My girlfriend and I managed to free up a Saturday morning, so we did what all normal people do - we went birding! Rather than electing to spend the day squinting through heat haze on the coast or trudging through mud in the swamps, we opted for the relative ease of bush birding, taking up the opportunity to nail some cool endemic specialties.
Our first stop was at Lake Rotokauri, a suburban lake which, bizarrely, is home to a few Australasian Bittern as well as some other neat species. We didn't hear the bittern's foghorn call this time but did catch the 'pip, pip' of a Spotless Crake in the raupo.
We motored on to the star attraction - Maungatautari and its 47 kilometre long pest-proof fence, providing a huge space for endangered birds to thrive. Bracing myself for the exorbitant (but utterly justified) entry fee, we were met with our first surprise of the day when we discovered that locals (which we were, apparently) went free today! Arriving bang on opening time, we had the cool of the day to start racking up species that seemed like old friends to me - Kaka screamed past before we had even got in the gate, while North Island Robins were practically at our feet and Whitehead buzzed in the canopy. Starting on the 2 kilometre Rimu track, we kept our necks craned for a glimpse of a Saddleback, but to no avail. As if to mock us, they called constantly but we seemed to be denied even the tiniest flutter. Until... a family group of two parents and a juvenile flew right past us at eye level, and we had the privilege of watching them forage in the understorey for around five minutes! I managed some incredibly blurry images before they moved off, leaving us with only memories. All up, we saw 27 species on the maunga, which I didn't think was too bad considering we weren't early enough for birds like the Kokako. Big misses were the NZ Falcon and Yellow-crowned Parakeet - reasonably infrequent, and definitely a target for next time!
After a lunch break in Te Awamutu, we drove to our final stop in the great south Waikato loop. Lake Rotopiko is a newly formed wetland sanctuary near Ohaupo, where we were hoping to pick up falcons. No falcons were playing our game, however, and so we ended up seeing pigeons and sparrows instead - at this stage, we were regarding these birds as flying falcon food...
All in all it was a superb day out, and I already look forward to the next day off.
|A juvenile Welcome Swallow that was unusually confiding|
|Believe it or not, my least blurry Tieke/Saddleback photo|
|A North Island Robin checking us out|
|The rare and beautiful Hihi/Stitchbird - pretend it is in focus!|
|Garrulous kaka only a few metres from us|