Saturday, 14 July 2012

The birds of Auckland domain

I have a big back-log of blogs as I enter week three of my birding trip to the Pacific and pacific rim. The lack of blogs is a result of choice. Internet is blisteringly fast in Samoa but seriously expensive. As a result I have waited until I have returned to New Zealand before posting any of my back-log. 

Today's post is about birding which is exactly one week old when I arrived in New Zealand the first time round.   

I wasn't very adventurous. This all took place in the main park in Auckland called "Auckland" domain. Nevertheless it proved an interesting introduction to  birding in the region.

Eastern Rosella

Screaming around the middle of the park was a bird which reminded me of rose-ringed parakeet which inhabit so many parks in Europe these days. However there is a least one major difference. The Auckland bird, eastern rosella, is native to its area. It was of course a "lifer".

New Zealand pigeon

It wasn't the only lifer either. A large pigeon of woods called New Zealand pigeon was another easy find helped by the fact that most birds in the country are very tame and approachable.

red-billed gull

A new gull for me, and an endemic to New Zealand is the red-billed gull. This wasn't difficult birding. They hang around in their tens next to the cafes and the duck pond in the park.

New Zealand fantail

Yet another lifer was New Zealand fantail. I had never seen any fantail before but the observation in Auckland was to help me in Samoa (more on that in  later blogs). Incidentally the fantails I saw in Auckland were the light morph. Birds on north island tend to be the light morph whereas all those on south island are a dark morph.


The lifers kept coming thick and fast. In the same type of habitat (and sometimes the same tree) were silver-eye, the New Zealand member of the white-eye family.

spotted dove

One obvious thing this region has is variety of pigeon and dove. Five spotted dove were spotted (sic) on the edge of the park in a dryer area. This was yet another lifer.

My final lifer of the day was almost missed. I was so sure that the swallows in the city were barn swallow I almost failed to look them up. In fact they are welcome swallow whose main differences seems to be a lack of a dark chin strap under the red face and an overall (slightly) greyer look to the under body.

common myna

The lifers were not the only part of the story. In fact in many ways it was the similarities with birding I have done in other parts of the world which are possibly more striking.

There was one obvious similarity with Saudi birding and that was the presence of common myna, a famously unloved invasive bird through much of the warm temperate and sub tropical world. 

However, the early British colonists have left a major impression on Auckland (and no doubt other NZ) parklands. 

male blackbird 

The park literally teems with blackbird. Furthermore they have taken on the native habit of being extraordinarily tame.

part leucistic blackbird

There were so many that I wasn't surprised to see my first ever part leucistic blackbird. I also wonder if it is more that just numbers that "help" produce birds. The paucity of birds of prey probably helps too.

adult song thrush

The legacy of the colonists in the parks isn't just blackbird either. Song thrush are quite common too. Both birds are over 2,000 kilometres from their "natural" range.

juvenile song thrush

This tameness helped get better looks at song thrush than I have ever managed before. The browner look of the young birds is obvious.

common starling

For some reason the colonists brought over common starling too. They really must have been homesick.

house sparrow

However possibly the large single number of displaced western palearctic birds are house sparrow.

I made a closer inspection of the park the day after (on Sunday 8th July). There were plenty more species to see.

Finally an epilogue to my visit to Japan. I want to go back one day from my first visit to Auckland park. I managed to bird watch briefly on the Friday (6th July) in Japan in the same area (Daiaba Park, Tokyo) as before and this cleared up a few loose ends.

grey heron

I can categorically say my concern about missing any Japanese cormorant (which I expressed in the last blog) because I had sloppily assumed all the birds in the area were great cormorant was unfounded. They really were all great cormorant! I spent a long time observing them and there were no Japanese cormorant present to miss.

I had a chance to look at the bird I thought was a Japanese night heron. I had doubts about this identification when I read on the internet that they aren't really a coastal bird. Rather red-facedly, I now know this bird was a striated heron.

So my count of lifers goes down by one. However it also went up by two the same day. The unknown gull from my last blog was identified by Laurie's (a correspondent to this blog) network as a third cycle slaty-backed gull.

black-tailed gull

And just to add to the count, I saw another type of gull on the Friday in the same place. This time there were two black-tailed gull which was another lifer.

a second black-tailed gull

In the past week I have gained another 35 lifers(with good prospects for the rest of the holiday) but more significantly I have increased my understanding of another part of the world's birds. It has humbled me.  Ignorance had been bliss.  Now its a challenge.

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