Saturday, 21 April 2018

NZ day 1 - Tawharanui and Muriwai

Three weeks ago now, we stepped foot on New Zealand soil for the first time. After arriving early on in the morning, we had a bit of a tortuous time getting our car from Hertz due to understaffing on Easter Sunday, but thereafter it was plain sailing. Target for the day was to stay awake til the evening, so with this in mind what could be better than some fresh air and (reported to Karen as a little) birding. Tawharanui and Muriwai, both north of Auckland, were the places we would visit. First stop though was Warkworth, where we had breakfast in the autumn sunshine and where I saw my first Red-billed Gulls by the river there: -
adult Red-billed Gull Warkworth, North Island 1st April 2018
After this pit stop, it was on to the beautiful Tawharanui Regional Park: -
Tawharanui, North Island 1st April 2018
One of the things you have to quickly get used to in New Zealand is the situation with their endemic birdlife - it is grave, and was graver. Therefore they closely monitor a lot of species, and hence they have an elaborate amount of rings on them. Additionally, and more disconcerting from a moral listing perspective, their most rare birds have been 'translocated' to safe areas i.e. predator free zones. And to be predator free, it often means a fence somewhere... almost Jurassic Park style! But once you get this, you're good to go and enjoy New Zealand's birds which is exactly what I did.
Variable Oystercatcher Tawharanui, North Island 1st April 2018
Entering Tawharanui, there was lots of obvious birdlife with Pukekos (Australasian Swamphens) the most prevalent, while Swamp Harriers patrolled the skies. On the lagoon, I saw my first of many New Zealand Paradise Shelducks as well as a handful of Brown Teals, which were the only ones I saw all trip. Add to that a nice showy Variable Oystercatcher and a couple of Caspian Terns, and with the sun beaming down, life was half decent.
drake Brown Teal Tawharanui, North Island 1st April 2018

New Zealand Paradise Shelduck Tawharanui, North Island 1st April 2018
Pukeko (Australasian Swamphen) Tawharanui, North Island 1st April 2018
We then parked up by the beach, and thanks to John B, I walked a short way up the Ecology Trail to be confronted with three absolute beasts from a time gone by - Takahes! Following their rediscovery in the Fiordlands of South Island in 1948, and massive issues with predation, the population has been translocated all over New Zealand to areas that are either islands or are predator free. Even in the original rediscovery area of the Murchison Mountains, the population is supplemented by released birds. They're fascinating to watch as they chew the grass: -
Takahe Tawharanui, North Island 1st April 2018
Also in this area, I saw what were to be my only North Island Robin and North Island Saddlebacks of the trip while good numbers of Tui and New Zealand Bellbirds were great to see for the first time.
Tui Tawharanui, North Island 1st April 2018

North Island Robin Tawharanui, North Island 1st April 2018
Karen was relaxing on the beach, and when joining her I was able to locate three or four New Zealand Dotterels which evidently seem to breed in the area, as well as a group of White-fronted Terns and good views of both Red-billed and Kelp Gulls.
White-fronted Tern Tawharanui, North Island 1st April 2018
New Zealand Dotterel Tawharanui, North Island 1st April 2018
Reluctantly having to leave this wonderfully scenic spot, we drove from the Pacific coast to the Tasman Sea where there is a well known colony of Australasian Gannets at Muriwai. And so, after the hour's drive, I spent a pleasant hour with these birds. Though it was on the late side for breeding, there were still some stragglers left with their young: -

Australasian Gannets Muriwai, North Island 1st April 2018
And that was that, with the sun starting to dip a little and fatigue rapidly setting in, we were Auckland bound for a spot of dinner and then a long, much appreciated sleep.



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