Date: Thu, 31 Mar 2005 13:15:50 +0200

To: <>
Subject: Date: Thu, 31 Mar 2005 13:15:50 +0200
From: "Wim Vader" <>
Date: Thu, 31 Mar 2005 21:19:18 +1000 (EST)

                                 TWO WORK WEEKS IN WELLINGTON, NZ

 From 28 February to 12 March an invitation from the Institute of Water and 
Atmosphere Research in Wellington (NIWA) , New Zealand, to come and assist them 
with the reorganization of their extensive amphipod collections,  gave me a 
chance to see a little of that far-away country, almost at the opposite end of 
the globe from Northern Norway. I left Tromsø in a snow storm on the Friday 
morning 26 february, and arrived c 40 hours later in Wellington, as yet without 
my luggage (which arrived one day later). The taxi to my motel in town, along 
the waterfront, yielded me i.a. the only heron of the entire trip, a Reef Heron.

Wellington is a beautiful, lively and cosmopolitan town of ca 1/2 million 
inhabitants. Even  flora and fauna are cosmopolitan, as I had little trouble to 
identify most of the roadside plants (European) , while the land birds along my 
route to NIWA, although abundant, were far from diverse: lots of House 
Sparrows, European Starlings, and feral pigeons, with now and then a European 
Blackbird, or the insistent peeps of Silvereyes.

The walk to NIWA, along the waterfront, took ca an hour, and of course yielded 
birds: lots of gulls, the smaller dapper Red-billed Gulls, that sound exactly 
like our Black-headed Gulls, and the larger dark-mantled Kelp Gulls (here 
called Dominican gulls) with their very dark immatures, that now and then 
almost look like skuas. On some very windy days (and of those there are galore 
in ' the Windy City' Wellington), also small flocks of White-fronted Terns, 
with their dagger-like black bills, sought lee along the coast, while on the 
calmer days, pairs of black Variable Oystercatchers (I never saw a single pied 
one here) worked over the offshore boulders for mussels Mytilus edulis. Another 
common bird on these boulders was the Little Cormorant, a very characteristic 
species with its short beak. There were also other cormorants, though, although 
those usually did not venture as close to the shore for resting: the elegant 
Little Black Cormorant with its slender bill, the beautiful Spotted Shag, even 
though already in eclipse plumage, and a few times also the Black Cormorant, 
the very same species that I had seen in the harbour in Tromsoe the day before 
I left--as well as in freshwater in Odijk the day after I returned to Holland!

 (I have always wondered how it can be that a very few bird species have 
managed to obtain an almost world-wide distribution, while others have 
apparently split up in many regional species. The Black Cormorant is only one 
example: others are the Black-crowned Night Heron, the Short-eared Owl and the 
Peregrine Falcon. What has made just these species so successful globetrotters?)

No seaducks here, although in a few quiet bights Mallards loaf. And on most 
days no real primary seabirds either. Just on one of the many windy days there 
weré shearwaters out on the 'harbour': as far as I could make out mainly  
Fluttering Shearwaters, but with at least one dark and larger Sooty Shearwater 
among them.

Of course I am aware of the fact that this picture is greatly influenced by the 
area of town I walked through, and I am sure that e.g. a walk through the city 
parks would have yielded several more bird species: I saw Blackbirds galore 
there during a taxi ride through town, as well as European Chaffinches flying 
up from the underbrush here and there. In the weekend we had a chance to visit 
a few areas outside town, on the Kapiti coast. On the way, at Porirua, an 
stuarine setting showed tens of Black Swans, together with lots of Mallards 
(and probably some other ducks) and Coots (another one of those globetrotters), 
as well as the always conspicuous and raucous Masked Plovers (here Spur-winger 
Plovers), a recent arrival from Australia that has spread very rapidly 
throughout New Zealand.

Here and there pairs of Paradise Shelducks, the white-headed females extra 
conspicuous, kept together, and in the Waikanae estuary we also found a single 
Royal Spoonbill, several Kingfishers, and in the runoff to sea, several fishing 
Pied Cormorants. In the paddocks Australian Magpies caroled, and Chaffinches 
were everywhere, and in the small lakes there were regularly diving NZ Scaups.

Later that day a dune walk at Paekakariki added many more European birds: large 
flocks of Blackbirds and Starlings, as well as of Chaffinches and European 
Goldfinches, smaller flocks of European Redpolls in the open dunes, and single 
birds of both European Greenfinch and Yellowhammer.What a relief then to come 
across a quartering Australasian harrier over the dunes: at last a real NZ 
bird!!  The only other NZ birds I saw that day were a few Pukekos (Prurple 
Swamphens) in the rough and wet pasture areas we drove through, regular 
Silvereyes, and a single Grey Warbler in a palm grove.

New Zealand, being a country practically without any mammals at all (A few bats 
had found their way here) was singularly unprepared when first the Maoris 
brought their dogs, as well as the Kiore or polynesian rat,  and still less 
when the pakeha or white man flooded the country with a whole suite of mammals, 
amongst them fiery egg predators like several rats, bloodthirsty predators like 
stoats and ferrets, and a fierce competitor for food and nesting cavities like 
the Australian Possum. Consequently, the endemic birds decreased rapidly, and 
many species now are hardly or not at all found anymore on the mainland 
islands. To get any idea of what New Zealand may have looked like earlier, one 
has to go and visit those small islands where the New Zealanders, the world's 
foremost experts in this business, have succeeded in removing the various 
predators and competitors.

Fortunately I did get such a chance, and had a day both on Kapiti island and in 
the Karori Wildlife Area. More about that in the second part of this essay.

I am very grateful to NIWA for inviting me to Wellington, and especially to my 
host there, collection manager Anne-Nina Loerz, for all her help and 
hospitality during my stay.

                                                        Wim Vader, Tromsø Museum
                                                        9037 Tromsø, Norway

Birding-Aus is now on the Web at
To unsubscribe from this mailing list, send the message 'unsubscribe
birding-aus' (no quotes, no Subject line)

<Prev in Thread] Current Thread [Next in Thread>
  • Date: Thu, 31 Mar 2005 13:15:50 +0200, Wim Vader <=

The University of NSW School of Computer and Engineering takes no responsibility for the contents of this archive. It is purely a compilation of material sent by many people to the birding-aus mailing list. It has not been checked for accuracy nor its content verified in any way. If you wish to get material removed from the archive or have other queries about the archive e-mail Andrew Taylor at this address: andrewt@cse.unsw.EDU.AU