New Zealand, the Final Frontier, 2019-2020

Jos Stratford

Beast from the East
11 January. Coromandel.

Lazy day, pottering down to the beach, even engaging in a spot of kayaking. Birding very much on the backburner, but did put in some effort for butterflies ….and for my effort, notched up a 'massive' six species, thereby actually becoming the highest day total for butterflies!

As for the species, quite a few Monarchs (and dozens of caterpillars) around Milkweed outside a cafe, many Rauparaha’s Coppers in dunes behind the beach, one small colony of Common Bush Blues, a single Long-tailed Blue, Small Whites here and there and, rounding the day off, one Coastal Copper in the garden of our chalet. Had I done my research better, I might also have found Forest Ringlet - but as it was, I discovered that the site that I knew was actually private property with massive great gate preventing access! Ah well, did enjoy the massive Kauri trees nearby and impressive giant tree ferns!

Special mention also to dwellers of an old mine shaft - in nooks and crannies, two dozen or more Cave Weta, long legs and antennas galore.
 

Jos Stratford

Beast from the East
Monarchs
 

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Jos Stratford

Beast from the East
Time to finish this report off, was a great trip, here's the final part:



12 January. Karangahaka Gorge.

Final day, and a stonking 28 C to round it off. Lying a few kilometres north of the Coromandel, my destination today was Karangahaka Gorge, a picturesque amalgamation of natural beauty and relics of an industrial bygone era, the ruins of mine workings slowly being engulfed by bush and forest.

Of more interest to me, it was also the first release site for a unique biological control program - attempting to reduce the spread of invasive Japanese Honeysuckle, populations of Honshu White Admiral were released here, the honeysuckle being the only known food plant for the caterpillar. Years on, the Honshu White Admirals seem to have established themselves and that was my main target this day. And on arrival, one duly obliged in a matter of moments, a highly active individual patrolling a bank of honeysuckle. Not once did it settle however, so a few flight shots were the best I could manage. Wandering around for a few hours, I found a further two equally mobile individuals, plus three quaint Maui's Coppers, a bunch of Common Bush Blues and numerous Small Whites. Nice.

And with that, it was time to head for Auckland. Squeezed in a quick trip to the botanical gardens in a hope to find either New Zealand Red Admiral or Yellow Admiral. Failed on both counts, plenty of Monarchs however, some settling long enough for a few photographs.

And then it was all over, I dumped the car and headed for the airport. Final birds of the trip, perhaps predictably, House Sparrows hopping around on the lawn outside the terminal ...New Zealand, land of immigrants! And so it was, 6600 km in the car, 15 ferries and boats, 152 species of birds, 17 species of butterflies. All there was left to do was the long haul back to Vilnius.



13 January.


Departed Auckland just after midnight, arrived in smog-bound Shanghai 12 hours later. No birds seen, went through screening for the new Coronaviras, had a coffee and whiled away three hours, then boarded a Finnair flight to Helsinki. Ten hours later, touched down in Europe, a short transfer, then my final flight to Vilnius. Crappy damp weather on arrival, time to think about another trip!
 
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