Thursday 2 August 2012

Waitangi, Bay of islands - part 2

The area around Waitangi was good for land birds too. The parks, forests, mangroves and golf course provided a varied land-based habitat to match the variety of water habitat of estuary and coast written about in my last blog. 

Remember all these habitats are within walking distance of each other. Much of it is owned publicly or by the New Zealand National Trust. So it is easily accessible.

The forest in particular is a known habitat for north island brown kiwi and great lengths are gone to keep predators especially dogs away. 

Unfortunately I didn't see a kiwi and that was almost certainly because I didn't visit the area in the dark. These birds are strictly nocturnal. I did try harder to find fernbird but even after 5 hours search in the right places (sic) I managed only to find  dunnock among the ferns and near-by.

Californian quail

I am not unhappy with my overall land bird experience though. Far from it. I bagged four lifers and saw more old friends in a new country.

The first lifer was seen both in parkland and on the edge of the golf course. Indeed at the golf course I witnessed a flock of 15 Californian quail.

one of the many signs making it clear dogs aren't welcome

One of the observational themes of the parkland and golf course was the variety of introduced British birds. I had seen house sparrow, blackbird and song thrush in Auckland parks. I saw them all again but here I added more.


There were chaffinch in the parks, goldfinch on the golf course and finally skylark where the golf course meets sea and mangrove.

a flock of goldfinch

I knew chaffinch and goldfinch were present in New Zealand but hadn't realised until I saw them that skylark were too. They took me by surprise.

skylark on the golf course

Another introduction but probably by escapes is common myna and I am afraid this pest were common here just as in Auckland. Though strangely enough they don't venture below the frost line in New Zealand (even though they do in Australia for example).

common myna

In the woods were plenty of Tui which I know has to fight common myna hard particularly during the breeding season from stories two separate New Zealanders told me.

New Zealand fantail

Common in all the habitats were New Zealand fantail and I swear they follow people around. They must be among the inquisitive birds on the planet. The picture above was the best I got of the fantail on my whole trip.

I have made it a policy for this blog not to show birds I have already seen in New Zealand unless the photo is better. So for the record I also saw eastern rosella  and New Zealand Pigeon. One bird I would have liked to have shown but failed to get a good photo was swamp harrier, another lifer and easily seen if you are patient over the estuary and adjacent land.

grey gerygone

One lifer I did mange to photograph though not brilliantly was grey gerygone (called grey warbler in New Zealand). This was best seen in what I would call maquis along the coast stretch of the National Trust property. I also saw it in clearings in forest. 


Another small mobile bird is silver-eye, first seen in Auckland but seemingly more common at Waitangi.

masked lapwing

As far as I know the only lapwing in New Zealand is masked lapwing, an easily seen lifer in the Waitangi park. It bears a close to resemblance to spur winged lapwing I see in Saudi Arabia. Indeed it has spurred wings  and similar body colours though the face is quite different.

Purple swamphen

I thought it was a strange sight to have purple swamphen (called pukeko in New Zealand) grazing on a golf course. However they are quite happy on grassland provided there is swamp near-by to bolt to. This habit of grazing openly on grassland was new to me until I visited the south pacific but I saw this in three different countries.

welcome swallow

The final bird of this blog is the most inappropriately named (for the blog) welcome swallow

The next blog is one of a series looking at birds seen when I moved on from New Zealand to Efate, Vanuatu. 

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