Friday, September 11, 2020

SOUTH- Springtime in the South Island

Ohakune and the sun is shining although there are dark black clouds over the mountain. Hoping for a glimpse of the snow capped mountain tomorrow morning. No such luck the  priorities now are breakfast and then back to the chocolate eclair shop to pick up provisions for morning T. Its great to be back.

Then  via the Manwatu scenic route. This is a beautiful scenic drive off, the main route but well worth it. Deviated from this to include a visit to Kimbolton a historic settlement. Great little camp site at Eketahuna. Woke to a cold morning with early frost but a blue sky day as if summer had been switched on. The locals told us it had been raining for the previous week.

The next morning headed to the Pukaha  for our first ever visit to the  Wildlife centre at Mount Bruce. Enjoyable walk up through the bush. Impressive trapping regime and just had to see the white kiwi.

Snow on the Tararua's. Night spent in Martinborough woke to a beautiful sunrise. An interesting bustling little town surrounded by vineyards.   Stocked  up with fresh bread and milk before heading over the hills to Wellington. Spent the afternoon at Te Papa. Also checked out the  Van Gogh live exhibition but it was fully booked so that will have to wait for a return visit.

Monday  14th - Now in the South Island. Its turned out to be a beautiful day to cross Cook Strait even though strong winds were forecast. Shot through Picton, will explore on the return journey. Now settled into Spring Creek campsite just before Blenheim. Parked next to a little stream with a pet eels and lots of them.

Left Spring Creek and headed to Blenheim and then on towards kaikoura stopping  at the Ohau NZ fur seal colony along the newly repaired coastal road still being worked on following the Kaikoura earthquake.  Spent an hour or two watching the antics of the seals including the young ones carefully keeping out of the reach of the large male bull seals. Then realised that there was a spotted sgag colony with nests at the Northern end of the seal site. 

 Tuesday 15th arrived in Kaikoura with a glimpse of the mountains. I'm keen to locate some banded dotterels on the beach and soon I find a pair acting as if they have a nest site in the strand line of fine driftwood  along the beach. 

Today  Wed 16th is a stunning blue sky day . Its not cold and we have a stunning view of the Kaikoura mountain range. I didn't realise that some of these peaks are over 2000 metres high. Today we intend to explore the Kaikoura peninsular starting with a drive around the coast and a walk to the high viewpoint. There are more seals here around the coast but mainly younger animals as most of the males would be at the Ohau breeding site North. At high tide around 3.30pm I head back to check out the banded dotterels and soon realise that the one parent bird I find is watching out for a chick by standing on little drift wood piles to get  good viewpoint. I see only one chick. Kaikoura is an important site for banded dotterel but nesting success is not great due to predation and disturbance on the stony beaches.

 Evening sighting of thousands of Hutton Shearwaters just off the coast diving and swimming for fish. They nest in burrows on the lower slopes of the Kaikoura mountains. These have been devastated by recent earthworks and pigs.

Thursday 17th To Christchurch for a couple of days. The cathedral is indeed a sad sight. Much of the town centre has now been rebuilt following the earthquake. We spend a few hours at the Antarctica centre and have a ride on the snow vehicles over an off road course.

The following day we head to Lake Tekapo. The lakeside  views are fantastic but the expansion of the nearby campsites seem totally over the top and not sustainable even without overseas tourist they are over busy with domestic tourism. The following day Sat 19th we catch up with friend Dennis who left Auckland to settle in this beautiful area.

Then we are on to Mount Cook village and a walk up the Hooker valley which was just excellent. 

 Spent the night in the Glentanner camp park which is a beautiful location with mountain views all around and unlike the campsite at Lake Tekapo was more sympathetic to this environment. The campsite trees are full of redpoll's, a pretty little European bird.

Then today to Oamaru stopping on route to look at the Maori rock art on the way. Too early in the day  for the penguins but on the historic old Sumpter wharf  nearby there are thousands of roosting shags including Spotted shags and the very rare Otago shag.  There have been proposed plans to restore the old wharf but this would destroy this important roost site.

Friday, July 31, 2020

Gulf Connections LATE POST

It was good to team up again on Tuesday evening with Katina Conomos and Sue Neureuter for our talk entitled

 Gulf Connections - from our Shoal Bay to the Noises Islands. 

Following my introduction about the many 'At Risk' shorebird species  that are resident or visit our local estuaries  Katina and Sue then showcased the beautiful Noises islands. Sue outlined   the loss of species and biodiversity that has occured during the years that Sue and  her family had visited their Island bach over many summers.
 Sediment flowing into the Hauraki Gulf is part of the the problem and that is a shared issue with Shoal Bay as development increases around the estuary edge.

It was good to meet Romy Udanga who hosted the evenings story telling and a big thanks to all who ventured out on a cold evening to help make this special event a success.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Save Canal Road Trees

A small forest of around 50 mature native trees at Avondale is being destroyed for development with no intervention by the Local Board or Auckland Council.

 And yet Auckland Council is so proud of its glossy well presented
Auckland's Urban Ngahere (Forest) Strategy document. 
The Auckland Council website claims
We are taking a strategic approach to knowing, growing, and protecting our urban ngahere (forest).

The nine principles of Auckland's Urban Ngahere (Forest) Strategy

  • Right tree in the right place.
  • Preference for native species.
  • Ensure urban forest diversity.
  • Protect mature, healthy trees.
  • Create ecological corridors and connections.
  • Access for all residents.
  • Manage urban forest on public and private land.
  • Deploy regulatory and non-regulatory tools.
  • Manage the whole lifecycle of urban trees.
Fine words but  what is strategic about not saving a native tree canopy of 17 different native tree species some of which are rare? They also have significant historical and environmental value too. 

How is meaningful tree protection going to be acheived without restoration of tree protection that was removed from the RMA in 2012?

Due to apparent unsafe and poor work practises on this site Worksafe has issued a Stop work Prohibition Notice on this site - a small reprieve for the trees and the many locals who support their protection.

Friday, July 17, 2020

So near and yet so far- The Trans-Tasman bubble

An email catch -up with my  Fairy tern researcher friend Claire in Western Australia reminds me that with Covid 19 still rampant in some areas of Australia the chance to visit again will be delayed for some time.
Claire has just sent me her latest just co-authored  Fairy tern paper about the populations of this bird on the coast of Western Australia.

During my many visits to WA I have been able to observe these fascinating terns on the Swan river and nearby coastline and further South.. On my last visit Claire enabled me to visit one of her projects at a island Navy base. A rare opportunity indeed and it was amazing to watch 100 birds at a roost site. In the evening 400 hundred birds were using this location as a night roost site.

 In New Zealand you are unlikely to see more than a few birds at any one time due to their low total population numbers (40) and the fact that they are not colony nesters.

Friday, July 3, 2020

Tutukaka Coast

Back on the Tutukaka coast enjoying coastal bush tracks and wonderful headland views. A quiet time to visit just before the schools break up and bargain campervan hires hit the road full of domestic travellers  following the demise of foreign visitors due to Covid 19..

Photos to follow..............................

Friday, June 26, 2020

Back to School !

Its been a busy couple of weeks including last week following an invitation to talk to  students at Belmont Primary school. My talk was entitled - How to keep Beaches and Shell banks safe for Shorebirds.

The students were really interested and very knowledgeable about how important mangroves are for estuary environments. I was very pleased to hear how they  can teach their parents to value these important native plants.
 It was a pleasure to share some photos of the many birds that are resident and migrate to  our local habitats. Many Thanks to Jo Scott their teacher for inviting me.

This week we have had meetings at the Patuone Reserve. We are still concerned that the walkway widening project will not be notified and that the best outcome for this walkway has not been properly discussed. The rush to sign off a boardwalk across a small bay rather than push the widened pathway around the grass area away from the estuary edge seems a good plan considering the increasing threats from sea level rise.

A resumption of bait pulse planning is  underway for the August pulse. Our volunteers are keen to to out again as the April pulse had to be abandoned due to Covid Lockdowns.

Friday, May 8, 2020

Royal Spoonbill in Shoal

I had been tipped off that 4 Royal Spoonbill had been seen in Shoal bay feeding in the estuary about two hours before high tide so I have been looking out for them. Today was a 3.5 metre high tide and so I was checking out the usual high tide roosts that I like to keep an eye on to monitor shorebird numbers.

Pied stilt are plentiful at the present time and South island pied oystercatchers. However just  a sprinkling of wrybill and banded dotterel so far this season.

 At my last shell bank count this morning I was pleased to see a solitary Royal Spoonbill alongside 99 pied stilt and 23 bar-tailed godwit bracing against a stiff southerly. Some of the pied stilts were sheltering behind a few mangroves but the spoonbill was still with head tucked most of the time  to withstand the breeze.

Royal Spoonbill with Pied Stilt sheltering from the breeze.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Kereru on the Wire

Kereru are not often seen this side of Lake road. However I did see one fly from the Northboro Reserve through a neigbouring property two weeks ago.

 Following a heavy downpour of rain today after mid-day this kereru landed on the power cable balancing itself by raising its tailfeathers before moving  into the Jacaranda tree. It then returned to   the wire before heading off in the direction I had seen one flying previously..

Sunday, April 26, 2020

New Zealand eBird Atlas.

Its been great to catch-up on all manner of things as lockdown restricts our movements. I have  been searching through old records and updating monitoring records of some local projects including several hundred records at Shoal Bay and Ngataringa estuaries..

 The recently completed series of  4 weekly webinars on the eBird New Zealand Atlas have been very informative. I have now been able to migrate appropriate completed lists since the beginning of this project in June 2019 to the NZ Atlas portal.This is a five year project.

 Its great to be able to contribute to this project and I thank the webinar team and Birds NZ for their expertise and enthusiasm for getting this project off the ground.

Monday, April 13, 2020

Lock down activities - what's eating the Hoheria?

Weevils. Well at least one that I could find. It's the hoheria flowering season. I always look forward to these amazing white flowers. But this weevil is munching its way though the leaves.

Weevil eating hoheria leaves

Weevil eating hoheria leaves


Saturday, March 21, 2020

Kaipara Catch-up

Godwit and red knots overhead. Checking traps and bait stations. A young weasel has been caught in one of the DOC 200 traps.

Weasel in DOC 200 trap

Weasel removed from trap

View South across the Kaipara to South Head

Godwit and red knots fly North to feeding areas as the tide recedes.

Godwit heading to low tied feeding areas

Godwit & 2 red knots flying to low tide feeding areas

Red knots heading to low tide feeding areas

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Miranda PGP News

Headed to Miranda today to check out the birds that have arrived from the South Island and to see the remaining bar-tailed godwit that have not yet left for their migration to the Artic.

During scanning through the birds a Hudsonian godwit was spotted on the Stilt pond. It was later revealed at the introduction a to a talk by Andrew Crowe back at the Shorebird centre that JoJo the missing Pacific Golden Plover had also been recorded today at Miranda.

 JoJo had last been recorded as being in Tonga so this was great news to know that he ( originally that to be a she) had in fact returned and had completed a full migration to and from Alaska.

Monday, March 9, 2020

MINT's 2020

First stop Te Kuiti for lunch. Second stop National Park.

Trek 1- Dactylanthus-hand pollinating. A first for me and an interesting project to help DOC safeguard and hopefully increase the range of this unique parasitic plant. Heading out from Turangi in five utes we are soon at the beginning of the trail,

Heading to the Dactylanthus habitat

Dactylanthus above ground and caged to protect them

Checking the Dactylanthus cages.

Dactylanthus grows on the roots of a matai host tree

Dactylanthus male flower with pollen

Hand pollinating dactylanthus by spreading pollen.

DOC staff and volunteers

Trek 2

Lake Rotopounamu. We had missed circumnavigating this beautiful lake on several occasions but today was to be the day we finally crossed this stunning bush surrounded lake of our list. With interesting botany and birds it was sure to take us at least twice as long as most people to circumnavigate.

MINTS at first morning T spot.

North Island robin

North Island Robin

Trek 3

A perfect blue sky day to explore Pukekaikiore volcanic cone. With no marked paths this was going to be a challenge.

Photos and more to follow.

Friday, March 6, 2020

Celebration !

Ngataringa Bay at low tide

I have been trying to get dog signage into Ngataringa bay for some years now to protect the important high tide roost site. I started the process in 2013 and worked with a Council contractor on the locations that required signage.. The bylaw was updated in 2015 with the added protection ruling of 'No Dogs on Shell Banks or in Mangroves to protect Wildlife'.

Signage by Council appeared a year later in 2016 all around Shoal and Ngataringa estuaries but it was disappointing that no signage although requested and shown on the plans appeared at this location.
So a celebration today to see signage at last in two locations to protect this important site.

 The next challenge is trying to get the wording of these signs to be consistent with the 2015 updated 2012 bylaw to make sense to be meaningful to protect these areas.

Dog signage at last at Ngataringa estuary

Saturday, February 8, 2020

Kaipara Count

A good paddle across to the island at high tide for the bird count. 1500 South Island Pied oystercatchers first count at the North end.

 Its very hot and we progress to our second target area where the waders are for some reason very skittish and unsettled. We struggle to use a scope to count the bird soup of red knots and bar-tailed godwit as the heat is causing a distracting shimmer..

High tide kaipara roost site

South Island Pied Oystercatchers

Settling down to count at the high tide roost area

Red Knot and godwit

Photos and More to follow...………………..

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Off Grid

Boy its been hot! Yesterday hitting over 30 degrees where we were parked up but the solar panels kept the fridge going so that was good.


Grey warbler


Southern Black backed gull with eel

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Leucistic Tui

No sign today of the leucistic tui seen at the beginning of the month regularly visiting our sugar feeder in the garden. Definitely not an albino as you can see by the dark eyes.

Leucistic tui

I photographed this thought to be a leucistic variable oystercatcher in the Kaipara on December 29th 2016. However it may be an albino as on closer viewing of my photo their is a hint of red in those eyes.

Leucistic or Albino

Monday, January 6, 2020

Fairy Tern Chick in Training.

Just home after an extremely windy day spent photographing a young Fairy Tern North of Auckland  as it shows off its newly learnt flying skills. It never quite catches anything but does appear to have all the correct moves..

Young Fairy Tern with coloured leg bands

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Year Beginning


Barbary dove investigated my cup of coffee.

A regular visitor to our deck. A cappuccino loving Barbary dove. So tame and confiding. I think that gradually birds are taking over the place as they become more confident and relaxed as we pursue a 'No Cats Zone'.
The big plus is a mature oak tree of considerable size on the boundary that draws the birds into a garden of native plantings  and a sugar feeder, garden pond and bird baths  that provides essential drinking water in a drought and a place for them to line up for a soak.