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  • Matt

Spring into life

Not quite six months since my last instalment, but then I haven't got much to talk about, so this will be short and sweet!

A slightly different winter this year as I didn't go to the UK for the British Birdwatching Fair and had a stay-cation on Stewart Island instead.  It hasn't been too bad as I've been trying to rest a bulging disc in my back which seems to be on the mend.

As we entered September it was like Stewart Island's heat lamp was turned on.  The weather warmed up and with it the fuchsia and kaka beak in the garden sprung into life, and the birds followed suit.  We have resident Tui that sits outside the window, fiercely guarding his favourite fuchsia bush from any intruders.  The dawn chorus is quite amazing - literally hundreds of Tui, Bellbird, Tomtit, Grey Warbler try to outdo each other by serenading the loudest.

New Zealand Fantail (black phase) in my garden
New Zealand Fantail (black phase)

New birds to the garden list this year have been New Zealand Pipit and Eurasian Skylark.  I got a photograph of a black phase Fantail during its brief visit to our garden.  Fantails are difficult to photograph at the best of times, being a flycatcher they are incredibly active performing mad sorties across the garden.

The guiding ball has begun to roll and this week I've already lead three tours.  It's nice to get back on to Ulva Island and enjoy trying to find the Saddlebacks, smile at the ever inquisitive Robins as they hop out onto the path in front of you demanding attention, and listen to the almost oriel-sound of the Yellowhead.

Female Sealion at Ulva Island
Female Sealion

There have been a couple of female sea lions hanging around Ulva Island which are much more approachable than the unpredictable males.  While walking Nonu at Horseshoe Beach I came across a rather large Leopard Seal loafing around in the water, the first one of the season that I've seen.  

I haven't spent too much time with the camera this winter but I did manage a half a day on Ulva Island a week ago.  Probably one of the things enjoy the most about winter is being on Ulva Island virtually by myself and having the time to stop and take photographs.  With the exception of kiwi, I found every bird including a day-roost Morepork and had a great encounter with a Rifleman family.  I was fortunate to find a New Zealand Pigeon that was nicely lit in the shade by a single ray of sunshine which brought out its iridescent purple and greens, almost like petrol spill on a pavement. 

I guess the pigeon family/genus have never been one of my favourites but when you look at them carefully the New Zealand Pigeon is a very impressive bird, huge in size, beautiful colours and great flyers doing massive fall and stall flights.  They are really important to the ecosystem of Ulva Island as they are the bird with the largest gape and can eat every seed and fruit from the forest - and they make a new forest with a little compost packet!



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