Shovelers and Bar-Wits!
Bags are packed and I'm just about to walk out the door to travel to Auckland ready to start another 21-day birdwatching tour for Wrybill Birding Tours.
Slightly different this trip as I'll have Neil Robertson riding shotgun. Neil is joining the Wrybill team and will be leading his own tour in February, so he's coming along with me to learn the ropes. Like myself, Neil is originally from Kent, and lives and works in Fiordland.
Guiding has been steadily building on Ulva Island with great numbers of Yellowhead being seen, and yesterday my group watched a pair of South Island Saddleback courting and building a nest.
In October I had the opportunity to get the twitching juices flowing, although the location was a bit of a surprise - Invercargill is not normally known as a birdwatching hotspot! At the Invercargill Tip lagoon a drake Northern Shoveler had been spotted. I arrived at the site where it had been seen previously, but initially had no joy. There was a couple of smaller ponds by a sewage plant near the lagoon and there I found the Shoveler. The Northern Shoveler has an all green head and white breast, looking very different to its Australasian cousins that have a powder blue face and bit of a crescent shape on their cheek. Unfortunately too far away for a photograph, but good scope views.
These bird breeds in North American and Europe, where I've seen lots of them, but have been recorded less than twenty times in New Zealand. This year there has been an influx of three or four birds spotted up and down the country. Not a world tick for me, it was a New Zealand tick.
Within days of me seeing the Northern Shoveler a female Chestnut-breasted Shelduck was discovered along with a Whiskered Tern that put in a brief appearance. Something in the weather maybe …?
We've been very fortunate to have a couple of Bar-tailed Godwits hanging around one of the more accessible beaches on Stewart Island as they are normally found in pretty remote parts, only accessible by boat.
It was nice to get some photographs of these long range migrants that spend our summer in New Zealand but breed in Alaska. An amazing journey.
While photographing the godwits one of the local Variable Oystercatchers kept trying to photobomb the shot!
Recently Jules and myself were walking one evening (without the dog!) and were fortunate to encounter four kiwi. Always pretty cool to see. One relaxed male even swam around in a ditch right in front of us!
Gotta go, got a plane to catch!