New Zealand____________________________________________



New Zealand 2018

...with Mark Finn

February 4 th - February 26th

This was our first New Zealand tour since 2009 and once again we recorded good numbers of the available endemic birds and an excellent range of seabirds. One major disappointment was the unseasonal weather which meant that three of our pelagic trips on North Island were cancelled because of high winds and seas. There were many highlights which included three kiwi species, a vagrant Hoary-headed Grebe, Yellow-eyed and Fiordland Penguins both of which are critically endangered and in serious trouble of becoming extinct. The pelagics had six species of albatross, fifteen of shearwaters and petrels and four endemic shags including the very rare New Zealand King Shag. Other unusual records included a juvenile Little Curlew at Miranda, Grey-tailed Tattler, Whimbrel and Arctic Tern. Parrots and parakeets included the rare Orange-fronted Parakeet and the declining Kaka and Kea all of which gave exceptional views. Whitehead, Yellowhead and New Zealand Brown Creeper were seen well in forest habitats whilst the predator free islands allowed us views of North and South Island Saddleback and brief views of Kokako.

I am sure the following report will help bring back good memories of an excellent trip to New Zealand a country which has been dramatically changed by man over the last 200 years.

My thanks go out to Phil for his knowledge of NZ birds and the various skippers and crew who helped and made the pelagic trips very enjoyable.

February 5th: Manukau, Ambury Nature Reserve
Weather: Warm and sunny with occasional heavy rain showers 24c. NE Wind

Although the tour did not officially start until the 6th, some of us had a full day on our hands so I decided to visit Ambury a site just north of the international airport. Before leaving a short walk in the park across the road produced Red-billed and Kelp Gulls, Australian Magpie and Silvereye. A taxi took us to Ambury and we set off on one of the trails leading to the estuary. Around the car park we encountered Spotted Dove, Common Myna, Masked Lapwing and Australasian Swamphens the latter being present in large numbers. On the paddock edge we found a pair of Tui feeding on fruits and nearby a Sacred Kingfisher and New Zealand Fantails catching insects from bushes. The trail ends at a dead end and with it a very heavy rain storm which lasted around 45 minutes. I decided to visit the hide as the tide was incoming and due to be high at 1230. This proved to be a great move as shorebirds started to roost including South Island and Variable Oystercatchers, Bar-tailed Godwit, Hudsonian Whimbrel, two NZ endemics in New Zealand Dotterel and Wrybill, and scarcer migrants Curlew Sandpiper and Grey-tailed Tattler. Huge flocks of Common Knot and Pied Stilt added to the spectacle. As the tide rose we added Caspian Tern, Black Swan and a pair of hunting Swamp Harriers.

February 6th: Mangere, Muriwai, Jordans Road, Ruawai, Trounson Forest
Weather: Generally sunny with the odd rain shower on a W wind 24c

Phil arrived to pick us up from our accommodation and then onto the airport where Carol had just arrived from the UK. Our first birding stop was along the causeway at Mangere where we located several species including Pacific Black Duck, Mallard, Australasian Shoveler, Grey Teal, Paradise Shelduck, Black Swan and Little Pied Cormorants. At the end of the causeway the open waters held the endemic New Zealand Grebe. Next was an area of mudflats which attracted several waders comprising of Bar-tailed Godwit, Variable and South Island Oystercatchers, Wrybill and a group of Royal Spoonbills. It was starting to warm up as we passed through Auckland and its suburbs to the coastal area of Muriwai. It was a busy place with holiday traffic and people taking picnics. Our main interest was the Australasian Gannet colony which allowed us a close approach. Offshore a few White-fronted Terns moved around in roving flocks. Next on the agenda was the farmland around Jordans Road which held many introduced and familiar birds from Europe. Sacred Kingfishers were common on the wires and Australian Magpies appeared on recently cut fields. A diversion to Ruawai an odd and isolated spot gave us very close views of White-fronted Terns, Great Cormorant and several Swamp Harriers roosting in a field. Our evening meal was taken early in a roadside pub before checking in at Trounson. At 2045 we set off for an evening walk in search of kiwi and owls. Before arriving at the camp California Quail and New Zealand Fantail were noted. Our walk within the forest was rather quiet for birds except for calling Southern Boobook. A few kiwis were calling but luck was not on our side until we emerged from the forest. Chris, our local guide spotted movement in a grassy area and a North Island Brown Kiwi duly obliged walking and feeding on the forest edge - a great moment for everybody involved. Back to base after a very enjoyable day with a good selection of birds.

February 7th: Trounson, Ruakaka, Ormiston Pond, Waipu, Tawharanui
Weather: Sunny with the odd shower on a W wind 24c

Checked out of Trounson and started heading in a southerly direction. Before we left New Zealand Pigeon and New Zealand Fantail were noted in the garden with the former mobbing a hunting Swamp Harrier. Our first birding stop was at the tidal estuary of Ruakaka where the sandbars attracted Pacific Reef Egret, New Zealand Dotterel, Bar-tailed Godwit, Variable and South Island Oystercatchers, Pied Stilt, White-fronted and Caspian Terns plus a fly-by of three Ruddy Turnstone. A short diversion to Ormiston Pond added the scarce Australasian Grebe. The remainder of the day was spent at the excellent Tawharanui reserve a protected area of natural forest which has a long fence to keep out predators. A walk from the parking lot through the forest which has many small ponds proved to be exceptional for native birds. The first patch of woodland had Tui, New Zealand Bellbird and Silvereyes. Within the forest a small pool attracted a pair of endemic Brown Teal sitting on a log. Further along the track a mixed feeding flock was located comprising of North Island Saddleback, Whitehead, New Zealand Fantail and Grey Gerygone. Further along the trail our main target was located the large and flightless Takahe which was rediscovered in 1948 and today only has a population of 300 pairs. Great views of this large and flightless bird as it fed on grasses and roots by the path. On retracing our steps Brown Quail was seen and overhead at least two New Zealand Kaka. The onshore winds pushed Buller's Shearwaters and Australasian Gannets towards the shore allowing close views. Our final bird of the day was a pair of Buff-banded Rails which showed in a muddy channel.

February 8th: Waipu, Port Albert, Tawharanui
Weather: Rather cloudy with rain showers on a stiff W wind 20c

A disappointing start to the day as our pelagic trip was cancelled due to strong winds and heavy swells at sea, this proved to be a wise decision as the day unfolded. A rethink was required and we decided to head back to Waipui and the estuary system at a different time of the day. Along the route familiar and common species were noted. On arrival at Waipui the group located the rare Fairy Tern, Double-banded Plover and Pied Cormorant on the mudflats and beach areas. Lunch was taken at Port Albert a village next to a mud fringed river. A few birds were noted including Pacific Black Duck and Pied Stilts. In the afternoon a return visit to Tawharanui was made with the bay attracting Fluttering, Flesh-footed and Buller's Shearwaters and Australasian Gannets. The walk into the natural forest area produced similar birds to yesterday with the addition of Whitehead flocks, North Island Robin, New Zealand Pipit and Eastern Rosella. On the return walk flight views of New Zealand Kaka and Buff-banded Rails in the lagoon and canal.

February 9th: Strakas, Whangamarino Swamp, Western Springs
Weather: Cloudy with frequent rain showers on a NE wind 20c

For the second day running we had to change our plans due to the strong winds which affected ferry crossings and boat trips. The day started with a trip to Strakas an area of ponds and emergent vegetation. Our main interest was the last pond which held New Zealand Grebe, New Zealand Scaup, Little Black, Little Pied and Great Cormorants and the commoner wildfowl. In the surrounding trees Grey Gerygone and New Zealand Fantail showed well plus several Sacred Kingfishers on the wires. Next on the agenda was a stop on the waterfront which had the usual shorebirds and oystercatchers. Not too far away a diversion was made into a housing estate where we picked up African Collared and Spotted Doves two successful introductions to New Zealand. Our journey passed through Auckland and towards the large and extensive Whangamarino Swamp. The best area was an elevated viewpoint looking down into the marshland and pools. Neil located a Shining Bronze Cuckoo which is hard to find at this time of the year and eventually three birds were seen. Also in the pools were good numbers of Black Swan, Grey Teal, Swamp Harrier, Caspian Tern, Silvereye, Eurasian Greenfinch, Common Chaffinch, European Goldfinch and Common Redpoll. The remainder of the day was spent travelling back to Auckland and a visit to Western Springs an area of gardens and lakes close to Auckland Zoo. Further views of New Zealand Scaup plus a few Eurasian Coots to add to the birdlist. The weather started to close in as we went to Albany and our base for the night.

February 10th: Albany, Shakespear, Tiritiri Matangi
Weather: Rain showers on a NE wind 20c

Another desperate day weather wise as heavy rain and mist were around Auckland this morning. We headed over towards Shakespear which is near the departure point for Tiritiri Matangi. Familiar and common birds were present plus a Buff-banded Rail feeding in a shallow pool and a pair of California Quail with two chicks. At 1010 the ferry set off for the island with an obliging Pied Cormorant in the harbour. The crossing produced a few birds including Fluttering and Bulwer's Shearwaters, Australasian Gannet and White-fronted Terns on rocks opposite the jetty. Once on the island the group started a slow walk towards the lighthouse via various trails. A feeding station attracted New Zealand Bellbirds and the very rare Stitchbird which numbers only a few hundred birds on protected and predator free offshore islands. The forest produced many birds including North Island Saddleback, Whitehead, North Island Robin, Red-crowned Parakeet, New Zealand Pigeon and high numbers of Tui. In the afternoon we heard and had very brief glimpses of the rare Kokako. On the return towards the mainland a Little Penguin showed well just offshore. From the boat we added Cook's and Parkinson's Petrels and Fluttering Shearwaters. Once on terra firma we headed through Auckland and onto Miranda our base for the night.

February 11th: Miranda, Whangamarino Swamp, Hunua, Whitianga
Weather: Cloudy with heavy rain showers on a NE wind 22c

Another day of rain and cloud meant our pelagic trip off the east coast had to be cancelled due to high winds and heavy rain. After breakfast the group set off to investigate the birds along the coast at Miranda and adjacent settlements. The shell beach held substantial numbers of South Island Oystercatchers and the first Common Knots of the tour. En route to the swamp the common and familiar species were seen. Birds within the swamp were less visible than two days ago so a visit to Hunua Forest was planned, however this coincided with torrential rain meant we had to abandon our stay. A bonus came around thirty minutes later as a group of Sulphur-crested Cockatoos were noted in old trees on farmland. A return to Miranda proved to be the best move of the day as thousands of waders started to appear as the tide rose. Thousands of Bar-tailed Godwits and Common Knot were joined by Pied Stilts (plus a few hybrids with Black Stilt), Wrybill, Red-billed and Black-billed Gulls, Double-banded Plover and best of all an immature Little Curlew picked out by Phil. The large shell bank attracted Royal Spoonbill, Caspian Tern and Kelp Gulls. It was time to set off towards the east coast and the town of Whitianga our base for the night.

February 12th: Whitianga, Pureora, Lake Taupo, Waitko Falls
Weather: Sunny and warm on a light NE wind 31c

Checked out of Whitianga to make the journey south to the forest reserve of Pureora. En route a stop was made for Fernbird which duly obliged as they popped up from cover and flew towards us. The next hour or so we passed through rolling farmland with herds of dairy cattle and sheep. our destination was the picnic area at Pureora. After waiting a while great views were had of Long-tailed Koel in flight and perched in a tall tree. Other species present included Yellow-crowned Parakeet which flew overhead in small flocks or pairs. After lunch a walk to the tower hide produced close views of North Island Robins, Grey Gerygone, Tui, Whitehead and a New Zealand Kaka flying towards us. Our journey passed Lake Taupo with groups of Black Swans, Grey Teal, Sacred Kingfisher and a single New Zealand Grebe. Our final stop was at Waiko Falls where Yvonne located the scarce and localised Blue Duck a fitting end to the day.

February 13th: Lake Taupo, Tirangi, Boundary Stream, Anderson Park in Napier
Weather: Rather cloudy with showers on a W wind 20c

After breakfast we headed to Lake Taupo in search of birds. The lake itself was full of birds particularly large numbers of Black Swan, Grey Teal and New Zealand Scaup. A return to Tirangi to pick up supplies, and then towards the river where Carol located a Blue Duck which duly perched on a large boulder - great views. Next on the agenda was a visit to Boundary Stream a remote patch of remnant forest en route to Napier. A walk around one of the trails was very quiet for birds until a feeding flock was located. This included Silvereye, Whitehead, New Zealand Bellbird, North Island Robin and a female Tomtit. On exiting the trail some of the group had brief views of a New Zealand Falcon dashing across the forest. Our journey took us to the coastal town of Napier and Anderson Park where the long staying Plumed Whistling Duck put in an appearance for us. Checked in for the night in Napier and off to the west coast tomorrow morning.

February 14th: Napier, Westshore Lagoon, Waitangi Wetland, Pekapeka, Manawatu Estuary
Weather: Sunny spells on a W wind 23c

Before leaving the coastal city of Napier a visit to two important bird areas the first being at Westshore Lagoon. The common birds of New Zealand wetlands were present with the addition of Black-fronted Dotterels running around and searching for food. Next was Waitangi Wetlands where several more dotterels were seen with Great and Little Black Cormorants roosting in the area. On the beach Caspian Terns were present in numbers with all three gull species. The journey to Foxton on the west coast was broken by a visit to the small wetland of Pekapeka which allowed a close approach to New Zealand Scaup and Paradise Shelducks. En route to Foxton a New Zealand Falcon flew across the road and further along the road a Rook was noted on telegraph wires. An early check in at the motel was followed by a visit to the Manawatu Estuary. A small pool held a family of New Zealand Grebes. Our main interest was the tern flock on the beach which revealed the presence of White-fronted, Black-fronted, Caspian and a first year Arctic Tern. The shoreline and adjacent pools held a variety of waders including our first Pacific Golden Plovers of the tour. Tomorrow we head south to Wellington and the ferry across the Cook Strait to South Island.

February 15th: Manawatu Estuary, Lake Horowhenua, Waikanae, Cook Strait, Marlborough Sound
Weather: Sunny with occasional cloudy spells on a light W wind 24c

Checked out of the motel and visited the Manawatu Estuary as the tide was coming in. Similar birds to yesterday were recorded. Our journey south included brief stops at Lake Horowhenua and Waikanae with the commoner New Zealand species being observed. Our main interest of the day was the inter-island ferry to South Island taking in the Cook Strait. Inshore water species comprised of Fluttering, Buller's and Sooty Shearwaters. Within the open seas our first White-capped Albatrosses of the tour plus Northern Giant Petrel, Westland Petrel and close to shore Fairy Prions. On entering the sheltered waters of Marlborough Sound several Australasian Gannets were noted plus Spotted Shag and a light phase Arctic Skua. Docked at Picton our first base on South Island.

February 16th: Queen Charlotte Sound, Blumire Island, Blenheim, Wairau, Marlborough Saltpans, Lake Elterwater, Kaikora Hill
Weather: Hot and sunny with light W winds 32c

From the motel in Picton it was only a short walk down towards the quay and the boat trip into Queen Charlotte Sound. On leaving the harbour we quickly located White-fronted Terns, Kelp Gull, Australasian Gannet and a light phase Arctic Skua. A stop at a rocky headland allowed us close views of the rare and range restricted New Zealand King Shag. The main birding event of the morning was to come as we approached Blumire Island. Once on the beach the flightless Weka's came up to inspect us at close range. A short walk away led us to a clearing with fruiting trees. This was an amazing area for Tui, New Zealand Bellbird, Silvereye, Tomtit, New Zealand Fantail and best of all at least three Orange-fronted Parakeets. A walk along the trail added Sacred Kingfisher, New Zealand Pigeon, Grey Gerygone and fantastic views of South Island Saddleback. On the return to Picton the group encountered a pod of Bottle-nosed Dolphins. Our route took us through Blenheim with visits to Wairau and Marlborough Saltpans. The former had good numbers of Royal Spoonbill, New Zealand Scaup and Grey Teal. Lake Elterwater was notable for sightings of Great Crested Grebe and a vagrant Hoary-headed Grebe from Australia. The muddy edges held Black-fronted Dotterel. Ended the day at Kaikoura Hill where Cirl Bunting was added to the list.

February 17th: Kaikoura
Weather: Sunny with N winds 31c

Today was set aside for two pelagic trips off Kaikoura one in the morning and the other taking place at 1300 hours. The morning session was by far the best with the afternoon trip having fewer birds and species apart from large pods of Dusky Dolphins and incredible numbers of krill. Thankfully in the morning a fishing trawler was active not far from the port so we headed towards it and were amply rewarded with close sightings of seabirds. Before reaching the trawler we encountered the localised Hutton's Shearwater and Westland Petrels both of which breed high in the mountains of the Southern Alps near Kaikoura. Around the boat the group recorded New Zealand (Wandering), Antipodean, Northern Royal, Southern Royal, White-capped and Buller's Albatrosses, Northern Giant Petrel, Cape and White-chinned Petrels, Short-tailed, Flesh-footed and Buller's Shearwaters. Nearer to land Red-billed and Black-billed Gulls, Pied Cormorant and White-fronted Terns were noted. In the afternoon we located a large group of Australasian Gannets resting on the sea this being the highest count by our skipper Gary. A truly amazing day for everybody and one that will linger in our memories for years to come.

February 18th: Kaikoura, St Anne's Lagoon, Ashley Estuary, Lake Pearson, Deaths Corner, Arthurs Pass Walk
Weather: Warm and sunny with a brisk N wind 31c

Yesterday was always going to be hard to beat as we headed south towards Christchurch and then turned west towards Arthurs Pass which links the west and east coast of South Island. The first stop at St Anne's Lagoon held the commoner ducks and a few Little Pied Cormorants. A diversion to the Ashley Estuary was good for Black-fronted and Caspian Terns, Pied Cormorant, Pied Stilt and Royal Spoonbill. At the next area on the opposite side of the river we added Banded Dotterel and Bar-tailed Godwit to the day list. Our route took us inland through dramatic scenery of the alps with a few stops on the way including Lake Pearson which added Dunnock to our birdlist. It was on to Deaths Corner where we entertained by several Kea in the car park taking rubber from tyres and generally being mischievous. Fantastic views of this rare and endearing New Zealand endemic. After the Kea's a stop at Arthurs Park Walk car park added Rifleman, New Zealand Brown Creeper and parties of Silvereyes. The group went for a walk within the forest whilst I guarded the minibus and its contents. On the walk similar birds to the car park plus a pair of South Island Robins and New Zealand Bellbirds. After dinner a return to the same place and a kiwi walk for the most difficult of all - Great Spotted Kiwi. The wind and road noise did not help matters but two birds were heard within the forest, this kiwi is rarely seen by birders due to the habitat and terrain it lives in. Another great day with the endemic birds.

February 19th: Deaths Corner, Hokitika Ponds, Lake Mahinapua, Lake Ianthe, Okarito
Weather: Sunny with a cool NE wind 21c

From Arthurs Pass we headed towards the coast and the town of Hokitika. Just outside the town are the sewage ponds which held the usual wildfowl species of New Zealand including high numbers of Grey Teal, Australasian Shoveler and New Zealand Scaup. Picked up lunch in Hokitika and travelled a few kilometres to Lake Mahinapua. Careful scanning from the shore produced sightings of the scarce Great Egret, Great Cormorant and a fly-by New Zealand Falcon. Quick looks at Lake Ianthe added Great Crested Grebe to the list with two well grown chicks plus Great and Little Black Cormorants. A diversion to Okarito was made to arrange and hear the rules for our evening kiwi watch. A pleasant and enjoyable evening meal in Franz Josef. At 2030 hours we were back on the road towards Okarito donning our safety jackets and listening to Mike our guide for the rules of watching kiwi. We heard at least two male Okarito Kiwi calling from the dense understory of the forest and the frequent calls of Southern Boobook (Morepork). It was close to midnight when eventually an Okarito Kiwi decided to come out onto the road and into the dull red torchlight, it quickly retreated into cover. Around thirty minutes later we had a better experience as the bird showed for almost a minute before walking towards us, amazingly it stopped by my feet and started to pull at my boot laces. The kiwi had no transmitter on the legs so this was indeed a rare experience for both Mike and the clients. Guessing the laces were not edible it promptly ran into the bush and disappeared. A truly amazing experience and one which will live in the memories of everybody present - thanks Mike for showing us such a rare, shy and localised New Zealand bird.

February 20th: Franz Josef, Haast, Mount Aspiring National Park, Wanika
Weather: Frequent rain showers on a cool NE wind 10c

Due to a potential cyclone hitting the coast of western South Island it was decided to leave early at 0645 hours and travel to Haast and then back inland towards the mountains thus avoiding any potential hold ups. Birding was pretty slow today due to the weather with the best stop being an overlook near Haast itself. From an elevated position we could look into the Tasman Sea which appeared to be rather flat with little or no breakers in sight. Around the car park were Tui, New Zealand Fantail, Grey Gerygone and several Tomtits, the latter can be hard to locate sometimes. Out at sea a few White-capped Albatross, Red-billed Gull, White-fronted Tern and Spotted Shags resting on the rocky outcrops. A bonus came in the form of Hector's Dolphin a scarce cetacean of New Zealand waters. Our journey took us through Mount Aspiring National Park with a stop at the highest point in prime beech forest. A short walk here proved to be rewarding for more Tomtits, up to two Yellow-crowned Parakeets and best of all a party of Yellowheads feeding high in the canopy. Yellowheads are rare and localised on South Island and it was excellent that everybody had great views of this enigmatic species of New Zealand. Lunch was taken followed by the journey to Wanika a large town along our route. An early check-in was appreciated after the exploits of last night.

February 21st: Wanika, Fiordland National Park including Homer Tunnel
Weather: Cloudy with rain showers on a cool S wind 14c

Checked out of Wanika in cool and rainy weather. The journey to Fiordland National Park was slow and made more difficult by poor weather conditions. En route the commoner species of rural areas were recorded. In mid-afternoon the group arrived at the entrance of the Homer Tunnel with the road eventually reaching Milford Sound (around 40km) on a narrow and twisting road. Our interest was in the rocky habitats of the area. Despite a lot of searching and time only a few of us had views of the uncommon South Island Wren. Birds were thin on the ground here and included familiar species in Common Chaffinch and Eurasian Blackbird. Late afternoon we left for our base in Te Anau.

February 22nd: Te Anau, Bluff, Foveaux Strait, Oban, Ulva Island
Weather: Cloudy with a cool S wind 14c

Today we headed south towards the agricultural centre of South Island and the town of Invercargill. On the way a few birds in fields and literally thousands of grazing sheep. Checked in at the ferry terminal at Bluff a rather run down port which has seen better days in the past. At 1045 hours we set off across the Foveaux Strait which was quiet choppy at times. In the harbour many Kelp Gulls, the endemic Foveaux Shag, Red-billed and Kelp Gulls. Once in the open waters Sooty Shearwaters appeared in high numbers along with White-capped and Salvin's Albatross, White-chinned and Cook's Petrels, Australasian Gannets and near the coast flocks of White-fronted Terns. Checked in at the hotel and after lunch a visit to Ulva Island one of the oldest reserves in New Zealand and predator free for the endemic birds. By the quay a Little Penguin showed well and on the beach Variable Oystercatchers. Ulva is a remarkable place and within a short distance of the quay we were watching South Island Robins and an extremely tame Weka along the trail network. Slowly walking around the island great views of Kaka, Red-crowned and Yellow-crowned Parakeets, South Island Saddleback, New Zealand Brown Creeper and Grey Gerygone. It was good to study these rare endemic birds at close range in their natural habitat. Returned to the main island our home for the next two nights.

February 23rd: Oban, Stewart Island Pelagic
Weather: Cloudy with a SW wind 14c

A full day exploring the waters and islands off Stewart Island. The usual birds were around the hotel as we walked down towards the dock. Just outside the harbour the group were rewarded with sightings of Fiordland Penguins sitting by a cave hole. On towards the next island where a pair of Brown Skuas were present on a grassy island. The beach area had a hunting Swamp Harrier and several Weka searching for food along the tide line. Remainder of the day in deep waters and reefs searching for seabirds. Species observed included White-capped, Salvin's, Buller's and Southern Royal Albatrosses most of which were in close proximity to the boat. Sooty Shearwaters were abundant along with lesser numbers of Flesh-footed and Hutton's Shearwaters, Mottled and Cooks Petrels. On the way back to port a bonus came in the form of a juvenile Southern Giant Petrel, Common Diving Petrel, Little Penguin and a solitary Yellow-eyed Penguin on a rocky beach. Later in the evening an excursion was made for Southern Brown Kiwi. After walking through the forest a female allowed close approach on the beach as she searched for sand-hoppers. On the way back a kiwi chick was noted on the path before disappearing into cover.

February 24th: Oban, Foveaux Strait, Invercargill, Katiki Point
Weather: Sunny with cool SW winds 14c

Down to the dock for 0800 hours as the ferry departed at this time. The crossing across the Foveaux Strait was rough in parts until we reached the calmer waters of Bluff Harbour. Little of note on the crossing although Cooks and Mottled Petrels put in an appearance. Next on the agenda was a lagoon on the outskirts of Invercargill. On the mud and shallow waters Australasian Shoveler, Grey Teal, Pied Stilt and Black Swans were numerous. Picked up supplies in the city centre and followed state highway 1 towards Dunedin the old capital of New Zealand and close affinities to Edinburgh in Scotland. Katiki Point was the other area of interest with Yellow-eyed Penguins on the slopes and Otago Shags flying offshore. Travelled to Oamaru our base for the night.

February 25th: Oamaru, Waitai Valley, Central Otago High Country, Glentanner
Weather: Showers giving way to a sunny day with SW winds 20c

First stop this morning was the old dock at Oamaru where the group could study Spotted and Otago Shags at close range. Also present were White-fronted Terns and Sacred Kingfishers. Our journey today initially took us north and west along the Waitai Valley a noted wine producing area of New Zealand. A few birds were noted including Black-fronted Terns hawking over the rivers and flooded fields. After checking a few sites within the Otago High Country we headed towards the small village of Glentanner. This was to produce one of the most amazing views of the tour as 37 adult and 15 juvenile Black Stilts were present on the entrance track this constitutes over 50% of the known world population. Excellent views as the stilts fed in the shallow, stony river systems or simply sat down in the grass into the brisk winds. Also present were Banded Plover and New Zealand Pipits. After consuming lunch we headed to our base in Omarama for the last night of the tour.

For details of the full species list or to request further information about the next time we will be offering this trip. Contact us at

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