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New Zealand, the Final Frontier, 2019-2020

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Old Tuesday 19th May 2020, 17:07   #76
etudiant
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Impressively robust legs! Do the Kiwis use them to dig thing up?

Also, in picture two, is that whitish area behind the eye the ear of the bird or some tick?
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Old Tuesday 19th May 2020, 19:05   #77
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Quote:
Originally Posted by temmie View Post
Awesome! So it's a lawn bird?
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It looks like some creature out of Fantastic Beasts!
At 2.45 am, after umpteen hours, it was indeed awesome and a fantastic beast
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Old Tuesday 19th May 2020, 19:05   #78
Jos Stratford
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Impressively robust legs! Do the Kiwis use them to dig thing up?

Also, in picture two, is that whitish area behind the eye the ear of the bird or some tick?
The legs are just amazing - I think primarily for running and fighting, rather than digging. It is the ear in picture two - strange to see in a bird, but then just about everthing in a kiwi is strange :)
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Old Tuesday 19th May 2020, 19:09   #79
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30 December. Stewart Island & Ulva Island.

With my pelagic cancelled and having scored my Southern Brown Kiwi the previous evening, I nipped down to the ferry port first thing and changed my ticket, departing this day instead of the next as planned. I then popped over to Ulva Island for another look round - pretty much the same birds as a couple of days earlier (Yellowheads, South Island Saddlebacks, South Island Robins, etc), but with one added curious sight - in dense forest right in the centre of the island, a female Sea Lion with pup! A most strange sight in the thick of the forest, apparently the females haul themselves into the forest to have their pups to avoid the heavyweight males who could otherwise squash the pups.

A regular horde of White-capped Albatrosses on the hop back to Stewart Island, then a couple of hours to kill before the ferry back across the Foveaux Strait. Though far calmer than on my outward journey, winds had fortunately picked up somewhat, good omens for another productive crossing. And pretty good it turned out to be - White-capped Albatrosses and Sooty Shearwaters as expected, plus a pleasing minimum of 30 Common Diving Petrels, three Cook's Petrels, a single White-chinned Petrel and a distant probable Mottled Petrel. Also managed one Little Blue Penguin, a couple of Foveaux Shags and, quite near Bluff, one Pomarine Skua, my only one of the trip.

Once in Bluff, now late afternoon, I retrieved my car and set off for the scenic delights of the Southern Alps, the road to Milford Sound to be precise. Had plans to explore the rocky slopes adjacent to Homer Tunnel the following day, so drove as far as the Eglinton River Valley this evening, camping at the quaint Mackay Creek campsite, one South Island Robin greeting me on arrival, Moreporks calling after dark.
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Old Tuesday 19th May 2020, 19:11   #80
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White-capped Albatrosses
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Old Saturday 23rd May 2020, 10:55   #81
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Hi Jos, I am not usually an envious person, but seeing that Kiwi bird up close and feeding is quite special.

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Old Saturday 23rd May 2020, 22:48   #82
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Congratulations on the SB Kiwi - what a beast!
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Old Wednesday 27th May 2020, 19:35   #83
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31 December. Homer Tunnel.

Fantastic day - cracking weather (sun and up to 32 C) and amazing birds. An initial shock at Homer Tunnel however - in the exact area favoured by Rock Wrens, very prominent signs declared the area closed due to rockfall risk, all parking and walking prohibited. Given there are really no other easily accessible localities for this species in New Zealand, I pondered my options and decided the best would be to park a few hundred metres further down, then access the slopes on the opposite side - an amazing landscape of snow-capped peaks and rugged scree slopes, richly dotted in boulders.

A half hour or so of scrambling, then loud piercing calls echoing across the slopes - I knew what that had to be, Kea! And indeed it was, four flying around over boulder fields a little higher. I started to hike up towards them ...but then they spotted me! And all four promptly flew down to meet me, landing on large boulders just metres away, calling loudly. As I admired them, they hopped from rock to rock, approaching ever closer. And then their intention became clear - they wanted my shoes! They boldly approached and attempted to pull the rubber from the soles of the shoes upon my feet - I was being mugged by mountain parrots with oversized beaks!

Kea encounters over, I turned my thoughts to Rock Wren. By chance, two other birders appeared on the slope at this moment, folks I had also met on Stewart Island, and they had just seen Rock Wren. Excellent, tracked back to where they had seen the birds and, in not much time at all, one classic Rock Wren was on show - darting from boulder to boulder, a splendid fellow indeed.

As for the rest of the day, I also had the idea to find one very localised endemic butterfly that should be on these very same slopes - the West Alpine Boulder Copper. Spent many hours in my endeavour, and ended up finding three pairs of Rock Wrens in the process, including a pair feeding young at the nest. As for the butterfly, I had success too – only a single individual,but a nice male West Alpine Boulder Copper active on a pebbly area in a dry stream bed, always landing on stones to sun itself.

A little later, I did consider taking a cruise in Milford Sound, but seeing the port area was heaving with tourists, and knowing the very low likelihood of Fjordland Crested Penguin at this season, I soon changed my mind and instead began the long drive north. Stopped and camped near Haast.
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Old Wednesday 27th May 2020, 19:37   #84
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Kea ...
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Old Wednesday 27th May 2020, 19:38   #85
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A difficult butterfly to find!
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Old Wednesday 27th May 2020, 19:40   #86
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HERE - Kea taking an unhealthy interest in my shoes!
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Old Wednesday 27th May 2020, 19:50   #87
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LOL cheeky wee devils!!
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Old Thursday 28th May 2020, 20:04   #88
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1 January. Munro Beach & Okarito.

New Year's Day, mini attempt for a big day total - didn't do too badly for New Zealand, seeing 52 species in a limited amount of habitat diversity.

Moreover, also had hopes for two particular species - Fjordland Crested Penguin and Okarito Kiwi. Of these, the first is generally out to sea from December to mid-January, so didn't have big expectations, while the second, though globally endangered with a world population of just 350 or so, is relatively easy to see.

So, dawn of the year 2020, Munro Beach, high cloud, calm sea. And not a penguin to be seen! Still, what with White-capped Albatross and Westland Petrel offshore, plus New Zealand Dotterel and Variable Oystercatchers on the beach, it wasn't a bad way to start the year. After ascertaining there really were no Fjordland Crested Penguins lurking in the bay, I explored the neighbouring forest a little, thick luxuriant woodland with abundant ferns and moss, a couple of Kaka making a racket, Tui and Silvereyes common, several New Zealand Fantails and South Island Tomtits adding to the native mix.

From here, I continued north through a mosaic of forestland and pasture, adding abundant open country birds such as Australasian Swamphen, Masked Lapwing and Sacred Kingfishers before finally arriving at Okarito about midday. Strong smell of smoke and offshore haze ... from 2000 km distant, the effects of the Australian fires had reached New Zealand! Simultaneously this day, Auckland experienced orange skies and the Fox Glacier turned a caramel brown.

At Okarito, my goal was the nocturnal Okarito Kiwi, so with hours to kill, I ignored the smell of smoke and explored the coastline and vast Okarito Lagoon as best I could. Best way is to rent a canoe, but sticking to land I still did okay - Banded Dotterel and South Island Oystercatchers on the beach, Caspian Terns and a Black-billed Gull at the rivermouth (along with Kelp and Red-billed Gulls and White-fronted Terns), Fernbirds on a small marsh. As for Okarito Lagoon, ten Eastern White Egrets (best place in New Zealand for this species), hundreds of Black Swans and a good bunch of common ducks and waders.

Then, decided to check out the area in which I would be seeking Okarito Kiwi in a few hours - 6 km inland, the road section near the entrance to the Pakihi Walk is generally thought to be productive. Not bad forest, Grey Warblers, South Island Tomtits and three South Island Robins along the walk, as well as New Zealand Pigeons et al. Better however, a nice grassy track adjacent to the road that seemed perfect for kiwis, plus broad grassy verges to the road itself.

Finally darkness arrived, Moreporks calling as dusk descended, two soon showing exceptionally well. Kitted out with red torch and a good dose of patience, I began my kiwi search - nothing on the grassy track, bar another very cooperative Morepork, so I turned to the road. Concentrated on the half kilometre below Pakihi Walk, basically adopting the strategy of standing in total darkness and silence waiting for one to hopefully approach. Perhaps a half hour of this and a bit of rustling in the depths of the darkness, undoubtedly a kiwi on the prowl. Art here was to suppress the urge to flick on the torch, but instead to wait in the pitch black until it was probably in a position that it could be seen. Fifteen minutes more of sporadic rustles, but not a single squeak, then the bird was clearly emerging onto the verge …flicked on the red light, Okarito Kiwi in full view, a female stretching up to peer at this human intruder. Back into the vegetation it went. A few minutes later, back out onto the verge it came, thereafter trotting across the road, its oversize feet plodding right past me. Thereafter, for 50 metres or so, it slowly wandered down the verge, feeding quite content and showing very well.

Fifteen minutes to midnight, an excellent end to the first day of the year. Camped at the DOC site near the main road junction.
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Old Thursday 28th May 2020, 20:08   #89
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No Okarito Kiwi photo, but Morepork...
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Old Friday 29th May 2020, 13:30   #90
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Brilliant start to the year - and a cracking pic of the Morepork!

Cheers
Mike
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