Seven-thirty saw me rushing around, stuffing my field guide, binoculars and raincoat into my cheap fabric 'birding bag', jumping onto eBird and frantically finding the best "hotspots". We squished into the van and started heading south, as I pointed out the common birds like Tui, Fantails and Spur-Winged Plovers (after the usual explanation that our plovers were not actually plovers!).
Stop number one on my mental birding map was the Aratiatia Dam, where we watched the dam open and I counted the scaup and shags sitting along the top. Once the raging waters had subsided we moved on to a few touristy spots, but as this is a birding blog we will fast-forward this crazy narrative.
At long last, we arrived in Taupo, where we put our bags in our
slum motel and braved the mad weather to go and look at the birds at the waterfront. Hundreds of waterfowl were bobbing in the rain, and we saw Black Swans, Australasian Coots, and the ubiquitous NZ Scaup.
The next day, a few of us went out on a boat trip on the lake, despite the howling wind and drizzle. Again, coots, scaup, swans and mallards were common and widespread, and a highlight of the cruise was watching the skipper feed the ducks out of the window... on the second tier! The ducks kept pace with the boat, and among the pure mallards and grubby hybrids, I managed to spy a few rare Grey Ducks! This was a big deal for me, as these were some of the purest Grey Ducks I'd seen, with green speculums (specula?), grey bills and clearly striped faces. As we approached the land again, I heard the 'zzzsh' of Whiteheads (the bird not the pimple!) in the bush, as well as some of the more common bush birds. By the time we got back, I had also added my first Dabchick of the trip to the list, giving me a total of 15 species in 2 hours. Not fantastic, but the views were stunning, so I got off the boat in a good mood.
|The skipper feeding a Mallard out the window - quite spectacular!|
|Checking for Grey Ducks on the lake|
Later in the day, we headed north-east to Rotorua, stopping at some of the best geothermal spots. Again, this isn't Lonely Planet, so I won't bore you with the details, but long story short we arrived in a marginally less seedy motel that night and settled in. Early (well, early for the holidays) next morning Martin and I ended up in the aptly named Sulphur Bay.
|The beautiful Sulphur Bay|
Let me get this straight. We did not ignore the warning signs. We did not go to a restricted part of the bay to look at gulls, and we most certainly did not trespass on restricted land. Somehow we were still able to rack up a good few species, including Greylag and Canada Geese, 4 Dunnocks (special for us northerners), all 3 gull species and of course, hundreds of scaup. After a look at the thermal area that gives Sulphur Bay its name (from a safe distance of course ;) ), we headed home, detouring at Rainbow Springs.
|Bird of the trip - the charismatic Scaup. I wish there were a few more of these closer to home!|
Boom. My holiday. No lifers, but it was great fun. Hope yours were as good!