View Full Version : Chlidonias' 2012 year list of birds and mammals

Wednesday 4th January 2012, 05:21
Another new year in good old shaky Christchurch. The chap at who's house I am living is just getting into birding and so for the first three days of 2012 we headed down to Dunedin. The day started slowly, because said chap's girlfriend doesn't care for early rising. Few birds of note (well, no birds of note really) were spotted before we stopped briefly at Timaru where a few endemic black-billed gulls were hanging around the Falabella ponies at Caroline Bay (having seen black-backed gulls in Christchurch and red-billed gulls while passing through Ashburton, we had thereby seen every gull species in New Zealand on day one. Yes, all three of them...). Anyway, onwards we drove to Moeraki. We paused at the world-famous Moeraki Boulders where there were a lot of shags and petrels gathering out on the ocean (but too far away to actually identify), as well as variable oystercatchers on the beach and song thrush and chaffinch in the car park. The next stop a few minutes away was what my friend was waiting for, because it was the penguin hide at Katiki Point, easily the best viewing hide for yellow-eyed penguins. He had never seen a yellow-eyed penguin before, so he was very excited when we found three birds right by the fence that surrounds the forest patch in which they nest (the fence being there to protect the birds from marauding dogs and the like). Once in the hide we watched several penguins coming and going up and down the beach at the base of the forest patch, and to top it off there were two big brown fluffy chicks right in front of the hide itself. The only two mammals of the day were both in this area too, with numerous NZ fur seals lolling around on the rocks and a bunny rabbit over by the township.

1) European blackbird Turdus merula
2) Black-backed gull Larus dominicanus
3) House sparrow Passer domesticus
4) Common starling Sturnus vulgaris
5) Feral pigeon Columba livia
6) Australian magpie Gymnorhina tibicen
7) South Island pied oystercatcher Haematopus finschi
8) Red-billed gull Larus novaehollandiae
9) Australasian harrier Circus approximans
10) Black-billed gull Larus bulleri
11) European skylark Alauda arvensis
12) Spur-winged plover Vanellus miles
13) Yellowhammer Emberiza citrinella
14) Variable oystercatcher Haematopus unicolor
15) Song thrush Turdus philomelos
16) Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs
17) Pukeko (Purple gallinule) Porphyrio porphyrio
18) Welcome swallow Hirundo neoxena
19) Yellow-eyed penguin Megadyptes antipodes
20) White-fronted tern Sterna striata
21) European goldfinch Carduelis carduelis
22) Paradise duck Tadorna variegata

1) New Zealand fur seal Arctocephalus forsteri
2) European rabbit Oryctolagus cuniculus

Wednesday 4th January 2012, 05:23
Day two of the trip began at the Dunedin Botanic Gardens (with, again, not a particularly early start. Its not easy travelling with a non-birder in the party, especially when that non-birder is the one in control of the transport!). My friend wanted to find eastern rosellas but we kind of struck out there. A few additional introduced birds were seen (hedge sparrow, redpoll, greenfinch and mallard), along with a few common natives (pigeon, tui, bellbird, waxeye), then we went out to the albatross colony at Taiaroa Head. The colony itself can only be viewed as part of a guided tour which is quite expensive, so we did the cheap-arse thing and stood at the cliff at the edge of the car park. Although very windy there were few albatross on the wing and even fewer Stewart Island shags. We did eventually see both species to my friend's satisfaction (both being new species for him) but it was a much poorer day than any other I have had there.

23) Hedge sparrow (Dunnock) Prunella modularis
24) New Zealand pigeon Hemiphaga novaeseelandiae
25) Mallard Anas platyrhynchos
26) Waxeye (Silvereye) Zosterops lateralis
27) Redpoll Carduelis flammea
28) Tui Prosthemadera novaeseelandiae
29) New Zealand bellbird Anthornis melanura
30) European greenfinch Carduelis chloris
31) Little pied shag Phalacrocorax melanoleucos
32) Spotted shag Stictocarbo punctatus
33) Southern royal albatross Diomedea epomophora
34) Stewart Island shag Leucocarbo chalconotus
35) Australasian pied stilt Himantopus leucocephalus
36) White-faced heron Ardea novaehollandiae
37) Royal spoonbill Platalea regia

Wednesday 4th January 2012, 05:25
This morning we first drove to Aramoana, in New Zealand best known for a shooting rampage many years back, but it also has salt marshes and a long breakwater called the Mole. The tide was no good for finding Pacific golden plovers at the marshes (only distant banded dotterels and godwits made it onto the list), but from the end of the Mole my friend got much better views of the Stewart Island shags as they flew past on their way out fishing, so he was happy. There were lots of fur seals around the Mole as well, but best of all were two Hooker's sealions on the beach. There aren't many of these on mainland NZ so its always fantastic seeing them. After that we made our way to the Orokonui Eco-Sanctuary, an area of forest ringed with predator-proof fencing. The concept is the same as at the better-known Karori Wildlife Sanctuary (aka Zealandia) in Wellington. The fence was completed at Orokonui in 2007 and the sanctuary was opened to the public in 2009. The bird numbers are still very low because its only new but give it ten years and it will be amazing. Most of the birds I thought we were likely to see would be new for my friend but we couldn't find much at all, and we were disadvantaged in that we had limited time there (being on our way back to Christchurch today). For a long time it looked like we were only going to see tomtit and fantail, but while waiting at one of the feeding stations a pair of eastern rosellas turned up in the bushes nearby and then finally amongst the tui and bellbirds there arrived a South Island kaka, bird of the trip for my friend.

38) Black swan Cygnus atratus
39) Banded dotterel Charadrius bicinctus
40) Bar-tailed godwit Limosa lapponica
41) New Zealand tomtit Petroica macrocephala
42) New Zealand fantail Rhipidura fuliginosus
43) Eastern rosella Platycercus eximius
44) Kaka Nestor meridionalis

3) Hooker's sealion Phocarctos hookeri

Friday 6th January 2012, 01:36
a quick walk round Styx Mill to pick up the rest of the common waterfowl:

45) Canada goose Branta canadensis
46) Australasian coot Fulica atra
47) New Zealand scaup Aythya novaeseelandiae
48) New Zealand shoveller Anas rhynchotis
49) Grey teal Anas gracilis
50) Sacred kingfisher Todiramphus sanctus

Monday 9th January 2012, 06:35
I got a new job over in Hokitika on the West Coast of NZ. The bus there from Christchurch stopped for quarter of an hour at Arthur's Pass Village in the mountains, and hence I got to add kea to my list:

51) Kea Nestor notabilis

Thursday 19th January 2012, 04:27
not much happening lately on the birding front here in Hokitika, but today I walked across the bridge to the outlet of the Mahinapua Creek, reputedly a good spot for bitterns and fernbirds, neither of which I found. I did however see two great white egrets (called white herons in NZ) which was nice because there's only one breeding colony in the country so they're not a commonly-seen species.

52) Great white egret Egretta alba (or E. modesta if you prefer, or Ardea, or Casmerodius, or whatever!)
53) Black shag Phalacrocorax carbo
54) Caspian tern Sterna caspia

Thursday 2nd February 2012, 07:29
I haven't had any time for birding but today I saw a weka. I also bought a bike so at least now I can get further afield and try to find some birds!

55) Weka Gallirallus australis

Tuesday 7th February 2012, 05:12
on my new bike I headed off for the day to Lake Mahinapua, ten kilometres south of Hokitika. First stop was the Mahinapua Walkway which is two hours each way. Some common bush birds were seen -- tomtit, weka, NZ pigeon, etc -- but the only one new for the year was the ordinary old grey warbler. A bit further down the road was another short bush walk to the beach, where the most exciting thing around was a Caspian tern. It was too hot by this stage so I cycled back to Hokitika without visiting the lake itself (except briefly from one point on the Walkway). But I did see a mouse when I got back home, so that goes on the list as well!

56) Grey warbler Gerygone igata

4) House mouse Mus domesticus

Friday 17th February 2012, 22:53
a four day weekend for me, so I caught a bus up to Picton at the top of the South Island to take one of the boat trips that go out after king shags, an endemic NZ species that is found only in the Marlborough Sounds. On the way from Christchurch to Picton, I managed to spot a pair of Cape Barren geese at St. Anne's Lagoon (the first time I've seen them from the road without stopping!), and then just before Kaikoura the sea wash awash with dusky dolphins flipping and somersaulting from the waves. Just after Kaikoura I saw a reef heron winging its way along the shoreline.

The boat trip that afternoon was quite successful in-as-much as we saw two king shags (enabling me to say I got two of the best shags ever on Valentine's day!). A stop-over on Motuara Island at the mouth of Queen Charlotte Sound also added a few land-birds to the day's list. Sadly there were no killer whales or other dolphins to be seen that day but one can't have everything I guess.

57) Cape Barren goose Cereopsis novaehollandiae
58) Eastern reef heron Egretta sacra
59) Pied shag Phalacrocorax varius
60) Australasian gannet Morus serrator
61) Fluttering shearwater Puffinis gavia
62) King shag Phalacrocorax carunculatus
63) New Zealand robin Petroica australis
64) Saddleback Philesturnus carunculatus
65) Yellow-crowned kakariki Cyanoramphus auriceps

5) Dusky dolphin Lagenorhynchus obscurus

Saturday 24th March 2012, 08:53
I figured it was about time I went out and tried to find some more birds, so the target was my constant nemesis bird, the great spotted kiwi. I took the bus north up to Punakaiki and walked 8km to the top of Bullock Creek Road to camp in the bush up there. The plan had been to be up there Monday to Thursday but it was raining Monday so I put it off till the next day (the access road floods dangerously in heavy rain), then on Wednesday the rain clouds started gathering again so I cut the stay short and ended up with only one night. Still, there were loads of all sorts of bush birds up there. However the kiwi performed their usual evasion tactics and eluded me once again.

66) Brown creeper Mohoua novaeseelandiae
67) Fernbird Bowdleria punctata

6) Brush-tailed possum Trichosurus vulpecula

Friday 20th April 2012, 09:56
I took a week over in Christchurch to see a friend, and to try and see a white-eyed duck which had fortuitously turned up at the Kaiapoi Lakes just outside town. I've seen loads of those in Australia but never in NZ because they are only rare vagrants here so it was worth a search. The first day I couldn't find it, but I did see the crested grebe that had taken up residence (a rare native, mostly found up in the mountains but which has in the last few years started breeding locally to Chch and begun occasionally appearing on urban waters). The duck had last been seen on a pond within a private gated subdivision but despite jumping the fence for some illegal birding it wasn't to be seen.

The next morning I first took a wander round Bexley Wetland and the estuary to see what was there (little black shag was the only new bird for the year) and then across to Travis Wetland to look for the glossy ibis which has come over from Australia for the 17th year running (but today wasn't to be found), and then once again to the Kaiapoi Lakes. The grebe was still there, the marsh crakes that had been seen recently were not, but this time I did see the white-eyed duck (again by jumping the fence to see the entire pond: I think the duck was there the day before but the light hadn't been great to see him amongst the NZ scaup). This day the sun was shining in the perfect direction to highlight his glaring white eyes and chestnuty plumage. What a nice bird!

68) Crested grebe Podiceps cristatus
69) Little black shag Phalacrocorax sulcirostris
70) White-eyed duck Aythya australis

Wednesday 9th May 2012, 07:59
a lurk around the beach beside town (Hokitika that is) provided a couple of Arctic skuas (or the same one twice) and a scattering of black-fronted terns amongst the more regular white-fronted terns.

71) Arctic skua Stercorarius parasiticus
72) Black-fronted tern Chlidonias albostriatus

Thursday 24th May 2012, 01:38
I headed up to Arthur's Pass in search of one of my nemesis birds, blue duck. They are much rarer in the South Island than the North so I have never managed to see one, until now....

The first day I walked from the Village up the Bridal Veil track to the top of the pass (getting rifleman for the year list on the way) but it was really too late in the day to spend long up there, so I headed back after an hour. It snowed overnight so all was white and wonderlandy the next morning. Unfortunately it was also very very cold, so I only managed an hour at the top in the morning before I was too numb and had to retreat. Back up around midday, and I sat under the bridge over Pegleg Creek, that being the only place free from snow. After three hours and the threat of losing my fingers and toes, a pair of blue duck shot past from upstream, right past me under the bridge, and settled at the mouth of the creek where it enters the Otira River. Much jubilation ensued.

73) Rifleman Acanthisitta chloris
74) Blue duck Hymenolaimus malacorhynchos

Wednesday 13th June 2012, 06:56
one of my regular visits to the tiny Hokitika sewage ponds on the off-chance of a rare vagrant mistaking them for somewhere more interesting, I found my first pipit of the year.

75) NZ pipit Anthus novaeseelandiae

Friday 27th July 2012, 06:51
a couple of weeks ago a bittern was sighted at Bexley Wetland in Christchurch, followed by two, followed by three, and then a systematic search of the area by the local birdy authorities (it's not a very large area) found six or seven individuals. This was quite unprecedented for the area, and bittern is one of the birds I still haven't found in NZ due to their random nature, so naturally I thought I had to go have a look. Unfortunately the day I chose to go across from Hokitika the road through Arthur's Pass was closed by a huge land-slip so I went south to Franz Josef instead where I saw nothing new. This week the pass was open again, so I caught the bus over. The morning after I arrived I headed straight to Bexley where after not too long (and somewhat to my surprise) I found a bittern! Being a bittern, he pretty much just sat in one spot in the rushes for quite a long time, walked a little bit, sat some more, then finally disappeared.

A wander round Travis Wetland was next but I couldn't find the recurring winter glossy ibis (I am afraid he may have finally died of old age), and a further wander round the Kaiapoi Lakes did not see me finding any marsh crakes. But a bittern makes me happy.

76) Australasian brown bittern Botaurus poiciloptilus

Tuesday 2nd October 2012, 05:48
no birds for the year list for August, but today I flew into Auckland for a ten-day visit. I'm not going to be able to get overseas this year, so Auckland is it.

Not much was happening today, but I saw spotted doves and common mynahs at Butterfly Creek by the airport. Spotted dove is new for my NZ list too so that was good (they're only found in the top part of the North Island, where I don't often go!)

77) Spotted dove Streptopelia chinensis
78) Common mynah Acridotheres tristis

Tuesday 2nd October 2012, 05:52
yesterday was spent on a whale-watch boat where no whales or dolphins were sighted, and the only birds seen were sped past so quickly that I couldn't legitimately say what sort of petrels they might be without a bit of guessing.

But today I was off to see pelicans! At the start of August an Australian pelican had been spotted at Kerikeri, way up in the far north of New Zealand. This is a most unusual vagrant for New Zealand, and it caused a bit of a stir in the birding community because there haven’t been any seen here since the 1970s. Then a week later a flock of fourteen pelicans was filmed by a barge operator in the Kaipara Harbour a bit further south. This was even more unusual. One of the older records was of three birds but all other vagrant pelicans have been singletons. This was the first time an actual flock had been recorded in the country, possibly even one with the potential to establish as a breeding population. Another pelican was then photographed in early September at Whangamai to the east of the Kaipara, and then at Ruakaka, but no-one is sure if that was a sixteenth/seventeenth bird or one of the others (i.e. the Kerikeri one) on the move. Naturally enough before the trip had even started I had set to pondering on how I could get myself a pelican sighting. The Kaipara is about an hour and half drive north of Auckland and there are no buses to where the pelicans were. Fortunately a friendly local birder called Kerry had already offered to drive me and my friend to a couple of other birding spots, and it turned out he was also keen to have a crack at the pelicans.

Anyway, once the move was completed we drove out of town towards Northland. A male ring-necked pheasant walking across a roadside field was added to the year list along the way. The spot where the pelican flock was hanging out was near Ruawai, on a tidal river that flows into the north end of the harbour. There are a few different points where roads meet the river, but we decided to start with the northernmost one where they’d been seen, the Naumai Wharf Road. We drove to the end, parked, and walked over the stop-bank to see.....nothing. There was a rough path snaking off along the bank through the mangroves, so we headed that way, avoiding a half-hidden ditch and a stinking calf carcasse, and found a plank walkway to a little platform. And from that vantage-point we saw, waaaay down the river, maybe half a kilometre distant, a flock of thirteen pelicans!! They were busy fishing, and they appeared to be heading our way, so we sat and waited. And we didn’t have to wait too long either. A man came rowing out from the end of Naumai Wharf Road to check his set-nets in the river. Immediately eight of the pelicans took to the air, flew straight up the river, and then started circling right over our heads. It was pretty spectacular and really more than we had hoped for. After what seemed like several minutes of circling, the pelicans flew back down-river to tell the others what they had seen, and then all thirteen of them made their way slowly up-river, fishing for mullet along the way. Very rarely do you see vagrant birds in New Zealand in a flock situation. Usually it is one lone duck or ibis, looking pretty sad and lost, but these pelicans just looked “right”, behaving perfectly normally, on a muddy mangrove-lined river. Perfect. What wasn’t so perfect was that they then started trying to steal fish out of the set-net. Hopefully some angry fisherman isn’t going to end up shooting them. I heard second-hand that one has already been tangled in a net while stealing fish (but was fortunately released unharmed). Once the pelicans had either cleaned out the net or failed to get any fish (we couldn’t really tell one way or the other) they swam further up-river and out of sight. And if you’re wondering about the flock we saw only having thirteen birds in it, the fourteenth one was way back down-river because some other people saw him down there all alone earlier in the day.

As well as pelicans, there was also reportedly a large flock of cattle egrets in the area, down one of the other roads. Cattle egrets are winter visitors to New Zealand from Australia. They haven’t stayed to breed here yet but it seems likely that eventually they will. I think the total number of egrets every winter is around 3000 or something like that, but I have only ever seen them overseas. I just never seem to be where the egrets are when they are in New Zealand. Neither Andy nor Kerry had seen New Zealand cattle egrets either, so we headed to the road and kept our eyes peeled on the neighbouring fields as we drove along it. Almost at the end of the road, and Andy and I both spotted the flock at much the same time, on top of a bank at the back of one of the paddocks. We had to keep going to the river to turn the car around, and when we got back and got out to scan the flock with our binoculars, we saw another car coming from the other direction. This car slowed and then stopped, and we assumed they were waiting for us to move so they could pass, but then we saw a man get out with binoculars. There was a farm-house next to the paddock and the newcomer talked to someone there and then they drove up the drive towards the egrets. So we did the same. The young Maori guy seemed a little nonplussed at this influx of weirdos wanting to look at a bunch of white birds – I think he just wanted to get back to his P pipe – but he said we could drive up there as well. The other birder was out of his car again, walking towards the egrets and we hoped he wouldn’t flush them, but he then used a tractor as cover to take photos from behind. So far so good. We got out of our car and started over – and then the man just walked straight out towards the flock and they all took off and flew away. All I got was a couple of out-of-focus rapid-fire shots of the flock leaving. We were not impressed!!! The egrets landed in another field more distant, amongst a herd of cattle, but having been spooked once there wasn’t any chance we’d get close to them so we just left them to it. We managed to see them alright from the road before they had flown, but still not very satisfying. I won’t say the name of the man who scared them away, but suffice to say he is someone who should have known better!

79) Ring-necked pheasant Phasianus colchicus
80) Australian pelican Pelecanus conspicillatus
81) Cattle egret Bubulcus ibis

Tuesday 2nd October 2012, 05:56
With one successful day done (pelicans and cattle egrets) the next morning we headed with Kerry to the Wenderholm Regional Park just north of Auckland. This was the spot for New Zealand dotterels (one of the endemics I hadn’t seen yet) as well as a good place for banded rails (native) and kookaburras (introduced). There is a bus that goes up in that direction so you don’t need a car to get there, but a car does make it quicker. First bird here for the year list was Californian quail; I wasn’t really expecting to see that one on this trip but a covey ran across the grass up ahead of us as we walked round to the beach where the dotterels hang out.

At first it seemed like the dotterels weren’t going to appear, the beach seemed deserted, until a male suddenly flew in from somewhere and basically scuttled up the beach right towards us. I guessed he must have a nest nearby and was trying to lead us away, but the result was some fantastic close views and reasonably good photos. It is a much bigger bird than I’d been anticipating (I had been thinking more the size of a banded dotterel) and also much more attractive. After a while he tired of us and flew down to the waterline where the female was feeding.

Apparently there are kookaburras at Wenderholm but we didn’t see any. The mangroves along the shore are a good spot for banded rails though. I headed to the little stone wharf ahead of the others and caught a quick glimpse of two rails dashing off from the mud-flats into the bushes. They were too distant for me to be able to count them however, and we didn’t find any others while we were there. Then we drove to a small pond at Strakas where we added some New Zealand dabchicks to the list (a lifer for Andy). There was a further chance for banded rail here but again we struck out. Further along the same road, leading into the Upper Waiwera Valley, is the main locality for finding kookaburras. Kerry’s technique is to drive back and forth along the road until he finds one perched on the powerlines. We tried that a couple of times, occasionally calling out “what’s that?!” only to find it was a magpie (at least it was Australian) or a sacred kingfisher (at least it was in the right family) or a mynah (at least it was a bird!). At a small bridge we would turn the car round and try the road in the other direction. After a few passes, Kerry said “we may as well try up the road past the bridge, although I’ve never ever seen a kookaburra up there”. And yet just a couple of minutes up that road, I spotted a kookaburra perched on the powerlines! We jumped out and shot off some photos, then the kookaburra flew down to the ground to snatch up some small prey item and flew off up the road. We were about to follow when I noticed the tree overhanging the road up ahead had what looked suspiciously like two kookaburras sitting in it, and so it proved to be. Andy headed towards them on foot, but being used to the unshockable kookaburras in Australia Kerry and I thought it would be easier to drive to them. Er, turns out Andy was right. Both the kookaburras flew out of the tree and away. I guess Andy was due for being right about something. We did find the pair again, sitting on the T of a power-pole, and got a few photos, but then they disappeared for good.

82) Californian quail Callipepla californica
83) New Zealand dotterel Charadrius obscurus
84) New Zealand dabchick Poliocephalus rufopectus
85) Common kookaburra Dacelo novaeguineae

Tuesday 2nd October 2012, 05:59
The next morning was the obligatory (for a birder) trip to the sewage ponds. The Mangere Wastewater Treatment Plant is a renowned site for waders, in particular wrybills during the winter, and that was a bird Andy was really keen to see for the first time. Wrybills are a little endemic wader with a weird sideways-bent beak, used for probing under stones. They breed on the braided river beds of the South Island but winter elsewhere, especially around the Auckland area. There honestly wasn’t much around Mangere, it being a bit late for the wintering birds but a bit early for the summering birds, but there were wrybills there which was good, and also some lesser knots amongst the bar-tailed godwits.

86) Wrybill Anarhynchus frontalis
87) Lesser knot Calidris canutus

Tuesday 2nd October 2012, 06:09
On the 16th we set off for Tiritiri Matangi island out in the Gulf. The island was formerly entirely pasture for cows, apart for a few scattered trees and thickets. In the 1970s a move was made to revegetate the island in native bush and reintroduce native birds, and now it is almost entirely forest and is alive with rare and endangered birdlife. The two endemics I most wanted to find there were the kokako and the little spotted kiwi. I had seen the rear end of a little spotted kiwi at Karori in Wellington but it wasn’t enough to count as a sighting; and the closest I’d ever got to a kokako sighting was seeing them in aviaries at Mt. Bruce. Tiritiri is an open sanctuary, so anybody can visit via a ferry service, and there is a bunk-house for overnight stays. The ferry doesn’t run on Monday or Tuesday, so if you’re savvy you can go across on Sunday and then stay for three nights with nobody at all on the island for the middle two days except the few other people in the bunk-house (which only sleeps 15 people).

I really can’t give enough glowing references about Tiritiri, it is absolutely fantastic. We could easily have stayed there a week longer than we did. Within the first ten minutes, while walking up the track to the bunk-house, we saw a pair of kokako feeding in a nearby tree; and just a few minutes after that a pair of saddlebacks (the only other surviving type of wattlebird). On the first day we saw almost all the birds we were looking for, including takahe, red-crowned kakariki, fernbird, whitehead, brown quail and stitchbird in that order (all of these were lifers for Andy, most were just year birds for myself). Fernbirds are pretty sneaky little characters so we were surprised to find them so quickly but apparently there are “gazillions” of them on the island. We saw some every day but never even got close to getting a photo of one. Brown quail was another cool bird. I’ve seen them in Australia and the Lesser Sundas, but they were a first for my NZ list. They were introduced to this country from Australia in the 19th century, but are now declining over most of their New Zealand range; Tiritiri may well end up being the only remaining site for them here. (New Zealand used to have its own native quail by the way, so brown quail may well just occupy the same niche and be as good as harmless). The only native land-birds we missed out on over the course of our stay were rifleman, which we’ve both seen before anyway, and spotless crake, which neither of us have seen. Usually the crakes are a sure thing on “the brown teal pond” just up from the wharf, but the water level in every pond on the island was too high to allow for any mud-banks around the edges so even though we spent quite a bit of time waiting by them we saw no crakes.

The other people staying on the island were a regular couple and eight researchers, four of whom were studying birds and four of whom were studying reptiles. Naturally we hung out with the reptile researchers. They were investigating salmonella in the island’s lizards and tuatara, which of course involved trapping them and taking swabs. Helping with this meant we got to add common gecko and copper skink to our island list. We found tuatara by ourselves, and spotted a moko skink as well. We missed out on Duvaucel’s gecko and shore skink though.

It wasn’t all day-time birding and reptiling though. Little spotted kiwi required walking round at night as well. The first night went spectacularly, first with brown teal scuttling along the track ahead of us. During the day if you see brown teal they are usually asleep, but at night they zoom all over the place like little ducky roadrunners. A morepork (another lifer for Andy) allowed close views at it sat on a branch above the track, and little blue penguins were also seen. A stop at one of the stitchbird nectar-feeders found ground weta, and we also found a couple of Auckland tree weta later on. Giant weta have been released on the island but only 25 of them so far so we had no luck with them sadly. Finally we found a young tuatara sitting on the grass in the middle of the track. The only thing missing was a kiwi. Or perhaps I should say, the only thing missing for ME was a kiwi – Andy saw one but it had vanished before I could see it! Because Andy had now seen one he went back to the bunk-house to go to sleep; I kept roaming the island until midnight and then gave up. The next night I gave up by ten-thirty because I’d only had three hours sleep the night before; still no kiwi, although we did get an even better view of morepork as well as more teal and penguins. By the third night I was getting desperate. Everybody else on the island had seen a kiwi (in one case within probably five minutes of looking!) and most of them were just really blasé about it (“oh yeah, we saw a kiwi already”, that sort of thing). I was prepared to stay out till dawn if that’s what it took. At about ten Andy was done for the night. We walked back along the track we had just come along....and there was a kiwi right smack in the middle of it!! It stood there for a bit, then slinked off to the side and sat next to a big log, giving excellent views. It was so small in comparison to the brown kiwi we are used to, and looked almost round rather than shaggy. We watched it for about half an hour – or rather, we tried to watch it as it hid in the undergrowth before disappearing completely, but a very satisfying conclusion to the night, especially given the fact that I had been going to go off and try another path while Andy went back to the bunk-house and if I’d done that then he would have ended up seeing two little spotted kiwi and I would still be on zero!

So the Auckland trip ended up well with twenty-one year birds, three new life birds, eight new birds for my New Zealand list, and one new subspecies (the North Island fernbird: I'd already seen fernbird earlier in the year in the South Island though, so the ones on Tiritiri didn't add to the year list).

88) Kokako Callaeas cinerea
89) Takahe Porphyrio hochstetteri
90) Red-crowned kakariki Cyanoramphus novaezelandiae
91) Whitehead Mohoua albicilla
92) Brown quail Coturnix ypsilophora
93) Stitchbird Notiomystis cincta
94) Brown teal Anas chlorotis
95) Morepork Ninox novaeseelandiae
96) Little blue penguin Eudyptula minor
97) Little spotted kiwi Apteryx owenii

Sunday 4th November 2012, 08:25
I thought it was time for me to finally get round to seeing a Fiordland crested penguin. I was supposed to be heading down to Milford Sound a few weeks ago on a tourism famil (everything for free!!) but the Milford Road was blocked by a massive avalanche and so I postponed my involvement. It meant I had to pay for various (most) parts of the trip myself, but at least the bus between Queenstown and Milford and the boat trip on the Sound were free.

The road had been cleared but work was still in progress on removing all the debris on either side and so the Homer Tunnel was being closed early (3pm) on the day I was travelling, which meant the boat trip got cut rather shorter than normal. Also it was pouring down, because its Fiordland. I really didn't think I was going to end up seeing a penguin but literally five minutes before getting back to the wharf I spotted one on the shore. It wasn't announced by the crew so I guess none of them saw it, and I was the only person on board with binoculars anyway (and also pretty much the only mug out on deck in the rain). It wasn't a really close view and it wasn't for long, but I saw it well enough before it hopped off into the bush.

Some of the other birds I'd been hoping for the year list didn't eventuate. No falcons showed anywhere; the "intermediate egret" living at the wharf has been deemed by the OSNZ to actually be a white heron [great white egret] and I didn't see it anyway; the rock wren site by the Homer Tunnel is unusable at the present due to avalanches; and back in Christchurch on the way through to Hokitika, the cirl buntings at Victoria Park refused to show as well.

Nevertheless, I now lay claim to four penguins on my life list (emperor, little blue [and white-flippered], yellow-eyed, and Fiordland crested).

98) Fiordland crested penguin Eudyptes pachyrhynchus