Sunday, October 25, 2020

Welcome to the Godwits.


Saturday 24th was a perfect sunny afternoon to Welcome the Bar-Tailed Godwits newly arrived from Alaska to Shoal and Ngataringa bays. On the 15th of September 6 had arrived now there are 181.

This third annual event was hosted by BEAC ( Bayswater Environment Action Coalition) and RTH ( Restoring Takarunga Hauraki environmental network)).

A good group of people turned up and the godwits too, 3pm being well timed  for a 2.29 high tide roosting ( resting).flock.

I enjoyed sharing my scope and talking to the local residents who had come along to learn more about the wonderful godwits and other birds that visit our estuaries in NZ including our local Shoal and Ngataringa bays.










MORE TO FOLLOW

Friday, September 11, 2020

SOUTH- Springtime in the South Island


NORTH 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.

SOUTH ISLAND

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 shag 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 onto Mount Cook village and a walk up the Hooker valley which was just excellent. Just a little late for the Alpine flowers though.

 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. I thought this would be a guided walk but the drawings are protected by cages and you are free to enjoy they with interpretive signage.

Too early in the day  for the penguins at Oamaru 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.

The Moaraki boulders are such a tourist magnet and that's a mystery to me so that's why I had to see them. Maybe they simply appeal to the imagination. The beach setting was great.

 This broke the drive to Dunedin where a long awaited visit to the Best Cafe was on my list of Must do's. Last time I was here was 2009. It hasn't changed and the blue cod and pile of bread and butter and the bottomless tea and coffee and plastic table cloths  make this a national treasure.

The little camp site at Portobello on the Otago peninsular was just great and well worth a couple of nights stay. Well positioned for the Albatross Centre which was so interesting with a very knowledgeable guide.


I spent an hour or two along the cliff side photographing spotted shags at their nests and the occasional Royal Albatross soaring high on the updraft winds here.

The Catlins next and mixed weather here but that's expected. Loved the walk to the Nugget lighthouse and amazingly way below the cliffs there were Royal Spoonbill preening themselves on the the rocky sheltered areas. Fur seals too. 

The little campsite at Pounawea complete with camped fairground equipment was right on the edge of the Catlin River. Through my scope I spied 10 godwit feeding on the estuary edge when we arrived along with South Island Pied Oystercatchers. By morning the tide was in and the birds had gone. There is a beautiful bush walk accessed from the campsite full of bird song which makes a change. The dawn chorus was a chorus of bellbirds & tui-wonderful!. 

Curio Bay was wild and beautiful complete with fossil forest and a cold coastal breeze. Waipapa Point light house was another stunning location.

Invergargill is a great city with Queens park which is probably one of the most beautiful parks I have visited. It also has an eclectic collection of animals here including wild pigs from the Auckland Islands and various rare rabbit breeds too. We woke to a snow covered campsite in the centre of town. It was just 5degrees. Grey clouds above delivered flurries of snow.

Headed to Te Anau through a snow blizzard just beyond Lumsden. Pleased that this cleared and we made it with out incident to Te Anau which looked spectacular in the snow. 


Stayed for two nights waiting for the Milford Sound road to open. Snow ploughs had cleared it by Wednesday and we had a beautiful drive in with clear skies snow covered scenery and sunshine, The Mirror lakes were worth a stop.



Enjoyed a boat ride around the 'sound' and out into the Tasman sea penguins and fur seals along the rocky edge.

Tomtits near the waters edge singing their rythmic tunes.


 Staying  at the Milford lodge rainforest complete with some very smart Kea

The  trees, mountain beech were full of tomtits, bellbirds, grey warbler and robins.


And weka too.

It was time to leave and head back to Te Anau , a very different drive out with much of the snow thawed as the temperatures had increased. It was enjoyable to spend further time walking along the edge of Te Anau lake and I again visited the DOC sanctuary with moorpork, kakariki, and takahe.

Queenstown I think has been totally spoilt by overdevelopment. Arrowtown too seemed to be overly commercial rather than historic now. We took the opportunity here to cast our  Special votes which was actually easier than we thought it would be.  I preferred Arrowtown  when I last visited some 15 years ago. 

Wanaka was better although this town too has increased in size dramatically. However the Mount Aspiring road along lakeside  to Mt Aspiring is still as beautiful as I remember it and we just  had to stay at the  beautiful lakeside campsite. Quite a temperature change now at 26 degrees which beats the -5 degrees we had experienced at lake Te Anau.

On the road again and the Haast pass was simply stunning all the way to Haast on the West coast. Then onto Fox glacier where this morning we are waiting for the rain to stop to be able to explore and voila dead on 1pm the taps have been turned off. Before that I enjoyed the glowworm walk in the saturated bush setting nearby. We stay another night to enable time to walk up the side of the river valley to get a glimpse of the receding glacier in the distance. 

Franz Josef not too far away was on my list to visit the excellent wildlife centre there. This is run in a partnership with DOC and has the rare Rowi kiwi and tuatara  which we were able to see. A night at the Rainforest campsite was worth it just to watch kea in this bush setting and also to enjoy the fabulous restaurant here.

Okarito was not far from Franz Josef and this little West coast settlement is a delight. Its the home of the Rowi kiwi and nearby Whataroa is the only place in New Zealand that the white heron nest. The Okarito lagoon is the largest unmodified wetland in the NZ. I'm lucky enough to get quite near a white heron fishing as the lagoon is their feeding area. 


The next day we join the white heron tour to see the nesting site of these birds. Its an excellent tour by a family run business and I can thoroughly recommend this experience.

Banded dotterels are near the campground. The locals tell me that they nest on the beach nearby.

Ross is our next destination complete with cherry tree lined streets.  We arrive just in time to to view some old cottages and the church at the heritage area. The caretaker re-opened the church so we could look inside. Its a beautiful old catholic church. We stay the night parked up near the beach. During the night the wind gets up and we wake to a wet misty morning.

The drive to Greymouth is a wet one but the Tree tops walk was amazing even though I am not that keen on height. The bush looks great in the rainfall from over 20 metres up. Next stop Shantytown which caught my imagination. It was very entertaining and the ride on the steam train reminded me of steam travel so many years ago. We drove on in the rain to Hokitika which was such an interesting small town quite vibrant on a Saturday morning. Some interesting old buildings and a bakery to die for selling 'Jenny Craig' donuts- certainly the best donuts I have ever tasted..

The night was spent in Greymouth that looked rather forlorn in the rain with many closed up shops. This town is doing it hard and needs help. 

The next day we head for the Punakaiki pancake rocks and a cafe selling wonderful pancakes. Both were excellent and beyond expectations.

 Then a hang on to the edge of your seat drive to Westport in 6o knot winds and rain. The coastal sections were particularly challenging with huge gust of wind. The Foulwind Cape was worth a walk.

The Buller Gorge was stunning the river foreboding with such a volume of water. Murchison was an ideal place to stay on a beautiful traditional campsite overlooking the river. Probably one of the best sites we have stayed at.

From Murchison to Nelson to catch up with people before moving on to another traditional Kiwi campsite at Cable Bay. Loved the walk up the hill to overlook the causeway and Pippin Island.

Queen Charlotte Sound is just stunning and would be great to get out on the water on the Mail boat or by kayak.

All too soon we are back on the Blubridge ferry heading back to Wellington from Picton.






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

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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.