at Orewa today. This  included Council and Doc staff, Miranda shorebird Centre people including Keith, Jojo and  Adrian Riegen who today was updating us with the on going research work at Stewart Island to try and find out why the Southern NZ dotterel population is rapidly declining.

Other topics discussed were the on-going saga of dog owners not following bylaw signage to keep dogs out of sensitive wildlife areas or put their dogs on leash. Kerry outlined some interesting signage research to see what approach gets the best compliance results.

This link is for the video made last year that I was asked to supply photos for to highlight the birds of the Orewa estuary.

Then quite by chance - I'm a great believer in 'Chance', on leaving the meeting I bumped into Joel and his partner Nicolle from Highpoint who had stopped for lunch at the Orewa Estuary. Their company  specialises in abseiling to remove pest plants and was contracted by Auckland Council to help  lay out our initial bait line and I joined Joel to help with this in Shoal Bay during June 2016.

Informal workshop with Joel, Bill, Amy and myself in 2016

 Joel was interested to hear our progress and that everyone is still with the group that I co-ordinate.. I learnt heaps from Joel and wish them luck with their on-going business.

More to follow................

Heading to the Kaipara next. The plan is to ferry full water containers to the Island on the kayaks..

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Shoal Bay High Tide Roost Count

HT 9,26 am 3.4 Metres  Warm calm day.

Combined totals for three Chenier Shell banks at (Big) Shoal Bay

Birds Recorded
Wrybill   x 38
Pied Stilt x 250
SIPOS     x 209
VOCs      x  12
NZ dotterel x 5
SBBG       x 5
White faced Heron  x 7
Banded Dotterel x 1

Monday, April 2, 2018


I had just arrived home from a meeting and talk about native eels this evening when I again heard the morepork in the direction of the Northboro Reserve. I am keen to pinpoint its location as I have some concerns that a local development that recently received the go-ahead from the Local Board to progress a land swap with the reserve will soon be removing trees in that area. I set off with head torch and was reminded of my badger & fox watching days -out at dusk with a red cellophane covered torch hoping to watch these amazing creatures.

Its a lovely moonlit night hence a high tide shorebird roost count tomorrow morning. With  star sprinkled clear skies and the moon like a searchlight above I soon reach the boardwalk and edge of the Northboro estuary inlet and the owl calls again right from in the middle of the development area.

I returned home to spend a further couple of hours listening to it before falling asleep for the night.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Checking My Pulse

It's the start of our April bait pulse around Shoal and Ngataringa estuaries to knock down predators to help the wildlife around the Coastal forest edge of the estuary.  This morning we topped up the bait stations at Line 2 ( we have 12) and will re-visit to record bait take up and top up with more bait during the month.

Thinking of my pulse I was reminded of the repercussions following another enjoyable  two month travel in Western Australia during 2017. This time I had been enjoying the wild native orchid season and helping with a Fairy Tern project on the coast. However I only just made it back to NZ to experience a near encounter with the 'Grim Reaper'. Hence why no posts on this site during October.
 We are warned that everything in OZ is out to either bite or kill you and I can vouch for that. So if I appear in a hurry to visit friends, places and get things done it's that experience that is driving me.

So what's next.........?

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Secret Beach

Today I am in search of a secluded white shell beach that can only be reached by wading across a river when the tide is favourable.

 My favourite estuary is gradually revealing its hidden treasures. This place has been on my list for some years since I read about the small historic cemetery behind this beach.

Today the tide was perfect for an easy paddle (by foot) across the river inlet to explore. A small secluded camp site at the far end was noted and today I had the place to myself which was perfect. On the beach a dead blue penguin which is what the lady earlier in the week had mentioned. Next time I will paddle (kayak) to this location and maybe take the tent and stay a while.

Then back to the little settlement where I had seen Cloud 9 earlier this week and another interesting 'boaty' character who has been exploring this area for 30 years with an amazing kayak like craft with an over sized sail that really moved although it took some time to rig.
 I was away quicker and paddling (kayak) across the estuary. Then looked back to watch his craft disappear out of sight and I thought maybe I should consider a sail for my kayak.

 Ended up for a picnic lunch at another secluded lovely beach. Then a swim as the water temperature is still so pleasant.   

'Barracuda' pulled up the beach

A selfie just for the record.

Photos and more to follow.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Cloud 9

I'm back exploring my favourite North of Auckland estuary and I'm on cloud 9. I love walking and kayaking here. I have often climbed to the top of that hill to enjoy the stunning views of islands and inlets.

Today I'm chatting to a just moved in 'new local' asking him about his wonderful little craft called Cloud 9 and how he finds living in this beautiful location.

 Earlier I chatted to a another keen local. She thought I was from DOC checking on the little blue penguins that have become washed up in the next bay suffering from mal-nutrition. She has been monitoring a trap line in the hills above the estuary for 10 years..

On the way home called into the Waiwera settlement to check out the high tide roost site and dotterel nesting area. Counted 266 South Island pied oystercatcher. 35 Variable oystercatcher, 17 NZ dotterel and 9 red-billed gulls.

266 South island Pied oystercatchers
Photos and More to follow..........................................

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Fly By

At times you can almost set your watch by the flight of these swamp harriers as they patrol the shell banks around the estuaries at high tide. This is the time that they can spot a number of birds roosting. I was wondering how their nesting went this year with the very high tides.

 Contrary to some local opinion that they nest in high trees around the estuary I tend to trust the observations of an experienced Wildlife Ranger friend  that their nests locally have been in marshland in the Onepoto Reserve and would be very susceptible to the recent high tides just like our 'Shore birds'. I should check this out next season.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Shoal Bay - High Tide Roost Count.

Combined Totals for two Chenier shell banks of ( Big) Shoal Bay  - High Tide at 9.45  of 3.3Metres high. Updated 20.03.2018

Birds recorded
Wrybill  x 18
Pied Stilt x 111
SIPOS  x 94
VOCS x 10
NZ dotterel x2
SBBG x 3 (2juvs)
Bar-tailed Godwit x 7 attempted to land with the wrybill but almost immediately headed East
White faced Heron x 2
Caspian Tern X 1  (juv) (photographed fishing)

                     Caspian shaking its head in flight after diving for fish.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Port Waikato - Fossil hunting

 Port Waikato ticks all the boxes with its remote feel, sand dune environment, on the south side of the outflow of where the mighty Waikato river flows into the Tasman sea.

Sarah from 'Wildlands' is going to lead the way and navigate the dunes to top up the species list for this habitat. It was Sarah's suggestion that this habitat should be checked out.

The last time I was here was maybe over 15 years ago and a visit was way overdue. I'm enjoying re-visiting a few places that I haven't touched on for a while. Today I am checking out the ephemeral wetlands within  the dunes of the great sand dune area North of the settlement.  In their dry state you could hardly call them wetlands with just subtle  hints of  stunted glasswort and hundreds of tiny dead fish trapped by receding recent King tides.

In good company we trek across the dunes searching  for interesting specimens and then Janeen excitingly discovers a bird dropping spider and knowing her sense of humour I thought she was kidding but its real. A spider that looks like bird poo. Although they are a native orb spider they have no orb web just a single thread and hanging egg sacs. I was fascinated. Its my first. I'm a bird poo spider virgin!

Later after exploring the dunes it was time for fossil hunting at the beach cliffs at the southern end of the settlement. Below is a Belemnite (squid) found on a previous visit. Soon we were turning over every rock and within about 10mins had come up with some samples of plant fossils..

Photos and More to follow...........................

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Northland - Close encounters with the Past

The last time I was in Kerikeri was with Bot Soc last year as a base for a look at  Moturoa Island.  This wonderful island is communally managed. A memorable time spent exploring the bush and watching morepork young at the invitation of CJ & Carol our excellent hosts.  Updated 14.04.2018

Heading to Northland but first a diversion off the main Highway to explore the Matuari Bay loop re-visiting some delightful coastal beaches including Matauri Bay, Te Ngaere Bay and  Tauranga Bay to watch a large gathering of white fronted tern and dotterel and pied stilt. I camped at Matauri Bay a few years ago almost front row to the beach and it was good fun.

Matauri Bay Church

Thurs 8th March

Today heading to Coopers Bay to stay a while then on to explore the Karekare peninsular including Matai bay.

Fri 9th March 
From Cable bay to Taipa and a great find Ramp road with a self containment camping site right on Tokerau beach. It would be good to return here to explore the Aurere stream.  Rotopokaka dune lake nearby also known as Coco Cola lake due to its colour.
  Then stopped at Waiporohita lake to watch birds. Counted many Canada geese and Great Cormorant (Black Shags) drying out on a row of posts. It's a small  lake at the junction to Rangiputu and Puheke beach road or North to Matai Bay..

After counting the birds at the lake then headed on to the beautiful Puwheke beach with amazing white sand for a walk and thought what a stunning spot this is below the nearby Puwheke mountain that appears to separate and seclude Karekare beach to the North.

 Backtracked to explore a couple of roads leading to small coastal subdivisions and headed on North to  Matai Bay for a few swims followed by lunch on the beach which was most welcome.
Returned South to the Gumdiggers DOC Reserve of Ohio lake. I had noticed this on the way up before the turning to Ramp Rd and beach.

Sat 10th March  
Today in Mangonui topping up with food with the lure of  free internet at the iSite centre but it didn't open. A cafĂ© provided a short burst of internet once they had reset their router at the request of irate travellers keen to update their social media. I uploaded this while enjoying a coffee on a showery morning.

 Then off to Taupo Bay to explore. Annoying to see dogs chasing dotterels on this beach. Later to Hihi bay which has an extensive forest at its far end and a flock of roosting white-fronted terns.

In the afternoon I drove back to just North of Taipa to explore Aurere Beach Road South of the Aurere stream but with Maori settlements near the coast and cars blocking the road It didn't seem such a welcoming place and I had to give up.
Set out for Awanui and explored a road leading to an inlet with a wharf, some interesting unusual old boats and a large shed with white protective suited men milling around. Maybe it's full of asbestos.  I had the tide wrong arriving mid-afternoon so no birds to be seen at this inlet to the Ranganui harbour. Returned to Taipa to count 50 SIPOS and a handful of VOCs.

Sund 11th March
With the approaching cyclone Hola today was spent exploring the two Pa sites at either end of Coopers beach. The Southern end Rangikapiti Pa I remembered climbing some years ago. There are great views over Mangonui harbour and North to the Northern Pa sites of Coopers beach. Spotted the native Coastal morning glory (Pouwhiwhi) growing over a hedge and fence nearby.

Taumarumaru Reserve a DOC reserve at the Northern end of Coopers beach has three Pa sites and was great to explore as its an extensive area with beach access for a swim or two to cool off. A huge amount of problem weed plants here including woolly nightshade.

Ohumumo Pa one of the three Pa sites at Taumarumaru DOC Reserve
Then back to Taipa again to count 243 white fronted Terns and 25 godwit at the river mouth.

Mond 12th March
Heading South to stay at the Tutukaka coast at a fantastic headland location near the Lighthouse above Tutukaka. After venturing out to the harbour in the evening for food it was good to be in a strong building as the wind and rain from cyclone Hola was now battering the headland and the sea was just wild crashing onto the rocks below.

Tuesday 13th March
What a difference a day makes. Watching the sunrise over a calm sea first light it was a new day and so just had to backtrack to Matapouri Bay for a beach and estuary walk. This is still one of my favourite coastline areas. Then stopped as usual at Ngungaru to check out birds on the estuary.

 On the road again to Waipu Cove and the beautiful Langs white sand beach.

A  successful foray into Northland again. I remembered that in the early 1990's when I first ventured to Matauri Bay I thought it was just the place to throw away my watch as it seemed that time didn't matter in these places. Just the sunrise and sunset and a few hours in between. Now the road is tar- sealed and it looks like a sub-division has been laid out on the hills above the beach.

Travelling further North I still had that timeless feeling and will return soon if only to carefully check out the many large flocks of roosting white fronted terns on the many beaches I walked checking for  any vagrant terns sheltering around their edges. Will also walk South from Ramp Road to the Aurere stream and check out other inlets of the Ranganui harbour. And of course maybe just throw away my watch!

Sunday, March 4, 2018


Excellent talk today at the Miranda Shorebird Centre by Jesse Conklin about the mysteries of Bar-tailed godwit migration. Good to catch up with a few familiar faces including another participant  in the Field Study course I attended here in 2017.

Miranda shorebird area is just inundated with water even with a 3.6 M tide. The thought is that something has changed after the recent storms and this is the reason the area is so waterlogged.

I spent time on the Kaiaua shell banks. It was quieter there and there were birds in high numbers.

I'm heading to Northland next. First stop Kerikeri then further North to Cable Bay and beyond I haven't explored this area for quite a while.

Friday, March 2, 2018


I have been consistently uploading my Shoal Bay bird data to eBird since it was recommended by the Miranda Shorebird people. This is an excellent citizen science piece of software run by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. I now have several hundred data entries of High Tide counts and other observations. These are not for public access but I do share the links with other interested parties including Auckland Council biodiversity people, Miranda people, and other interested folk..

 I still have some back dated entries going back to 2012 and also many photos to add. My method at a count is to photograph first then count using the scope. The photographs back up the counts and sometimes reveal something missed.

I will add a couple of links to this entry soon to share. More to follow

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Waharau Regional Park

With feelings of deja-vu I joined the Bot Soc walk after a fleeting visit to the Miranda shorebird centre. Then with Bot Soc friends we climbed to the ridge track way above the Firth of Thames.

 I remember walking here in 2012, although not as high with a friend after meeting at the  Miranda centre and then enjoying the botany on a rather wet day. She was intrigued by the patterns of Tangle fern that I had recorded in a photograph in my bush book. Later we had enjoyed the strong North Easterly lashing the coast.

Today was dry, the rain had passed earlier on but the very high  humidity was draining as we trudged to the top. However the stunning views, good company and beautiful bush made it all worthwhile.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Valentines Day and a closer look at some bird legs

I like the valentine day quote by Micky Rooney who said - "Always get married early in the morning, in case it doesn't work out and then you haven't wasted the whole day".

It  seemed like a good idea at the time. Should we move the sound anchor?   It had been washed away from its upright position with the storm and we had rescued it and moved it to higher ground to come back another day with a spade to re erect it nearby. Today was that day. However it seemed to make sense to move it to the new shell bank nesting site about half a kilometre south.

It's  very heavy being constructed  on a half round log pole complete with solar panel speaker electronics and heavy battery. Fortunately the kayak wheels saved the day as we trussed one end to the wheels and it rather resembled something that you might struggle with to appear with at an Easter ceremony. But it worked and in the high humidity and 27 degrees heat was a much easier option than carrying it on sun burnt shoulders.

Easter parade

That's a long haul along the beach

New location for sound anchor

A new SD card is installed in the camera
The high tide roost site was inundated with red knots, bar-tailed godwit, SIPOS, VOC's NZ dotterel Banded dotterel and turnstone.

When I later looked at these photos I noticed the orange flag on the leg of a Red Knot
 The Red Knot with the orange flag on its leg was apparently caught about ten years ago in Victoria. Thanks for promptly replying to my email and passing on this info Adrian.

The day ended with a meet up with other friends for a meal in a local town to celebrate a birthday the following day.