Saturday, 10 April 2021

9th April, 2021 Beachy Head Wind SW 1-2

 RAB carried out a sea-watch from 07.30-09.00 and then covered Belle Tout wood, Shooters Bottom, Old Trapping Area, Hotel Garden, Icky Ridge, Radio Mast bushes and Sheep fields. LP also visited various sites on the Headlansd.

Sea-watched from 07.30-09.00, Observers RAB. Red-throated Diver 6 E, Gannet 70 E, Canada Goose 1 W, Brent Goose 29 E, Common Scoter 91 E, Red-breasted Merganser 2 E, Common Gull 11 E, Kittiwake 7 E,  Auk Sp. 2 E

Small fall of Willow Warblers with the first Common Whitethroat for the year. Combined totals of RAB and LP: Common Buzzard 2,  Swallow 4, House Martin 1, Wheatear 6, Song Thrush 2, Common Whitethroat 1 (Hotel Garden), Chiffchaff 2,  Willow Warbler 30+.

2 Black Redstarts and our first Tree Pipit for the year were recorded yesterday.

Wednesday, 31 March 2021

31st March, 2021 Beachy Head, Cool becoming warm Misty out to sea, SE variable 1-3

 Sea-watching from 06.50-09.50, observers: JFC, DRC and AQ. RE was covering the birding sites at Birling. With misty conditions out to sea, numbers were on the low side, but still an enjoyable watch in warm conditions with the highlight being a transitional plumage Slavonian Grebe. After the sea-watch we covered Shooters Bottom and the Old Trapping Area, very few migrants seen but the highlight was 4 Red Kites which came in over the cliffs at the Old Trapping Area and immediately headed inland until lost to view.

Red-throated Diver 17, (16 E and 1 on the sea), Slavonian Grebe 1 in transitional plumage on the sea off Birling @ 08.00 and later seen moving W (JFC, DRC, AQ, RE)., Gannet 1 E, Shag 2 E both appeared to be adults, Canada Goose 2 E, Brent Goose 33 E, Shelduck 6 (2 E and 4 W), Common Scoter 48 E, Red Kite 4 appeared to come in over the cliffs and quickly departed inland between 11.00 and 11.20. photos. (AQ, JFC, DRC), Curlew 1 E, Mediterranean Gull 3 E, Black-headed Gull 12 E, Common Gull 14 E, Kittiwake c50 E, Sandwich Tern 58 E, Great Spotted Woodpecker 1, Birling, Rock Pipit 2 Birling, Wheatear 1 Birling area, Raven 2, 

Red Kites moving N over Beachy. a total of 4 were seen.


Tuesday, 30 March 2021

30th March, 2021 Beachy Head Sunny, warm and clear S-SE 1-2

Sea-watching from 06.40-10.10, Observers: RAB, JFC, DRC, RB and LP. After yesterday's dismal watch, it was enjoyable to have a reasonable passage, although by 10.00 the passage had virtually stopped. RE was covering the sites around Birling area.

Red-throated Diver 2 (1 E and 1 on the sea), Fulmar 7 sat on the sea, Gannet 6 E, Cormorant 15 (13 W&2E)  Brent Goose 64 E, Shelduck 2 E, Mallard 6 W, Common Scoter 857 E, Red-breasted Merganser 3 E,  Oystercatcher 4 E high possibly migrating, Mediterranean Gull 3 E, Black-headed Gull 7 E, Common Gull 16 E, Sandwich Tern 94 E, Collared Dove 2 Birling, Rock Pipit 2 Birling, Black Redstart 1 male type Birling, Carrion Crow 3 in off the sea, Raven 1 Birling, Yellow Hammer pair Birling loop.

Monday, 29 March 2021

29th March, 2012 Beachy Head Overcast cool and windy becoming sunny later. WSW 4-5

 Our first visit to Beachy since the Lammergeier last October and our first sea-watch since early March last year. Since then we have been virtually shielding and locked-in due to the dreaded Covid 19 virus.  We sea-watched from 07.15 to 08.30, the sea-watch was quiet with virtually nothing moving. We then drove slowly along the road to the Old Trapping Area carefully stopping and checking the ploughed field, and we stopped briefly at the Old Trapping Area and saw RE who had a Chiffchaff singing. 

Fulmar 3 local birds, Gannet 5, Brent Goose 1 E, Shelduck 1 E, Pheasant 1 female in ploughed field, Common Gull 5 E, Kittiwake 2 E, Meadow Pipit 3 in off the sea, Stonechat 1 male at Birling, Song Thrush 1 in song at B/T wood. Raven 1 at Birling.

Monday, 8 February 2021

New Zealand No. 9

 New Zealand No.9 Which will be the final blog on New Zealand.

Our final few days on North Island, and we are now staying at Sandpit near Auckland. We have arranged for two pelagics the first out off Sandpit  and. the second pelagic went from Leigh. The first went via Little Barrier Island and close to the Pyecroft's Petrel breeding areas, and the conditions were still quite windy. Both pelegics went onto Mokohinau Islands. We were out on the boats from 9.00 am to 6.00 pm.


Heading out towards the Mokohinau Islands on the Leigh pelagic.

Arriving at the Mokohinau Islands 

The Grey Ternlet stack, unfortunately no Grey Ternlets.

The landing stage on the Mokohinau Islands, one of the birders was 
going to stay overnight as he was trying to find where the 
recently discovered New Zealand Storm Petrel was breeding.

Doreen on the boat off the Mokohinau Islands.

Bulle'rs Shearwater

Up to 70 Buller's Shearwaters were seen today, some very close to the boat.

Fairy Prion Pachyptila turtur

Up to 70 Fairy Prions were seen on the pelagics.

Fairy Prion has two races, the Northern race is common in the seas around S.E. Australia and New Zealand. On the first pelagic we recorded 30 birds, and the second trip we recorded 200.

Cook's Petrel Petrodroma cookii

Cook's Petrels 

Cook's Petrel breeds only in New Zealand on three small islands, Little Barrier, Great Barrier and Codfish Islands. Although the current population is in excess of 1.2 million birds, it is classified as vulnerable as it only breeds on the above three islands and on the Great Barrier Island there has been a massive decline due to the introduction of pigs, cats, rats which attack nests and the population has decreased from 20,000 birds to less than 1,000. 
We had good numbers on these two pelagics, on the first pelagic we returned at dusk and an estimated of 800 flew close past us, and Doreen and myself sat outside and enjoyed this flight, and on the second pelagic we recorded 100.

Pycroft's Petrel Petrodroma pycrofti

Pycroft's Petrel on the pelagic near Little Barrier Island

Pycroft's Petrels breeds in colonies on several islands off N.E. New Zealand. They can be difficult to identify on a moving ship from the commoner Cook's Petrel, with the best identification features are the blacker crown on the head of Pyecroft's, more black on the underwings. In the very windy conditions, the Petrels came very close to the boat but holding the camera still and trying to identify the differences proved to be difficult. We recorded ourselves 3 on the first pelagic but only 1 on the second pelagic. The other birders claimed 10 on the first pelagic.

This Petrel proved difficult to identify, although it is probably a Pyecroft's, although the head isn't quite as black as the other Pyecroft's, although it looks darker than Cook's.

Flesh-footed Shearwater

Flesh-Footed Shearwater
We saw 200 on the Sandspit and 30 on the Leigh pelagics,

Parkinson's Black Petrel

Parkinson's Black Petrel of the Sandspit pelagic, up to 30 were seen of
the Sandspit pelagic and they can be identified from White Chinned 
Petrel by its all white bill.

White-faced Storm-petrel  Pelagodroma marina 

White-faced Storm-petrels off the Leigh pelagic.

White-faced Storm-petrel breeds in colonies on small islands around New Zealand. After the breeding season they migrate to eastern tropical Pacific. The population is around 1 million pairs, with the largest colony on Rangatia Island which has been estimated at 840,000 pairs.
We recorded 40 on the first pelagic and 80 on the second pelagic and these gave excellent close views allowing for the photographs to be taken. Superb!!

New Zealand Storm-petrel Fregetta maoriana

New Zealand Storm-petrel of the Stanspit pelagic

We had almost given up on seeing the New Zealand Storm-petrel on the Stanspit pelagic, the light was beginning to go, and the other birders had gone into the cabin while Doreen and myself stayed out-side.
Suddenly, Doreen picked out a smallish petrel heading towards the boat, which we quickly identified. It twice flew around the boat and then headed off out, just given me a chance to obtain some poor photos. Thought to be extinct since 1850, it was re-found in 2003 with the breeding site discovered in 2013 in the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park, and in 2014, an egg was discovered on Little Barrier Island.
Without doubt, one of the highlights of our trip. 

After the second pelagic, the following morning we headed out towards Auckland Airport and we stayed overnight near the Mangere Lagoon and tidal areas. We visited this area during the day and also the following morning, before we drove to the Airport, returned the hired car and then departed for London. The Mangere Lagoon area proved a very productive area for birds including a number of introduced British birds such as Goldfinch, Yellow Hammer and it also had a good selection of New Zealand species including  Swamp Harriers 2, Royal Spoonbill 1, Wattled Plover 8, Red knot 700, Wrybill 2, Bar-tailed Godwit 300, Black-tailed Godwit 1, Black-billed Gull 20, Caspian Tern 1, Sacred Kingfisher 3, Tui 2, but the surprise find was an American Hudsonian Godwit present with the Bar-taileds, and showed well. It came flying in to the pools with the Black-tailed with several Bar-tailed's and showed well on our last morning. Unfortunately, my camera was packed away for the flight home.

Hudsonian Godwit  Limosa haemastica

picture taken by Tim Leeuwen.
Hudsonian Godwith with the Eastern race of the Bar-tailed Godwits,

Hudsonian Godwit is a North America species and it was first recorded in New Zealand 1n 1902. In recent years they have been regularly seen with up to 3 annually. It breeds in Alaska, N.W.Canada and the Hudson Bay area. After breeding they have a rapid long-distance migration to Argentine and Chile.

Kiwi's In New Zealand 
Kiwi's are of course flightless and endemic to New Zealand. There are 5 species of Kiwi's in New Zealand, they are nocturnal and we tried to see all 5 species during our trip. We were fortunate in seeing 3 of these species and we heard a fourth calling but could not locate it. It can be very difficult seeing them in the dark and torches are necessary. The use of flash photography was not allowed so unfortunately no photographs, but they are amazing birds and just seeing them shuffling around was one of our finest birding experience .
The three species of Kiwi's we saw were as follows:

Southern Brown Kiwi Apteryx australis  This involved a boat trip of about 45 minutes from Stewart Island for an Island further out. On arriving at that island, it was then a walk through woodland in the dark to a beach. We were fortunate in seeing a male and female Kiwi's, and heard another 3 calling. The Kiwi's performed down to 20 metres from us, and they seemed happy forgaging with their amazing bills, and didn't seem to take any notice of us. It was a warm evening with a bright moon for watching the Kiwi's on a deserted beach, We probably watched them for around 30 minutes, and for me this was the best experience birding I have ever had.
I did go on a second evening, but the weather was poor and were unable to find any.

Little Spotted Kiwi Apteryx owenii  We saw these very well on Kapiti Island. We stayed on Kapiti Island for two nights and both nights we went out with the warden after it got dark and saw 2 and heard a third on the first night, and on the second night we saw 1 and heard another 3. We also saw 1 and heard another 4 on Teriteri Island, we found this bird with Ron Johns and his wife who were also staying on the Island. The Kiwi took us by surprise and virtually ran over our feet.

Northern Brown Kiwi Apteryx mantelli
For this Kiwi, we had to drive to the northern end of North Island, and Ron Johns had kindly made arrangements for us to stay with Detlaf who I knew from our trips to the Scillies, and who now lives in this area and he kindly took us out to see one close to his home. We had excellent views of 1 out in the open at night and heard another 4 calling.

In total, we recorded 143 species during our trip including the majority of the endemics of New Zealand.



Saturday, 6 February 2021

New Zealand No.8

 New Zealand No.8 

We have now departed from our 2 night stay on Kapiti Island and we decided to drive out to Ruatiti Valley to search for the Blue Duck.

Views taking of the Ruatiti Valley with foxgloves 
growing along the road sides

We flushed a Swamp Harrier from the road side.

When we arrived at the Ruatiti Valley, the road ran along the river, but at a height and you could only look down from the top of the valley onto the river. We found a family of 4 Blue Ducks swimming in the river but far to high up to photograph. We drove further along the road and a friendly local told us where we could drive to to be level with the river. This area was called Ruatiti Domaine, and we drove there and parked close to the river. We had a quick look from the car and were surprised to see a Blue Duck within 10 metres of the car. We crept out of the car to the river and as we were watching, it came towards us and stood on some rocks close to the shore. Stunning views.

Blue Duck Hymenolaimus malacorhynchos

Blue Duck at Ruatiti Domaine

Blue Duck is endemic to New Zealand and is classified as endangered with an estimated population of 2,500 - 3,000 birds with a maximum of 1,200 pairs. Females are especially vulnerable to stoats while nesting. In one study area, clutches of eggs lasted on average just nine days before being destroyed by stoats.

We now had a drive to Miranda where we had booked into the Bird Observatory for one night stay,
to have another look at the Wrybill which is the main winter roost area.

Two Welcome Swallows were resting at Miranda.

Wrybill  Hymenolaimus Malacorhynchos 

Wrybill's at Miranda

Wrybill was covered on an earlier blog on South Island. It is the only bird in the world whose bill is bent sideways and this is because in the shingly gravelly area on South Island where it breeds alongside the braided fast flowing rivers , the Wrybill's beak is the perfect shape for finding food.
On our second day at Miranda we counted 80 Wrybills.

Buff Banded Rail Hypotaenidia philippensis 

Buff-banded Rail at Miranda.

Buff-banded Rail has a large range throughout Australia, S.W.Pacific including the Philippines and New Zealand and it has numerous subspecies. On this trip this was our only sighting.

White-fronted Tern Sterna striata 

White-fronted Terns at Cape Rodney

White-fronted Tern are present in both Australia and New Zealand. They are more abundant in New Zealand, and live around the entire coastline, but in Australia they have a much more restricted range.

We now travelled to the northern end of North Island, this
shows the Bay of Islands.

We stayed at Kerikeri for one night, and went out with Detlaf Davies
and had a superb view of the Northern Brown Kiwi, again view by
torch, so no photographs. Many thanks to Detlaf for putting us up
for the night and also taking us out during the night for the Kiwis.
This picture shows the historic Stonehouse at Kerikeri.

On the journey north we stopped of at Waipu Cove to see
the New Zealand race of Fairy Tern, unfortunately although present  
in reasonable numbers they kept to the opposite side of the channel.

New Zealand Dotterel (also known as Northern Red-breasted Plover) Charadrius aquilonius

New Zealand Dotterel in transitional plumage at Waipu Cove

New Zealand Dotterel, the bulk of the population on the east coast between North Cape and East Cape. It is considered to be near threatened with a total of 2,075 were counted during the 2011 breeding season. Again predators to the nests are the chief cause to its decline.
We saw 10 New Zealand Dotterels at Waipu Cove.

Variable Oystercatcher good numbers were present at Waipu Cove.

Next stop was Helena Bay

River at Helena Bay with around 50 Brown Teals were present,

Brown Teal Anas chlorotis

Pair of Brown Teal on the river at Helena Bay.

Female Brown Teal with 3 full grown young on the river.

Bar-tailed Godwit Limosa lapponica bauer

Eastern race  bauer of the Bar-tailed Godwit on Omaha Beach.

Bar-tailed Godwit of the eastern race bauer
Far more barring on the rump.

The eastern race of the Bar-tailed Godwit has an exceptional migration. In the Autumn they leave Alaska fly south over the Pacific direct to New Zealand, a distance of 11,000 kilometers over 11 days without stopping, a world record for a bird. When they return to Alaska for the breeding season, they fly over the coastal areas so they can break their flight to rest and feed, so that they are in good condition for breeding when they arrive in Alaska.

Bottlenose plant in flower.

We were now staying near Auckland for the final part of our trip.
We decided to visit the Gannet colony which is near Muriwai beach.

In this area, the beach is of black sand.

Australasian Gannet Mortus serrator

The Gannet colony at Muriwai Beach.

Australasian Gannets at Muriwai Beach

Australasian Gannet - Most gannetries are around the North Island with the largest mainland gannetry is situated at Cape Kidnappers with around 5,000 breeding pairs. The New Zealand total population is around 50,000 pairs and it continues to increase at around 2% p.a.