South Island New Zealand trip report - 21 Nov - 8 Dec 1998
The following is a brief account of a couple of weeks touring the South
Island of New Zealand after a conference in Dunedin. A great selection of
birds and marine mammals were seen including just about all the endemic
species I was hoping to see (didn't see kiwis, Blue Duck or the endemic waders
- didn't go to the Black Stilt sites, Wrybill and the NZ Plover were at their
breeding grounds). Thanks to Colin Richardson for some email information prior
to my trip.
Christchurch to Dunedin - Not a great introduction to New Zealand's native
fauna or flora with the heavily modified environment dominated by introduced
birds and trees. Sightings of interest were the first of New Zealand Pigeon,
Black-billed Gull, Paradise Shelduck, New Zealand Scaup, Spotted Shag and
Variable Oystercatcher. Also of note was a White-winged Black Tern in full
breeding plumage flying over farmland.
Otago Peninsular - Organised cruise to Royal Albatross and Yellow-eyed Penguin
colonies. Great to see these birds at their breeding sites although a very
highly managed wildlife experience. Also interesting were Spotted Shags
breeding on the cliffs and a huge colony of Stewart Island Shags breeding on
Dunedin to Bluff (The Catlins) - Our first sightings of native vegetation.
Highlights were a single New Zealand Falcon (seen flying in front of the car
while we stopped for sheep on the road!), the first Tomtits and Brown
Creepers, and several Hooker's Sea Lion.
Stewart Island - We spent a wonderful couple of days amongst the beautiful
forest and beaches of this unspoilt island. Birdwatching was best on the
predator-free Ulva island (take the water taxi). Bird highlights were tame
Kaka and Weka, both Red-crowned and Yellow-crowned Parakeets, and several
large groups of Little Penguins in the inlet. I was disappointed not to get on
the kiwi spotlighting trips - they were booked out a week in advance. The
ferry trip across Foveaux Strait was good for seabirds with huge flocks of
Common Diving-Petrels, a few Shy Albatross, Sooty Shearwaters and a Great Skua.
Bluff to Manapouri - followed the Southern Scenic route (in hindsight not so
scenic after the west coast). First sightings of Black-fronted Tern (this and
Black-billed Gull in large flocks over recently ploughed fields) and Hector's
Fiordland and Mt Aspiring NPs - Very beautiful scenery, forest and most of the
endemic forest birds. Highlights were NZ Robin (amazingly tame), Rifleman
(seemed moderately common in the beech forest), Yellowhead (one only at Lake
Gunn), Long-tailed Cuckoo (one over forest), Kea and Rock Wren (near the Homer
The west coast - More spectacular scenery and some good birds including
Fernbird and Fiordland Penguin (one bird coming ashore at Monro's Beach,
experience somewhat marred by stupid tourists (nationality withheld) chasing
the bird up the rocks with their cameras).
Kaikoura - Yet more spectacular scenery and excellent marine bird and mammal
experiences. We went on both a pelagic bird trip (excellent casual trips run
by Oceanwings) and the more commercial whale watching trip. The bird trip was
like having an entire day of birds spent off Sydney or Wollongong compressed
into a few hours and only a few hundred metres offshore. Seabirds seen
included Wandering, Royal, Shy (cauta and salvini), & Black-browed Albatross;
Northern Giant, Southern Giant, Cape, Westland, White-chinned and Great-winged
Petrels; Buller's, Sooty, Hutton's and Flesh-footed Shearwaters; Arctic Skua;
White-fronted Terns, Kelp, Silver and Black-billed Gulls. Mammals seen were
five Sperm Whales, 100's of Dusky Dolphins and NZ Fur Seals.
Alistair G. B. Poore
School of Biological Sciences
University of New South Wales
Phone: 61 2 9385 2080 Fax: 61 2 9385 1558