2 stunning weeks in New Zealand

Subject: 2 stunning weeks in New Zealand
From: "Damien Farine" <>
Date: Tue, 03 Jan 2006 11:50:44 +1100
Happy new year all!
Just got back on Sunday (to 47 degrees at Sydney Airport!) from a quick trip over to neighbouring New Zealand. The trip consisted of 6 days on the road travelling around the south island, followed by some relaxation with family on the north island.

Birding was in no way a focus of this trip, however I was pleasantly surprised at the ease I had in finding and identifying most species. New Zealand is a wonderful place for birding beginners to find their wings.

Being unprepared for the trip, I did not acquire a bird guide until late on the first day. Driving out of Christchurch on the first morning, I am almost certain to have seen a masked woodswallow fly straight past the car windscreen. I did not think twice about this sighting until later that day when I read that there had only ever been 1 sighting in NZ! The same story with the Australian Pelican. I have a vague memory of seeing on, but cannot remember where!

Another surprising sight for me was the number of Australasian Harriers flying about. We saw large numbers of them everyday on both islands. I found it strange that it was the only large raptor in the country, and yet is so abundant!

From the list below you will notice a number of ommissions - waders. I
don't do waders :P

Some of the more disappointing dips for me were kiwis, NZ Falcon and Blue Duck. Redpoll and Cuckoos were also missed. I did not make it to Kapiti Island (the home of my partner's brother in law) or Stewart Island. I will keep these for another trip. I also declined a trip to Mt Bruce (outside Wellington) where I could have picked up Kaka and Saddleback.

Most of the birds below were seen from the car while driving the South Island. I put in locations of more interesting species. All up, 64 species were seen in the 2 weeks of travel, none of which were searched, but rather seen as part of regular travel.

South Island
Black Shag
Spotted Shag - Oamaru
White-faced Heron
Paradise Shelduck
Grey Duck
NZ Scaup - Lake Te Anau
Australian Harrier
Pied Oystercatcher
Variable Oystercatcher - Nugget Point, Kaikoura
Yellow-eyed Penguin - Nugget Point
Spur-winger Plover
Black-backed Gull
Red-billed Gull
Black-fronted Tern - Milford Sound
Rock Pigeon
NZ Pigeon
Kea - Milford Sound, Arthurs Pass
Grey warbler
Song Thrush
NZ Robin (South Island) - Lake Gunn
House Sparrow
Yellow Hammer
Australian Magpie (black backed & white backed)
Bellbird - Milford Sound
Black-billed Gull - Queenstown
Welcome Swallow
Rifleman - Lake Gunn
Song Trush
Australiasian Great Crested Grebe - Lake Pearson
Pied Shag
Little Shag
Reef Heron - Kaikoura
Black Swan - Hokitika
Weka - West of Arthur's Pass
White Fronted Tern - Haast
California Quail - Picton

In Kaikoura, we ventured out for a quick and expensive whale trip, where we saw 3 sperm whales and a small pod of playful dusky dolphins. I regret not having gone on the Albatross Encounters trip, as I was amazed by the number of seabirds which I saw just flying past (including a group of several hundred Fluttering Shearwaters!) Below are just the birds I could identify, however I am sure that a number of other albatrosses flew past in the distance. There was always at least two or three in sight at all times, even though they had no attraction to our boat!

Kaikoura Whale Trip
Wandering Albatross (Exulans)
Shy Albatross (Cauta)
Fluttering Shearwater
Hutton's Shearwater
Westland Petrel
Cape Pigeon (Snares)
Fairy Prion

The next day we caught the ferry from Picton to Wellington. Upon entering the cook straight, a stiff southerly came in, allowing more excellent seabird viewing.

Cook Straight Ferry
Northern Royal Albatross
Wandering Albatross (Exulans)
Shy Albatross (Cauta)
Buller's Shearwater
Sooty Shearwater
Flesh-footed Shearwater
Fairy Prion
Yellow-Eyed Penguin (two came up right beside the boat!)
Australiasian Gannet

Arriving on the North Island became a christmas party and family affair. I only managed to add 4 species to the total:

North Island
Little Black Shag - Lake Taupo
Eastern Rosella - Silverstream (Wellington)

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