Archive for February 20th, 2019

Our journey continued from the North Island in New Zealand … we were flying to the bottom of the South Island and then catching a flight the next day to Stewart Island … even further south. We had a late flight from Wellington landing in Invercargill around 8:30 pm. Deb had recommended we buy some food to have with us on the flight so we wouldn’t have to look around for supper. Once again, I should have listened to her!

We had booked a bed and breakfast not too far from the Airport since we were flying the next day. As we landed it began to rain … my plan was to grab a taxi to our B&B, walk over for some dinner at a local restaurant, and then head to the airport somehow the next day. We ran out into the rain, grabbed a cab, and told him where we were headed. It was kind of out in the middle of nowhere … since it was raining, I asked if he would wait while we dropped our bags and then we could go grab some dinner. He said, “Sure” and we knocked on the door. A young Asian girl answered and didn’t know who we were … we started to get a little worried; then an older man appeared and he was also confused. His wife usually ran the business and she was out playing bridge. He showed us to what he thought was our room and left it at that. Unsure of things, we left our bags and hopped back in the cab (with the meter running). We drove off to find some dinner … we didn’t know, but this day happened to be a federal holiday … all of the restaurants were closing early or closing right at 9pm. We had no idea what to do … however, Deb had seen a take-out place so we stopped there (still with the cab running …). It turned out to be a Chinese place. We asked for the fastest item on the menu … they said Fish and Chips … we said we’ll take two! So off we went with our Chinese Fish and Chips back to the B&B. The young lady (who was a surprise guest at the house) showed us where to get plates. We ate dinner, went to bed, all without knowing if this was really our B&B. We did meet the lady the next morning over breakfast … we swore off B&Bs, she dropped us at the airport (after a detour to show us some of the local beaches). We arrived about 30 minutes before our flight … no real issue; there was no security and we and the other 6 passengers were heading out to board our tiny prop plane. Funny thing again … there was some weather in the area … the winds were really gusting … around 50 miles per hour! We took off and our pilot said he wasn’t sure we’d land but he’d give it a go! Deb was seated in the co-pilot’s seat and they chatted the whole way … he was showing her pictures on his phone, flying with one hand … come to find out, he had about forty years of experience. He brought us in for a crazy sideways landing and said “Welcome to Stewart Island!” This video will show you how windy it was.

So … we made it to Stewart Island! Our plan here was really to just birdwatch and hike a couple of tracks. We had several birds on our list (to include the Kiwi) and we were getting after it!

We spent some time the first day walking around town and saw a few birds to add …

We walked along the inner harbor.I’m sure it looks like I’m lost … but I’m not!Don’t even ask …This beautiful ship was out in the harbor.

A special bird that first day was the Blue Penguin. We walked down to the pier that night, braved the rain and wind, and saw two of these little penguins coming in to shore.

We saw these wonderful Variable Oystercatchers (the Black variant).We also saw this black-billed Gull.Here is the red-billed Gull.I captured this Little Tern from a distance. Quite windy so he is hunkered down.That evening we saw these little blue penguins. Here he is coming up out of the water.You can see his gullet is full of food for the young ones …Just before he hops down into his hiding place …Oh, we also saw another Kaka … this guy flew right up to us. No way I was going to reach out and see if I could touch him! Look at that beak!

The following day was to be a hike day but it rained the whole day. We had hoped to head out that evening to see some Kiwis but we just couldn’t brave the cold and wet again.

On our second full day we had nice weather in the morning so we booked a ride on a ferry to Ulva Island.

This island is predator-free and has a lot of native birds as well.

We were able to spend the full morning walking around this beautiful island; well, at least a small section of it. There were so few people it seemed like we were there alone. We identified all three of the whitehead species here: the Whitehead, the Brown Creeper, and the Yellowhead. Deb identified the Rifleman call and we were able to track these tiny birds down. They are just a tad larger than my thumb … I was able to capture a couple of photos. All in all it was a great trip to Ulva Island.

This is the South Island Saddleback.Here is one of the New Zealand flightless birds, the Weka. It was very curious … check out these photos of its curiosity.Deb had sat down to grab a quick bite … see the Weka looking up at her? Haha. He wanted something to eat. Oh, and that was the last time we saw that little booklet!She finally had to get up and move … they were right up on her!This was a deserted beach and we were here at low tide. Check out the mussels in this picture.

This is a South Island Robin … has to be one of the cutest, tiniest birds ever.Here is the Yellowhead. A little fuzzy, I know. This is the brown creeper … again fuzzy … but all these little birds moved so fast!I couldn’t pass up posting another Wood Pigeon photo. So pretty.This is the Bellbird … a lovely green color …Here is the Rifleman … so tiny …One more shot of the Rifleman.

We made our way back to the ferry and caught a ride back to Stewart Island. We saw our first Albatrosses here … both right before boarding and on the ferry ride. These are White-capped Mollymawks.

The weather was cooperating so we walked around a little more checking out the sights. It clouded up and rained again that evening … another night we couldn’t get out for the Kiwi! Aaargh. Oh well … you can’t win them all! It was an awesome trip and we had a relatively smooth flight back to Invercargill to begin our South Island adventure!


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I knew coming to New Zealand that I had already surpassed my goals for birdwatching and that anything here would be the cherry on top. I bought a bird book for New Zealand when we were in Auckland. As usual, I didn’t look real close at the book on the inside; I just bought it for the size and cool cover. The back cover said it contained images and information on 374 species … I thought, wow! I’ll really add to my life list total here … that all matched up with my goal to see 75 new birds in New Zealand. Then I looked at the contents … it seems that 170 of the birds listed are either extinct, very rare, or rare. Also, about another 50 are to be found on some tiny island off the main islands. Soooo …. I’m really working with about 150 birds … which is just fine … like I said. Anything here is extra!

I’m breaking this blog post up into three: 1) The North Island (this one), 2) Stewart Island, and 3) the South Island. Those are the three largest islands and, fortunately, we visited all three.

With these numbers to work with and knowing our destinations we headed off on this leg of the adventure. As stated in the previous post, we first went to Rotorua–this village is right on a lake so it provided an opportunity to see both land and shore birds — it didn’t disappoint. We were able to add quickly to the list. Here are a few photos from there.

Here in New Zealand, they call the Cormorants “Shags.” This is a little Shag.We saw both the Little Shag and the Little Black Shag in Rotorua.This is the Pied Stilt … he was a long way away … but I got him with my big telephoto!We saw plenty New Zealand Scaups.All of the Black Swans we saw were so beautiful and elegant.This guy was hiding up under the reeds … New Zealand Dabchick (what I would call a Grebe).This is a Silvereye.We loved this bird … first real photo I captured … so beautiful. It is a Tui. This is called Pukeko … commonly known as a Purple Swamphen.See it’s enormous feet? Very cool bird.

The second place we stopped was Tongariro … that was more about hiking and a lot less about birding, but I think we were able to add one or two as well.

After we had hiked the first day, we decided to try and see some Kiwi in that area … we asked around and folks just kind of laughed and said “good luck.” We knew we were finished with the big hike so we changed our plans and went to Wellington a day early to visit this place called “Zealandia.” It is a very large wildlife preserve that has an 8.6 kilometer predator fence around it. They’ve introduced native species and bird life in this preserve and they are thriving … we were able to see quite a few native birds on the North Island. Here’s a couple of those images.

The preserve had feeders set up … we saw this Kaka (parrot) by the feeder. Here’s another shot of the Kaka from the front. Beautiful.This is one of our favorite birds in New Zealand … the Fantail. I caught this one in full display. They were so curious … they were always coming around when you called.This is the North Island Saddleback … a rare bird making a comeback!This is the Hihi (Stitchbird). I caught this Pied Shag jumping up out of the water…This lovely bird is the New Zealand Wood Pigeon … an extremely large bird.This is a small little bird … the North Island Robin. He was just as curious as the Fantail. He would walk around your feet looking for insects you disturb by walking.Here’s another shot of the fantail from the side … a lovely little bird.This guy is the Tui mentioned above. I added this picture so you could see his two puff-balls on his chin. His song is quite lovely … they mimic all kinds of sounds.

Overall, we had a great experience on the North Island with birds. We came away having seen 42 birds with 24 of those being new to us. Yeah! On to Stewart Island!


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