I had the opportunity to spend almost 3 weeks touring NZ from Feb.28 to Mar.19
with my wife and youngest son. Although not a "pure" birding trip, the
took us to many of the best birding spots. Trip total was 107 species,
38 endemics and 23 introduced species.
First 12 days involved a clockwise tour of the South Island, beginning at
Christchurch and ending at Picton. From Christchurch we drove to Twizel, near
Cook, and found a total of 7 Black Stilts at the north end of nearby L.
Also present were NZ Scaup and Black-fronted Terns, both seen in good numbers
later in the trip. Our next major stop was Dunedin and the Otago Peninsula
we visited the well known Yellow-eyed Penguin and Royal Albatross colonies.
hundreds of shearwaters offshore were Sooties, and not Wedge- and Short-tailed
Shearwaters which abound off the NSW coast. Colonies of Spotted and Stewart
Island Shags were also found at the tip of the peninsula. The greenbelt in
Dunedin produced a few of the more common endemic passerines, including Tomtit,
Grey Warbler, and Bellbird.
Our next destination was Stewart Island, which proved to be a terrific spot,
particularly for a seabird lover. A 4-hr boat trip out of Oban (the only town
the island) with Phillip Smith produced Yellow-eyed (1) and Little Blue Penguin
(20), Royal (2), Buller's (30+) and Shy Albatross (20+), Cape Petrel (8),
Broad-billed Prion (2), Diving-Petrels (20+), Sooty Shearwater (5000+),
Shearwater (1), plus the local cormorants, gulls, and terns. One would
wish that trips further offshore were available!! Stewart Island Brown Kiwi
observed feeding along Ocean Beach in evening. The walking tracks on Ulva
easily accessible from Oban by water taxi, provided excellent birding and added
the following endemics: Weka, Kaka, Red-crowned and Yellow-crowned Parakeet,
The next leg of our trip took us to the west coast of South Island, with a
stop at Te Anau, gateway to Fiordland National Park. Unfortunately, Fiordland
Crested Penguins were absent from Milford Sound at this time of year, and we
failed to turn up a Yellowhead. On the way to the sound, Cascade Creek Nature
Walk did produce confiding Robin and Rifleman and a search at entrance to
Tunnel provided a brief glimpse of a Rock Wren.
North of Queenstown we found 3 NZ Falcons near Wanaka, and 7 Keas at the Fox
Glacier town rubbish dump. Continuing north, we tried unsuccessfully for Blue
Duck along the Styx River, east of Hokitika. Time and rainy weather prevented
from trying for Great Spotted Kiwi at Punakaiki.
The Picton-Wellington crossing on March 12 produced a good variety of pelagics
including one King Shag well seen flying along side the ferry in Queen
Sound, Northern Giant-Petrel, Great Skua, Buller's Shearwater, Fairy Prion,
Flesh-footed Shearwater, a Procellaria sp., and many more.
Tried again for Blue Duck in Tongariro NP, south of Taupo, without success, but
Dabchick was easy to find at the south end of L. Taupo. Whitehead was easily
located in Pureora State Forest, but Kokako proved elusive with limited time
available. Stopped at Miranda on the way north to Aukland; this is a
wader spot which held several thousand Pied Oystercatchers, Bar-tailed Godwits,
and Red Knots, as well as several hundred Wrybill. One Bar-tailed Godwit
a yellow flag on its leg, apparently banded in NW Australia!
North of Aukland, the Brown Teal spot near Helena Bay produced 30 birds, and
nearby Matauri Bay held 3 NZ Dotterel. Fernbirds were located at Kerikeri
airport. More time in this area would have allowed boats trips to find
Petrel and Saddleback.
While in NZ, I came across a new field guide published in 1996: Field Guide to
the Birds of New Zealand by Barrie Heather & Hugh Robertson. An excellent
which I would highly recommend.