Monday, April 7, 2014

Week Ending 6 April 2014

The highlight of this week is also the reason I'm late posting. Miss 13 and I went away for a very full on weekend of birding - and I'm still recovering! Kaikoura, a small coastal community about 2.5 hours drive north of here, was hosting a weekend focusing on seabirds so we decided to go, hopefully benefit from some of the expertise, and do some exploring on our own.

Sadly my interpretation of some of the events and what actually occurred didn't always bear a lot of resemblance to each other. Holding a farewell ceremony for a special bird that has already left on its annual migration doesn't make a lot of sense to me. It seemed like a real missed opportunity in terms of education and public awareness. However we had a great - if somewhat exhausting - weekend of full on birding. Just not necessarily the weekend I'd expected.

Kaikoura itself is located on a very narrow stretch of flat land, wedged between the sea and the mountains so it is great for seabirds and bush birds. Plus we made several stops along the way, taking the opportunity to look for birds in places we haven't visited before.

There was a lot of walking around beautiful lakes like this, featuring plenty of fungi, which I've always liked, and trees in splendid autumn colours.

There was more walking in the stunning bush. Much of it was uphill and my legs are still complaining a bit, but the fresh smell of the bush and visual treats like this waterfall made the slightly aching muscles (not to mention the wet feet on the day it rained!) worthwhile.

Still more walking up around rugged coastal peninsulas, and  down around the coast itself over rocky outcrops and smoother, slippery rock pools.

We saw nearly 60 different species which doesn't seem like a lot (and isn't for many birders). But there are only 375  birds on New Zealand's official checklist and considerably more than half of those are only seen far out to sea, on isolated, uninhabited coastal islands, or are rare vagrants that may have only been seen in the country on one occasion. Although hoping for more species (of course) we were pleased with our efforts. Best of all seven of those were birds we hadn't previously seen this year and two were birds we'd never seen before.

 This Reef Heron was probably  our favourite bird of the weekend. He was one of our two new birds - and we had to walk the furthest to spot him!

These Ruddy Turnstones were another favourite. We have seen them before but never in such large numbers - there were about 70 on this small stretch of beach one day - and never before in their breeding plumage. They did blend in rather well with the kelp. They'll soon begin the long trip back to Alaska, Siberia, Northern Canada and Greenland to mate and raise their young.

Pied Shags are fairly common birds that we see frequently . This is one of ten or twelve we spotted roosting in a tree by the coast. Spotted isn't really the right word .Heard is more accurate. A couple of neighbours seemed to be having a territorial dispute and they were loud! Miss 13 and I decided we were glad that tree wasn't outside our house.

Yellowhammers are also really common but we always look at them closely in case one should turn out to be the similar looking, but much rarer Cirl Bunting. This one wasn't but  I thought Miss 13 got a pretty good shot.

We also saw this rather bedraggled and bewildered looking Little Blue Penguin. We're hoping his sorry looking state is due to a moult rather than a sign of sickness.

The weekend wasn't entirely about birds, however. Kaikoura is famous for its seal colonies and we had plenty of close encounters along the coast - much closer than these shots show.


  1. Love all the pictures. So glad the science review was helpful for you, hoping you enjoy the product.

  2. What a beautiful trip. I am so glad you were able to go. I wish Keilee and I were able to go more places. Keilee loved the seal picture. Seals are one of her favorites. Happy week!

    1. I wish we could go more places too - especially as a family. We kept it as cheap as we could - left everyone else at home, stayed in a camping ground and only stayed two nights instead of three or four. With my husband facing possible redundancy it didn't seem sensible to go but realistically the small amount of money we spent won't make any real difference - less than a week's groceries.