Now, I have just written a really long 3-part post on Miranda from about this time last month, so I won't repeat everything. This is just the highlights... I also must admit these are not my photos - I wish! They were taken by the other two YB's - Adi and Joe.
Saturday morning we walked up to the shellbanks and stilt pools, where we got to try out the new hides (Stilt and Wrybill hides). Along with the common ducks etc we saw a few New Zealand Dotterel, a single Banded Dotterel (our only one for the trip) and a Sharp-tailed Sandpiper. Now, Keith had promised us free accomodation if we found a new bird for New Zealand, so we desperately tried to turn some of the dotterels into Kentish Plovers and some of the godwits into Marbled Godwits, but to no avail. At the main (Godwit) hide, we saw a beautiful juvenile 'Sharpie', and a Curlew Sandpiper along with the innumerable Bar-tailed Godwits and Red Knot. White-fronted Tern were common along with Black-billed Gulls. What can only be described as 'oodles' of Pacific Golden-Plovers were also present, the most I had ever seen at one time. Of course, we learnt that if only we had been a little earlier we would have seen a Cattle Egret in beautiful breeding plumage - that would have been a new bird for my NZ list...
|White-faced Heron with an eel|
One of the upsides of birding in New Zealand is the sheer number of pelagic or ocean-going birds. However that one came back to bite us when Joe spotted a dark seabird sitting on the ocean in the distance. I opened my guide, only to find that the bird could be any of the following:
- Grey-faced Petrel
- Black Petrel
- Flesh-footed Shearwater
- Wedge-tailed Shearwater
- Sooty Shearwater
- Short-tailed Shearwater
That is New Zealand for you! With no chance of ID'ing it, we kept watching the distant ocean until Joe (again!) saw two Skua harrying some unfortunate terns, which with the help of some other birders we identified as Arctic Skua (or Parasitic Jaegar). Number 112 on my year list!
I had the awesome privilege of being able to show some Texan birders some of our extra-special birds such as NZ Dotterels and Wrybill, and it struck me as odd how we had such different reasons for coming. We were both birding, but Martin was on the lookout for Wrybill - a common bird here - and here I was getting excited about the solitary Curlew Sandpiper we had! When they described their common shorebirds in Texas, they more or less named some of the rarest waders in NZ, none of which I had seen. Anyway, they gave us a lift back to the Centre, where we parted ways - they only had a day and a half in NZ!
|Me in front and Joe behind - counting Pacific Golden-Plovers|
|One of the PGP's in question|
In the afternoon, we walked up to Kaiaua where we saw.... lots of White-fronted Terns. We were hoping for the ironically named 'Common Tern' or 'Arctic Tern', but no luck. We had fish and chips and headed back.
|A greedy juvenile Black-backed Gull|
|Variable Oystercatcher and NZ Dotterel|
The next morning we got to the hides earlier to catch the Cattle Egret, but it again eluded us. The only bird of note that I haven't mentioned earlier was a Brown Teal off on the shellbank. Our time here was over, and the holidays had started out with a hiss and a roar.
|Welcome Swallow by the hide|