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 ☺.

Thursday, 26 December 2019

Dipping in the Firth of Thames

My alarm woke me at the hideous hour of 4am, a time when sensible birds and people are in bed. The moreporks kept me company while I loaded my scope, camera, binoculars into the boot of my car and set off by 4:30. Picking up my birding companion and best friend Shoshanah on the way, we headed north towards Whangamarino wetland for our first stop. We got out at Falls Road, but rather than hearing the crakes, bitterns and fernbirds that we were expecting, we heard nothing but the whine of mosquitoes and a single morepork that was staying up late. Our attempts at silence were punctuated by our attempts to end the insects that were causing us so much grief, to no avail. No time to waste, as the sun was beginning to rise.

Miranda was our next stop, and we were awestruck by the thousands of birds wheeling around our heads as the sky begun to lighten. Pied Stilts, Bar-tailed Godwits and Red Knot were all abundant and vocal, while around thirty Pacific Golden-Plovers were roosting beside the carpark. Not content with these beautiful migrants, we resolved to chase down the Broad-billed Sandpiper that had been making an appearance over the past few weeks. After sifting through masses of birds next to the Stilt Hide, we had seen Wrybill, Turnstone and New Zealand Dotterel, but nothing smaller or broad-billier. Walking further down the track, we were in luck - a Pectoral and a Sharp-tailed Sandpiper were both feeding alongside Banded Dotterels, and we strained our eyes for the Red-necked Stint group that the broadie had been hanging out with.

Another hour of searching, and no luck. We trudged back to the Godwit hide and were astounded by the closeness of the birds now that the tide had receded - Shoshanah managed to pick out the three Far Eastern Curlew that had been overwintering, a nice consolation prize. No more time to waste, so we drove to the East Piako flood plains to search the flooded stopbank for a Hudsonian Godwit. Out of luck again - we scrutinised each and every godwit and found only Bar-tailed. Another dip.

Undeterred, Thames Bird Hide was our next stop - a crummy, graffitied hut only 300 metres or so from the town centre - surely the least likely spot for good birds. Nevertheless, there were two Brown Teal right outside - pretty good birds! Bracing ourselves for heavy traffic, we were pleasantly surprised to find empty roads up the west coast of the Coromandel peninsula, meaning that we could nab Spotted Shags only a few metres away! Seawatching was fruitless, however, and we had only Australasian Gannets for company - no skua or shearwaters that we expected. All in all we had racked up a spectacular 'dip list' - Curlew Sandpiper, Hudsonian Godwit, Broad-billed Sandpiper, Fluttering Shearwater, Arctic Skua... the list goes on! Regardless, we had a superb morning out and it was a great start to Christmas.

A cute immature White-faced Heron

Ruddy Turnstones amidst Wrybill

A distant but distinctive Far-Eastern Curlew

A pair of Brown Teal

Saturday, 14 December 2019

On the Maunga

Well, work got in the way (again!). But that's ok, it turns out I need money for next year...

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.
Happy birding!
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