Rondonia Bushbird, Brazil - June 2022

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Sunday, 19 March 2023

Tawharanui Regional Park: 18th & 19th March 2023

The flight to New Zealand, via Dubai, was surprisingly OK and Ed Paxton and I landed at around midday on the 18th. 

We quickly exited the airport and got the hire car, then drove north to North Ridge Resort for a one-night stay. After dumping stuff off at the lodge, it was then just under an hour to Tawharanui RP. The countryside was very 'British', but there was just a complete lack of birds on the journey, but at least that meant I could keep an eye on the roads. 

We arrived at the park (no entrance fee and full of lovely people who all knew the birds, despite being just day tourists) and soon started to find a few of the regional specialties: Variable Oystercatcher, a smart Buff-banded Rail, two Brown TealNew Zealand Bellbirds and some dull Grey Geregones. Arriving at the beach and with tiredness setting in, we spent much time scanning the open ocean in front of us towards Little Barrier Island, completely stunned by a feeding frenzy of Fluttering Shearwaters just offshore; maybe comprising 400 birds, it was a surprise nothing else was amongst them. A few White-fronted Terns and Australasian Gannets were present. A short walk along the South Coast, then the Ecology Trail, produced our first Tui, a few Sacred Kingfishers, Whiteheads and many Bellbirds, plus a New Zealand Falcon causing havoc amongst the abundant Pukeko (Australasian Swamphens).

Thankfully the light started to go which meant we weren't too far away from the quest of finding the North Island Brown Kiwi. We were unsure on the exact location, so we just stood around the start of the Ecology Trail and waited. A couple of Morepork started calling and one was quickly enticed in. We then heard a Kiwi but it was distant, so it was with some relief a small party of locals came walking past and pointed us in the right direction. Just past the 'feet cleaning station' on the Ecology Trail, Ed and I were a few paces back from the non-birding Kiwi hopefuls, when a noise from our left soon had us stopping in our tracks. A brief wait to let the other people head off, we shone our light and in front of us, stood the lump of a North Island Brown Kiwi! We watched it for maybe 30-seconds when someone with a white-light torch shone the bird, enabling a few photos to be taken, before it scuttled off into the forest. 

With this success, we marched back to the car park and found another Kiwi, this time in the dunes, but more distant. The drive back to the hotel was hard work; tired and shaking eyes made for a dodgy journey, but we made it and collapsed until the following morning. 

North Island Brown Kiwi

Fluttering Shearwaters

Silver Gull



On the 19th, before leaving the resort, we walked the golf course finding a Laughing Kookaburra and several Silvereye. We again drove to Tawharanui and walked the entirety of the Ecology Trail, past the kiwi location, and looped back via some open grassland. Despite the warm temperatures, it was a pleasant stroll through incredible forest habitat, then only to walk through what seemed like the British countryside. A short seawatch first produced four Buller's Shearwaters and the usual stuff. The Ecology Trail was alive with Bellbirds, Tui and Whiteheads, with New Zealand Fantails also being very easy to find. Several Brown Teal were along the creek too. On the return loop, after dipping out on NZ Pipit, it was great to finally find the North Island Robin, a species I thought would have been easier to locate. Afterwards, I fancied a swim in the sea and it was just too tempting, so in I went. 

It was then time to drive back to Auckland, drop Ed off at his hotel, find my hotel near the harbour front, then drop the car off back at the airport and garb a taxi back. I was tired but didn't fancy a 5pm sleep, so I went for a 5-mile run, then found a nice bar along the harbour and grabbed a couple of beers. The views of the Auckland Tower were stunning, and I'm looking forward to doing the Sky Walk on the 20th, before boarding the Heritage Adventurer in the afternoon, bound for Japan. 

NZ Bellbird

NZ Fantail


Auckland Sky Tower

Little Barrier Island

Ecology Trail

Tawharanui RP

Thursday, 16 March 2023

Recent Stuff and Western Pacific Odyssey

There hasn't been too much recent birding due to being mega busy on the build-up to several talks and my mammoth trip (starting this afternoon) to the Western Pacific. However, on Saturday, I took a few colleagues to a Goshawk location in NW Sussex, where we saw no fewer than seven individuals... it was crazy!

Previous visits had also seen a few Goshawks, as well as some Woodlarks, a Dartford Warbler, a Crossbill and a few other bits. 

A short visit to West Dean Woods in early March also produced a memorable encounter of three Goshawks in full display mode at rather close quarters, so it's fair to say it's been a Goshawk kind of winter.

Anyway, off to New Zealand now, with hopefully many photos to come from after my trip. 


Goshawks by Simon Dicks

Saturday, 21 January 2023

The New Forest: 21st January 2023

What a great day! I left home early and arrived at The New Forest soon after first light. The entire landscape was frosted as I slowly made my way down to Pig Bush enclosure in the hope of seeing the Great Grey Shrike. I joined Ads and Paul Bowley and after an hour, there was no sign. Alan Lewis and I therefore walked around to Shatterford, skidding across the ice as we went, and thankfully found the Great Grey Shrike atop a Birch Tree. The shrike continuously preened as it warmed in the morning sun, before becoming increasingly active, and soon, disappearing.

Great Grey Shrike

I had wanted to walk a long circuit today in the hope of coming across a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, obviously knowing this would be a near-impossible task. However, five minutes are departing the shrike, I heard a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker singing. I waited patiently , and soon spotted its movement in the treetops as it got slightly harassed by a Great Spot. It quickly vanished, but carefully walking the forsest floor, I could here its slight drumming, before it went into full singing mode again. I had it on view for easily 10-minutes, but always obscured by twigs etc, but such an amazing sight!

Lesser Spotted Woodpecker

I walked back to the car via a few forest trails where a male Goshawk flew over, before driving to the north part of the forest to Pipers Wait 'viewpoint' and soon had a male and female Goshawk fly around, allowing excellent scope views. 

Spot the perched male Goshawk

It was only 1pm, so I opted to drive straight to Staines Reservoir for a complete change of scene (and noise), but quickly found the drake Lesser Scaup. I wish I'd stayed around the forest and went to Blashford, but I had been wanting to see the scaup all week as it's only 40-minutes from home, so there we go. 

drk Lesser Scaup

Just under a month until the Seville Marathon so most of my time is training for this, therefore it was good to have a decent birding day.

Saturday, 14 January 2023

Sabine's Gull and more... 14th January 2023

After a chilled first few hours of the day, I drove to the coast to an empty Southmoor car park, not surprising giving the conditions. I walked along the seawall and soon found the adult Sabine's Gull which had thankfully hung around all week. With no one around and the bird seemingly content, I walked out into the flood (a redhead Goosander also present) and got fairly close. The bird then spent the next 30-minutes dip-feeding in front of me, at times, just yards away, perhaps interested in me stirring up the mud. An excellent bird and even better to have it all to myself. I looked out into the channel and found two Black-necked Grebes, a Great Northern Diver, a drake Goldeneye and a few Red-breasted Mergansers.

Afterwards, I ventured into Sussex and walked Dell Quay to Fishbourne Creek, finding a Spotted Redshank, two Greenshanks, a Water Pipit and Scandinavian Rock Pipit, and three stunning drake Goldeneyes. Approximately 1500 Brent Geese were either side of the approach road to Dell Quay, but I couldn't find anything of interest in amongst them. 

Lastly, I went to Westdean Woods and to Stapleash Corner (picking up a nice £4.50 Sausage & Chips with curry sauce 'deal' along the way) and parked up. The food was excellent, but nine Hawfinches calling continuously to each other atop the Hornbeams were also good, and soon flew off at 2.15pm. 

poor light and heavy rain for the Sabine's Gull

Sunday, 8 January 2023

Happy New Year: Week 1

I was up in County Durham for New Year's, this being a prime opportunity to mop up on some goodies before descending back south on the 2nd. 

I spent the first half of the day at Redcar with my good friend, Nick Preston, who I've been fortunate to have travelled with to Guyana and Brazil. Being his patch meant we were able to clean up on most of the target birds for the morning. 

We started off at Redcar promenade, with the highlights being the drake King Eider, a couple of Velvet Scoter, a lovely flock of Sanderling and a good variety of other coastal birds. The eider took a while to find, but eventually it showed, albeit at some distance. Next, we stopped at a few sites along the Gare, with a stunning Long-eared Owl, a Great Northern Diver, a Purple Sandpiper and a small skein of Pink-footed Geese being the highlights. 

On the 2nd, a circuit of Bishop Middleham brought in the usual suspects, but a Willow Tit and a small gathering of Tree Sparrows were all reminders I was far away from southern England. 

female Ring-necked Duck (seen on 30 Dec)

Long-eared Owl

Willow Tit

Roll on to the next weekend, and I joined forces with Steve Wilson for a day in Devon. The main highlights from the day was the superb Laughing Gull which took an age to find (the bird lingering in a different car park not helping matters) and a drake Ring-necked Duck at Slapton and Beesands respectively. Due to time pressures, we then had to get a move on and get to Seaton Marshes. Probably the most random place I will see an Isabelline Wheatear in the UK as it bounded along a boardwalk, separated by two saturated fields! Still, as it was in very close company to an Eastern Yellow Wagtail (a very belated UK tick), all was good. 

Unfortunately for the latter two species, I didn't take my camera as we were promised rain. This didn't materialise and both birds were seemingly not bothered by our presence... so I've stolen a few images from a photographer perched next to me.

Laughing Gull at Slapton

Eastern Yellow Wagtail by Karen Jayne

Isabelline Wheatear, Eastern Yellow Wagtail & Scandinavian Rock Pipit 
by Karen Jayne