I awoke at the ungodly hour known to fellow birders, checking that I had my scope, tripod, notebook and some food. Glancing in my wardrobe, I elected not to take my warm puffer jacket, as it seemed like too much weight for a day that was supposed to be warm. I won't be making that mistake again.
Russ C and I took off from Ngaruawahia in the pre-dawn darkness, keeping our eyes peeled for something interesting. For me, who hadn't seen Cattle Egrets in New Zealand before, these were a biggie, as I knew that I didn't have long left to see them before they migrated to Australia. No egrets though, and no Black Kite at the spot on Oram Road, my latest instalment in a number of failed attempts to see this rare raptor. Our spirits undampened, we hurried north to Papakura where we met with a crowd of other birders. Our quest - to locate the rare Great Knot in a flock of common Red Knots. The knot had been seen at Kidd's Shellbanks, one of the best birding locations in New Zealand, and so we set forth to 'twitch' this bird.
As we crossed through the paddock en route to the shellbank, Paradise Shelducks mingled with Pied Stilts to our left, while South Island Pied Oystercatchers flew overhead. The grey skies and cold southerlies made me regret my lack of suitable clothing, but I shrugged it off and we pressed on. Upon arriving at the shore, we were greeted by a few New Zealand Dotterels and Banded Dotterels. As we made our way east, we saw Ruddy Turnstones, Wrybill, and of course, Red Knot. No Great Knot yet, and as we arrived at the end of the spit we hunkered down and waited for the tide to push the birds closer.
To my delight, a tiny Red-necked Stint ran around on the soft mud only a few metres away, pursued by a few Wrybills. A Whimbrel was spotted at the end of the spit, and a Black-tailed Godwit hung around with the main godwit flock. We began to head back, vigilant for a glimpse of the seemingly fabled Great Knot. As the tide reached its peak of around 4m, we had to wade through freezing mud, aided no doubt by the freezing wind, and my hands were shaking so much I couldn't hold my scope steady! Nevertheless, we soldiered on, and I was reduced to using my binoculars to try and catch a glimpse of a bird with a slightly longer bill than the others. At this point it was almost needless to say that we saw nothing of interest, and slunk back to our warm vehicles.
A hot pie and drink later, and I was almost warmed up. Russ and I wound back to Ngaruawahia, with some unsuccessful attempts to get close to the Tuakau Wastewater Treatment Plant (birders are weird) and a quick check of Lake Whangape - almost nothing there. All in all, I'm glad to have gone and very grateful to have been invited on this trip. I got to see some places that I have never seen before and also saw a few birds that I hadn't seen this year - Whimbrel, Turnstone, Black-tailed Godwit and, most embarrassingly, New Zealand Dotterel. While the knot remained elusive, birding remained an excellent way to enjoy a Sunday morning, racking up a great total of 44 species.
So who is this weirdo?
Hi! My name is Liam and I am a beginner birder living in Glen Massey. I first became interested in birds after a 6-month missions trip to Papua New Guinea in 2016, and my interest grew from there! I am now a member of the Ornithological Society of New Zealand and Young Birders New Zealand (OSNZ and YBNZ respectively ). So now, I'm starting this blog so I can share my birding adventures with anyone who will listen ☺.