We had a great time slowing down, and sitting for a bit at Rockell Bay, but there were places to go, things to do, and people and birds to see. At this point now, I am down to tracking down the loose ends, Twitching the ones that I missed along the way, and finding the last few that are only on the north end of the North Island. The weather patterns have started to change over to winter so it will be good to be moving on before it gets too cold here.
In the “people to see” category, some very good sailing friends who we spent nearly a year sailing with in the Sea of Cortez, carried on into the south Pacific and eventually ended up in the Opua/Paihia area, just north of Rockell Bay. Catching up with them was great, and it included a trip out to Cape Brett, and the great number of off shore birds. We booked a trip on the “Hole In The Rock” tour, which gives you about 60 kilometers of water travel from Paihia, out to Cape Brett, and back. This trip includes a chance to ride the boat thru the hole in the rock if the weather and sea state are an agreeable condition. It was, and we did go thru. I am borrowing a photo from my wife’s series that she shot. Bear in mind, this boat is 80 feet long, and carries 240 people!
The ride also included a great number of birds, once we got far enough away from shore. Black Petrels, Sooty Shearwaters, Bullers Shearwaters, Fluttering Shearwaters, Australian Gannets, Red-billed Gulls, Black-backed Gulls, and the big surprise, for New Zealand bird species number 99, an Artic Skua, also known as a Parasitic Jaeger.
You can see the definitive back pattern of the Buller’s Shearwater.
There were literally hundreds of Red-billed Gulls all over the area.
Driving farther north, into the little town of Kirikiri, we were making a stop at a historic site, called Stone Store. This is a stone building that has been in operation as a store of some form since 1816, and sits along a water way, famous for its historic fishing site. With nothing different as far as birds go, at this great site, a few Sacred Kingfishers, Blackbirds, Eastern Rosellas, and a couple of Tui’s, I gave up and headed for the RV. I made a quick stop at the restrooms, before heading out on the road. When I walked out of the facilities, there in front of me stood a Barbary Dove. It looked at me, I took a couple of pictures and off it flew. Bird species number 100, turned out be must less exciting than I had hoped for.
Ever since we have been in the northern half of the North Island, I have stopped at nearly every fresh water lake I could get the RV to, looking for grebes. I am pretty sure my traveling companions were about tired of looking at small little reedy lakes. Finally, I got a tip from Ricky at Summit Forest Products, and it paid off at a lake very near the RV park at 90 Mile beach on the west coast of the island. 6 New Zealand Dabchicks were there, including a pretty young bird still being fed by its parents.
Not a great photo, but it was not a great day, and they just would not leave the middle of the lake.
Tuesday has us at Muriwai, the location of a very large Australian Gannet colony. This is a bird that I have seen several times on this trip, but to visit the actual colony is pretty awesome. I know that I am pretty late to find any real number of birds still with their young here, but it is really on the way, and what the heck. Well, I was right about the bird numbers but it worked out ok any way. There are about 15 adults still hanging around, taking care of 8 young birds. The youngsters were all working on strengthening their wings in the steady, strong winds that were buffeting the point.
Here are a couple of Gannets on the wing.
The Juveniles have a spotted plumage.
This young gannet is building up the strength in its wings, by standing on the edge of a 100 foot cliff with a 30+ knot wind blowing!
This nesting colony is over 1000 pairs of birds strong in January, at its peak. Here you can see the nesting mounds that cover the area.
This pinnacle rock sit our in front of the nesting colony. If you look, you can se a one lonely single young bird on the top, with several Red-billed Gulls on a lower level.
I did capture several series of feedings when the parents can back in with their bellies full. They start with a little recognition dance, before the feeding commences.
Ok, with less than a week to go, here in New Zealand, the count looks like this. The Little Big Year count is at 295. The New Zealand Count is at 101, and the New Zealand Lifers count is at 91. Next week we will wrap up out time in New Zealand, and then it is off to Australia!!