Recent New Zealand sightings

To: birding aus <>
Subject: Recent New Zealand sightings
From: Brent Stephenson <>
Date: Tue, 27 Nov 2001 12:16:50 +1300
Hi all,

As some people emailed me after my last twitchathon email to the group saying they would like to hear more about NZ birds, I thought I would email through a few recent sightings.

Kaipara Harbour, north of Auckland, is reknowned for its good waders, but enormous size. However, in late October a sanderling was seen on several parts of the estuary on different occasions, and a greater and a lesser sand plover were also seen around the same time, by Gwenda Pulham and others. Also a report of 6 gull-billed tern recently.

The weekend of the 17/18 Nov saw many areas in NZ conduct the summer wader census. During this weekend a common sandpiper and a great knot were seen at the Mangere sewage ponds in Auckland. This is a great area for birds, with huge expanses of water and muddy margins, but the access is obviously difficult to such a place. Neither of the birds were seen through the week, but on 24/11 I managed to see the common sand with one of the original finders, Gwenda Pulham, as well as David Lawrie and Ray Clough. Nice little wader, and definately a common and not a spotted sand - a NZ tick for me.

Moving to the South Island, Lake Ellesmere, near Christchurch, is also known for good waders, but also again its huge size. However, last summer they received a few nice waders inclduing red-necked phalarop, ruff and hudsonian godwit. On 16/1 Tony Crocker saw an unusual stint (appeared to have very pale legs and very dark plumage), which could be the same one that has been present for a couple of years now. Will have to see what develops...

Miranda, just east of Auckland, is also reknowned as a great spot to see waders, as the high tide roost is predicatable and huge numbers of godwit and knot congregate at high tide. On 19/11 a ruff was seen here, and continued to be seen right through till 23/11 late morning early avo. I arrived there at 6:00pm and of course it had disappeared. Checked the area every day over the weekend, but no ruff to be seen, although the other sandpipers it was with were also missing - a single curlew, pectoral and several sharp-tailed sands. Keith Woodley, who runs the Miranda Shorebird Centre, suspects that due to the recent rain they may have moved off into the marshy paddocks surrounding the area - hopefully they turn up again!! Did, however, over the three days I visited (23-25/11) see 2 terek sand, 1 sharp-tailed sand, 5 red-necked stint, 4 little tern, wrybill, New Zealand dotterel and had awesome views of a banded (buff-banded) rail.

And finally, Ian 'Sav' Saville from Feilding called me on Sunday evening to tell me that he was just watching a great knot (possibly the same one from Managere above??) at the Manawatu Estuary. This smallish estuary is reknowned in NZ for its excellent wader records. The high tide roost is usually a small spit and you can sit and wait as the birds accumulate and stand within 40-50m of you, sometimes closer. This makes finding strange waders much easier, and the moderate numbers of godwit (c.400) and knot (c.200) make it a bit easier than some of the larger estuaries. Anyway, Sav had seen the bird about 6:30pm on Sun, I was there at 7:20am on Mon, but alas couldn't find the bird - my second attempt to twitch a great knot at the Manawatu and foiled again!! A check of the birds at high tide that evening, also revealed no great knot - I did however get to see Sav's excellent video footage of the bird - damn!! The tides weren't all that high and so this weekend they will be a lot bigger and should push all of the waders out of small muddy areas to congregate at the main roost.

So that's about it for a while, hope this makes interesting reading to all you wader-philes.

Happy birding,

Brent Stephenson
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