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.

Birds recorded
Wrybill  x 18
Pied Stilt x 111
SIPOS  x 94
VOCS x 10
NZ dotterel x2
SBBG x 3 (2juvs)
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.

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- A close encounter with the Past

The last time I was in Kerikeri was with Bot Soc last year as a base for a look at  Moturua Island.  This wonderful island is communally managed. A memorable time spent exploring the bush and watching morepork young.
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. updated 15th

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 inlet.  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 Puheke beach with amazing white sand for a walk and thought what a stunning spot this is below the nearby Rangiputu 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   updated 15th
Today in Mongonui topping up with food, internet and heading 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 inlet 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. 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 Mongonui 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.

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.

Summary updated15th
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 inlet 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 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. 

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Ruapehu MINTs meet-up. 2018

I'm just back and uploading photos from a great time with MINTs friends at our latest annual gathering at Ruapehu. It's our fourth year of exploration of this area.

 It was great to meet Jutta and Rudi from Whanganui who added to the fun and interest especially as Rudi is a 'fly' man. Neil joined us too, tip toeing across streams photographing every inch of our travels.
Fern bird followed us from Day 1 as we negotiated the Mangahuia track which took us rather longer (8.5 hours) rather  than the DOC signage (5hours) but then we hardly moved far for the first hour as we attempted to get photos of the  illusive fern birds that were tantalizingly close but eluded our cameras for a clear shot.

On Day 2 We explored the Mahui falls and Toakakura falls area where Neil spotted a Whio ( blue duck) further downstream so we bush bashed until Neil could find a suitable tree to climb to get a clear photo. On the way back we enjoyed the Lahar Mounds walk too.
The ascent to the amphitheatre on Day 3 offered some stunning views and a chance to navigate the volcanic rocks to search for alpine flowers.

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

Mt Ngauruhoe from Mt Ruapehu

Looking for my Sherpa ! Thanks for this one Neil.

MINT friends lunch stop. Sooz is up and ready to go. I'm wearing my half Lawrence today!
Tomtit along the Mangahuia track

Dragonfly along Mangahuia track
Can you see the camouflaged grasshopper?

Grey Warbler at Tawhai Falls walk

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

Friday, February 2, 2018

3.6 Metre tide at Shoal

It's a 3.6 Metre tide today but fortunately the North Easterly has reduced considerably so the birds will still have some shell banks for roosting.

I count 93 bar-tailed godwit that I watched fly in and land dead on High tide at 9.37 am but they were soon disturbed by two people paddle boarding and so some of the group flew East. I was keen to see where they had gone so walked along the edge of the Estuary only to see a smaller group of 19 fly back in V formation.

I then found the rest of the birds on a small difficult to observe shell bank surrounded by mangroves  along with pied stilt and Variable oystercatcher. The birds seem jittery this morning.
 I'm hanging off a cliff above high tide water with tripod and scope to count the birds and camera as a second check for later in case I have missed anything.

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

Monday, January 29, 2018

Wind Burn on the East Coast

Hot and very windy. Back on the East coast. ...... I'm wind burnt today watching a FT chick being fed by its mother . After dinner by the shelter of the river we head back to the beach to check things out..

Evening light. View from sitting in the sand dunes.

Fairy Tern Adult Female

White Fronted Tern is much larger than FT.
Then enjoyed watching the sun go down and the orange glow on the beach over the sculptured rippled sands from the persistent Easterly sea breeze.

More too follow......................................

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

'Leave nothing but footprints'

'Take nothing but photos'. Kayaking to the island was on the agenda to check traps and storm damage. Conditions were perfect after recent storms that had ripped sand dunes and shore line away eating away the coastline. Sand is no match however stabilised against high winds and strong waves.

Checking the motion detect camera
Sound equipment hopefully will still work
This turned into one of those really memorable days that I will tuck into my collection. The huge numbers of birds. South Island pied oystercatcher, Caspian tern, turnstones, Knots and bar-tailed godwit. As the tide came in the birds were up and flying looking for alternative places to roost after feeding on the shallows. It was an amazing site, the remoteness adding to the wonder of it all.