Lesser Florican - August 2023

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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

Tui

Morepork

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

Whitehead

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. 


Woodlark


Goshawks by Simon Dicks