I found The Field Guide to the Birds of New Zealand by Barrie Heather &
Hugh Robertson, Viking (Penguin Books (NZ) Ltd.), Auckland 1996 extremely useful
and better than other guides I looked at. Hard to get hold of in Australia, but
every bookshop in Auckland sells it.
Me & my wife spent 3 weeks (29/03/97 - 19/04/97) travelling through New
Zealand by rental car, mainly but not solely focusing on birds. The following is
a summary of the trip report I'm still working on:
North Island :
A little bit north of Paihia, Bay of Islands, is the Treaty House where we
heard our one and only wild Brown Kiwi. Check out the walking tracks around the
House and the forest/lawn edges.
On the way from Paihia via Kaikohe to the west coast you'll come across
swampy, heath-like areas along a mangrove lined river (the road follows this
river and crosses it several times. Near Paiwene we found 1 Fernbird when we
stopped at one of the bridges.
Waipoua Kauri Forest - there is one main entrance with parking bays and
walking tracks leading to several massive Kauri trees, well signposted on the
main road following the west coast. This is where we found our first Whiteheads
and Tomtits; also present are Bellbirds, Fantails, Tui.
The Gannet colony at Muriwai is easily accessed from Waimauku, just north of
Auckland and you can get pretty close to the gannets.
Miranda estuary is the place to go for Wrybill, we saw several hundreds; also
present were >= 10 Double-Banded plovers (kiwis call 'm Banded Dotterels), 1
or 2 New-Zealand Dotterels, Pied, Variable and Black Oystercatchers, Bar-tailed
Godwits, White-fronted and Caspian Terns and Turnstones. Check out the area
opposite the Nature Centre and a little bit further north where there are picnic
sets along the shore. There are several high tide roosts but I found my species
at low tide by walking around along the water's edge.
A place not to be missed is Pureora Forest Park. Access is from the main Te
Kuiti-Rotorua road (road number 30) and the dirt track to take veers off to the
right and has a little sign "Pureora State Forest" or something, the
sign was damaged and hardly visible but there is really no other way in from
this road. Follow this (good) dirt track and soon you'll come to an
"intersection" with signs Buried Forest and Forest Observation Tower.
Go to the latter. Early morning is best. As soon as I opened the car door I
heard Kokako and from the tower we obtained excellent views of Kokako, Kaka,
Yellow-crowned Parakeets, New-Zealand Pigeon, Silvereye, Grey Warbler,
Whitehead, Fantail, Tomtit, New-Zealand Robin, Tui.
Lake Rotorua: New Zealand Dabchick, New-Zealand Scaup, Silver (they call'm
red-billed) Gull, Black-billed Gull. In Lake Rotorua is Mokoia Island, a fast
ferry goes out there even when there's only one passenger and the captain will
show you around. This is an excellent opportunity to see Stitchbird and
Saddleback that are introduced on this island and a research program is being
The Cook Strait Ferry: try to take the earliest one possible for good
seabirds. My list (9 am ferry): 25 Fluttering Shearwaters, 10s Buller's
Shearwater, 10s White-fronted Tern, 1 imm. Black-fronted Tern, Kelp Gull, 2 Shy
Albatross, 4 Black-browed Albatross, many Fairy Prions, >=60 Common Diving
Petrels, 15 Australian Gannets, many Sooty Shearwaters, 4 Flesh-footed
Shearwaters, group of dolphins.
At Cape Foulwind parking area (Westport), 1 hr before sunset: 1 New-Zealand
Falcon, 6 Weka (quite tame: they eat bits of apple or biscuits), 4 Westland
Fox Glacier Carpark: 4 Kea's (trying to eat car windscreen-wiper rubbers); we
did the guided 1/2 day glacier walk (great) and saw Rock Wrens on the way.
We then stayed a few days in Te Anau (Fiordland NP). We did the Rainbow Reach
to Moturau Hut Walk, part of the Fiordland trail, in half a day (return) and
found 2 Yellow-crowned Parakeets, NZ Scaups, 1 imm. Long-tailed Cuckoo pestered
by Bellbirds, Grey Warblers & Tomtits; 7 Riflemen, a few Grey Warblers, Song
Thrushes and Fantails (1 black morph), 6 Yellowheads and a few Bellbirds, 5
Brown Creepers, Chaffinches and Starlings. Did the Milford Sound Cruise on the
Milford Wanderer (more nature-based, same price as the "cattleship",
no crowds). No Fiordland Crested Penguins in this time of year. At the base of
the Homer Tunnel: 4 Keas eating car windscreen rubbers, 1 Rock Wren. Checked out
Monkey Creek and Hollyford River for Blue Duck - nothing. Lake Gunn Nature Walk
is beautiful and will supply you with "the usual" forest species as
Redcliff Wetlands, overseen from a carpark along the Manapouri-Tuatapere
road, produced Gr. Crested Grebe, 400 Canadian Geese, Pied Stilt. From the Bluff
at Invercargill: 100s Sooty Shearwater, 2 Dunnocks.
A nice route along the bottom of the South Island goes from Invercargill via
Owaka and Balclutha to Dunedin. You come across Nugget Point from where we saw 6
Shy (Salvin's) Mollymawks (Albatross), 100s Sooty Shearwaters, 2 Gannets, 10s
Stewart Island Shags, 6 Royal Spoonbills.
Otago Peninsula is a bit touristy but still the best way to see Royal
Albatross (Taiaroa Head, we saw 5 chicks and 1 adult landing to feed, later a
few soaring) and Stewart Island Shag incl. bronze morph (Taiaroa Head). In total
60 Yellow-eyed Penguins at Southlight Penguin Sanctuary (well worth the wait and
cold wind!), a key is to be purchased ($5) at Taiaroa Head Visitors Centre. They
came ashore in 1's or 2's after 5:30 pm. Also 31 Little Blue (Fairy) Penguins
and approx. 10 albatrosses at sea incl. Royal and Shy, 100s Sooty Shearwaters
and >= 1 Flesh-footed Shearwaters.
The only other major spot worthwhile checking out are the braided riverbeds
from Twizel to Mt Cook NP, we found 2 Black Stilts in Mt Cook riverdelta in Lake
Pukaki, and many Black-fronted Terns. The Black Stilt research and breeding
centre in Twizel only does guided tours, bookings necessary, at set times - we
didn't have time and found those two in the wild instead! Much better. At the
parking area at Mt Cook NP not far from here (magnificent mountain views) I
found California Quail and Redpoll.
We didn't buy a roadmap as tourist offices in Auckland and at the airport
have various good free ones available. We mainly stayed in cabins, well worth
their price, and again there are free tourist accommodation guides available. In
busy periods (around Easter or school holidays) it's worth booking a day or two
in advance if you know where you're gonna be. Invercargill is to be avoided as
far as this type of accommodation is concerned, but everywhere else it was easy
to find. We used Lonely Planet's New Zealand Guide and found it very useful also
for directions to National Parks and other places of interest, and various trip
reports (a bit outdated maybe, especially where Blue Duck is concerned).
Altogether I scored 46 new lifers and the total list was 95, not bad considering
that I only went for lifers and did a lot of other things as