Out with the old, in with the new
Early in November in my role as Chairman of the Ulva Island Charitable Trust, I joined other nature guides and Department of Conservation on Ulva Island to show Gareth Morgan
around. Gareth visited Stewart Island to meet with the community and put an idea forward for making the whole of Stewart Island free of rats, cats and possums. It's a very interesting concept and his meeting was well attended.
November started the crawl into the busy part of the season and the first few pelagics saw us finding the usual suspects on the albatross front; Southern Royal, Salvin's, White-capped and the dapper Buller's. Wilson's and Grey-backed Stormies always add extra spice to a pelagic as they skip around the boat and Mottled Petrel and Broad-billed Prion still seem to be the birds at the top of the wish list of visiting birders.
Sooty Shearwaters and Fiordland Crested Penguins returned to the area - a sure sign of summer - plus the call of the Shining Cuckoo around the township. Maybe these birds are the same ones I saw in New Caledonia a few months ago!
December proved to be a warm month. Even me cutting the grass and attending to the veg garden in my shorts didn't put the local Weka family off showing us their new fuzzy chicks.
Early in the month I got a text from a friend to say he'd heard there was an Australian Coot at Ringa Ringa Golf Course here on Stewart Island. I rushed over there (hoping it would be a Black Woodhen, a true mega vagrant!) but alas it was just a coot, and still a Stewart Island tick for me. It was hanging around a water hazard but I don't think the bird will fare very well with very little fresh water on the island. After posting the sighting on the NZ Bird Forum it turned out to be a first for Stewart Island!
Not that I'm in any doubt, but Ulva Island is still proving to be one of the best places to work. Almost every trip we encounter Rifleman, Yellowhead, Brown Creeper and Yellow-crowned Kakariki - even the occasional Kiwi - not to mention the very obliging Robins.
A stonking hot Christmas Day came and went with Tui and Kaka giving their own rendition of "Jingle Bells" in the 31 degree heat.
So out with the old and in with the New Year. 2012 was a good birding year for me, adding eight new birds to my New Zealand list. Highlights have to be the Australian Pelican on the North Island, the self-found Nankeen Kestrel at Awarua Bay and the Intermediate Egret at Milford Sound.
The Stewart Island list rose as well with New Zealand Falcon, Snares Crested Penguin and Australian Coot. The New Caledonia trip was a fun birding trip with the bonus of adding a good selection of lifers and endemics to the world list. Highlights there were obviously Kagu and Crow Honeyeater.
Let's see what birds turn up for 2013. A new year. A new list.