First stop Ruakaka
More to follow.......................
Headed down the Miranda coast. Thousands of bar-tailed godwits and knots ready for their migration North. Some may already have left heading for China first and then to Alaska to breed.
Good numbers of wrybill have arrived from the South Island and have settled in the arid dry stilt ponds at high tide. A small group were feeding along the Kauai coast. including this metal banded bird..
Then via Thames and driving North up the Thames coastline to Coromandel town. Stayed at the little campsite on an estuary nearby. Then on to Colville passing some historic little settlements.
We are soon on gravel roads with Mt Moehau ahead. We turn inland and cross a small hill range via a windy gravel road and soon drive past a vast wetland before the DOC campsite at Waikawau bay.
This is a beautiful location to stop for some days to explore. The beach is stunning and is 3.5kms long. It has a backdrop of some huge sand dunes. The beach has to walked each day to reach a high tide roost site at the Northern river end. This roost attracts white fronted terns, NZ dotterel, banded dotterel, & Caspian tern. Five pairs of variable oyster catcher are spaced out along the 3.5 km beach but only one pair have a single juvenile bird with them and they are at the Northern end.
There are plenty of other walks including one at the southern end of the beach with fine views down the full length of the beach and with Mt. Moehau in the far distance. At the southern end and running into the campground is a smaller river and wetland..
We hear the call of kiwi early evening shortly after dusk and a morepork throughout each night in the distance. With no wi-fi signal this is heaven. Such a peaceful place.
More to follow.
Ruakaka on the East coast first stop. Always a great place for shorebirds and sea birds. Walking through the estuary and mangroves at low tide I came upon two spoonbill preening themselves on a dead tree with a white faced heron. So this is where they roost after feeding.
Always looking out for banded rail in these mangrove areas. Not many godwit this time but thousands of fluttering shearwater out to sea.
Pied stilt feeding at high tide.
Then North to the Tutukaka coastline always a favourite. Beachfront at Whangamu. Walked the coastal track via the lookout to Ngungaru.
At Matapouri the clifftop walk to Whale bay is always a must. Swimming at Whale bay perfectly refreshing clear water on a very warm day. Tawapou grows here a tree found on the off shore islands.
Then north to Kawakawa to drop in on the Bay of Islands heritage railway for coffee then on to stay at Russell. Its very hot about 30C so plenty of swims at Long Bay over the hill from the town.
Then across to the West coast to Koutu Point near Opononi. Must be the best view if the Hokianga water on three sides. Thanks to the couple we met at Matheson's Bay a few weeks back for recommending this site.
Then south past the sandy beaches of Opononi through some amazing landscapes to the Waipoua forest then a first to Bayly's beach on the wild and rugged west coast.
Then Ruawai The name literally translated from Maori means 'two waters' referring to the nearby Northern Wairoa River and Kaipara Harbour. The boat ramp is always interesting at this time of the year to watch white fronted terns feeding their young.
The little 1889 Zion church just off the road between Ruawai and Pahi is always worth a stop. Sadly each time I visit the church has deteriorated more. I guess its a case of note enough money to restore it. Although the lawn surrounding is well rimmed so someone must be regularly visiting.
And Pahi what a delightful little place. Always a hive of activity particularly watching the regular oyster boats toing and frowing the the old Pahi hotel.
More to follow....................
I needed to check on the birds at Shoal and do a shorebird count today. Within a short time I had spotted the bar-tailed godwit with the Chinese leg flag. This godwit has stayed since its arrival moving between Shoal and Ngataringa estuaries.
Surely if there was an Olympic event for shorebirds this species would win Gold for their epic flight in September of around 11,500 kms none stop to New Zealand from Alaska and soon in March a 10,000 km flight to China on route to Alaska for the breeding season.
Update Two days later on Saturday 12th.
A fortunate chance to get closer to the flock I was able to get this photo and confirm that this is indeed the same godwit that stayed with the Shoal /Ngataringa flock the previous season too.
This godwit had flags attached at Yalu Jiang in April 2020
A perfect hot, calm and blue sky day to visit the Miranda Shorebird Centre and catch up with Keith to hear news about the birds and Centre activities. Also to share sad notes about the loss of a great member of the shorebird team-Jim Eagles who sadly passed away just recently.
I had many enjoyable meetings with Jim when he joined me for the Wader bird counts at Shoal and Ngataringa estuaries over recent years . We would chat over coffee afterwards and he was such an interesting and learned man to share some time with. He is deeply missed by all.
Visiting Miranda brought that home today and it was good to have some quiet time reflecting on lost friends while enjoying the many thousands of birds some feeding but mostly roosting at high tide today.
We were here at a similar time last year ago van camping near the walkway. The weather is brilliant with a gentle sea breeze to keep the heat down but with plenty of swims at the nearby bay that was not problem at all. No sign of young NZ dotterel this year but fun watching two young kingfisher begging their parents for food.
The mission was to check out the white fronted Tern colony that had been displaced by recent storm driven high tides and so the birds had Island hopped to this smaller Island to continue nesting.
We had the usual low tide drag of the the kayaks through and to the muddy channel edge but knew we would be rewarded on the way home later as the tide would be in with a lovely paddle back right up to the boat ramp.
The birds were certainly here in large numbers we estimated between 350 -400 nesting pairs although it was difficult to ascertain if all the birds on the ground were nesting. as it was now high tide.
Certainly we could see the heads of the white fronted tern chicks as they peeped out from under their parents protective wings. In amongst them was a SBBGull nest complete with a well developed juvenile. Predation could be a risk for the white fronted terns with such capable predators in their midst.
Also at this high tide roost site were a mix of thousands of SIPO's, red-billed gulls. Knots and Bar-tailed Godwit all rather fidgety and suddenly they were all up except the nesting white fronted terns who just stayed on task protecting their young and eggs.
Just before this estimated 6- 7 thousand mix of species took off five Fairy tern with their flickering quick direction changing flight flew in briefly but soon left heading down the eastern side of the island. Later we were able to observe one of these birds at the western high tide roost site that the disturbed birds had now settled at.
The clock is ticking to the beginning of a 2022. There are many reasons to put 2021 behind us but then for many of us its not been so bad when you consider the turmoil that exists in so many places on our shared planet Earth.
So I'm for thanking all the people who have made it an enjoyable experience and for the opportunities I have had to enjoy their company and engage with good conversations and a shared enjoyment of Nature. Sadly one of those people is Jim Eagles who sadly passed away very recently. I will miss Jim and our regular catch-ups when counting the shorebirds at Shoal and Ngataringa estuaries for wader bird counts. And on other occasions at Miranda and on Cheltenham beach. Our condolences go out to Chris and their family.
Other sadness at this time of the year is remembering my sister Susanne who passed at Christmas time last year. My thoughts are with her family too.
So lets all enjoy what we have and the friends we value and share a toast to another year ahead.
Auckland Council thinking seems to be that Te Muri Regional park will be a stand alone park. with its own road access and car parking. Mahurangi residents have a bigger vision that considers Te Muri as part of a network of reserves including Wenderholm and Waiwera with possibilities for a long distance footpath. This would encompass all four reserves with public transport connections to bring people in or under their own steam of walking or cycling..
With an increasing imperative to acknowledge our changing climate and the need to reduce our dependency on oil the Council plan appears to be 'Same old Thinking; once again. .The Mahurangi vision seems more about bringing people into the park by other means acting as a circuit beaker to the way the Regional parks have previously been managed.
Its that time of the year again. Its Christmas Party time and today Bot Soc (Auckland Botanical Society) are gathering at Point Wells for a get together..
It was great to be able to catch up with people after a long period of Lockdown restrictions. After a gentle hour or so walking around the saltmarsh edge of the estuary it was time for a splendid lunch together in the village hall with a great outdoor area to keep up our social distancing.
Later I took the opportunity to visit the shorebird /wildlife sanctuary behind the predator fence at Omaha. I soon came across at least five pairs of Variable Oystercatchers who reminded me not to come too close to their fenced off nesting sites. With NZ dotterel pairs also nearby.
Then on to meet up with a good friend and enjoy dinner out together at our favorite Indian restaurant. Some fluffing around trying to find my vaccine certificate on my phone that seemed to have disappeared but eventually with the help of the lovely Indian lady we were able to settle down and enjoy our catch-up meal.
Not one but two. Now that's unusual to see two stoats on the same day close by. We have been in Lockdown for many weeks now and the borders have been closed but we have had the freedom to explore Auckland and I never miss an opportunity to re-visit favourite reserves. One of these is on the Mahurangi peninsular. Its a great escape from the city I visit weekly. and sometimes when possible stay overnight in one of the three beautiful campgrounds.
A couple of weeks ago I had headed for one of my favorite walks up the hill to the lookout and then down to Te Muri bay . I crossed the river as the tide was good to explore behind the top of the beach. keeping a lookout for any NZ dotterel nesting activity. At once I disturbed a stoat. It bounded away with an undulating movement. At first thinking it was a rabbit the black tail was the real giveaway.
Heading along the back path above the beach about 10 minutes later I was aware of movement in front of me and yes there was stoat 2. It just stopped in its tracks s I did and we just stared at each other for a few minutes I usually carry a camera but on this occasion I had left it in my bag as I crossed the river so I missed the opportunity to get a photo. Yesterday I returned this time camera in hand but all was quiet. I had passed on my sightings to the Ranger the previous week who had explained that due to Covid 19 restrictions his volunteers had not been able to enter the park s so the string of stoat traps had not been baited for a while. Yesterday they were full of rabbit meat so maybe the stoats were wary at having a too easy a tasty meal served up for them.
Its the first day of lockdown 3 after five weeks of lockdown 4 following New Zealand's first community Delta Covid outbreak.. Its still fairly quiet out and about and with an 8.10am high tide I'm out to check the numbers of our newly arrived local estuary godwit.
They began arriving on the 13th September and now the flock is building in size. The birds look in remarkably good condition following an amazing 11.5 thousand kilometre flight from Alaska. Last season 4BBRW set an amazing record of nearly 12,000 km in 9.5days.
Today these birds are fairly settled on this sand/shell bank after feeding out on the mudflats at low tide. The only disturbance was caused when a pair of variable oystercatchers decided to take of and head for their more favoured shell bank and the godwits seemed for a moment to instinctively take off with them before returning and settling back down. Nearby a smaller group of south Island pied oystercatchers stayed settled saving their energy
It seems a long time since I have walked in the Waitakeres. This is partly due to Covid 19 Lockdowns earlier this year and last year but also because many of the tracks in the ranges were closed to help slow the spread of Kauri die back disease. However today it is good to be back with the people from Bot Soc that.is the Auckland Botanical Society.
Our walk today was along the Cutty Grass track at a true Bot Soc snails pace while examining every species of plant life around to add to the records for this track.
More to follow........
Good to meet Josh and Kath today at the Northboro pond on a very wet morning.. They had both recently seen eels in the pond and Kath pointed out an eel while we were chatting.
When the pond became badly polluted and the ducks began to die the large eels some a metre long disappeared. Eels can be very sensitive to pollution and we presume that they left to survive.
I'm pleased to see that they have returned but this pond over the last few years has increasingly suffered from sediment incursions from local infill developments
|Photo taken the following day 8. June 2021|
Heading down Ohope beach this afternoon its great to see large areas taped off with good signage about the rare birds NZ dotterel and Variable oystercatcher that nest along this coastline. Dotterel and variable oystercatchers were present in pairs ready for the new breeding season.
Its also good to see that the NZ Coastal Policy Statement is quoted in respect to controlling vehicles on beaches 'where damage to people, wildlife and other aspects of the wildlife might result'
Tomorrow we will follow the coastal road and explore the Opotiki side off the harbour staying at Ohiwa.
The estuary is extensive with views to Whakari ( White Island) and Motuhora Island (Whale Island ) was one of the first Islands to become pest free in NZ. Its now a designated as a Wildlife sanctuary. Interesting to see several flocks of oystercatchers flying in formation across the water to feeding sites. One of these flocks had 25 birds.
Ohiwa spit is a pretty little settlement to stay the night and I took the opportunity to climb the Ohiwa bush loop track to the Onekawa pa site which had stunning views all around. Now its time for a beach walk and then watch the sun go down.
An interesting visit to this beautiful area with walks to Te Muri and Mitre Bay. Interesting to meet two young people flying a drone and after I had counted 54 Variable oystercatchers, 24 South Island pied oystercatchers and two NZ dotterels resting ( roosting) at high tide just a couple of hours earlier. on the beach. That's a very good number of Variable oystercatchers.
I was keen to chat with the pilots of the drone and ask them if they understood that the Regional parks are no fly zones. They quickly brought back the zone from a great height and that was the end of that. The Rangers do an extraordinary job keeping these reserves in such good order but I guess the behaviour of visitors is always unpredictable.
The following day it was great to meet with and chat to Cimino and I thank him for the link to the Mahurangi News magazine just passed on. Cimino is the editor of this magazine which is full of very interesting articles. I will settle down with a coffee to read this after my high tide shorebird count at Shoal estuary his morning.
An interesting talk by Osana about Birds & Bee keeping as part of a gathering at the Miranda shorebird centre to Farewell the birds as they head of on their migrations to the Northern hemisphere in the case of the godwit and to the South Island for the wrybill.
More to follow.
It has been quite a time since I climbed the hill at the campsite end of Matauri bay to visit the memorial to the sinking of the Greenpeace ship, the Rainbow Warrior. The ship was blown up and deliberately sunk on orders of the French Government on July10th 1985.
This event was in direct retaliation for the protest and anti nuclear stance that Greenpeace and New Zealand had taken against the testing of nuclear devices in the Pacific by the French Government.
A great find down a short gravel road the beautiful little Mahinepua bay complete with walkway out on the peninsular.
Tauranga Bay with white fronted terns diving for fish.
More to follow.....
|The views from the top just stunning and worth the hill climb.|
|Variable Oystercatcher family|
|8 week + oystercatcher chick|
More to follow.........................
More to follow ...........................