No matter how much I want to make sure these stories are all about the birds, there is just something I just have to get off my chest. It’s all about March 1st. It is gone. Never to be seen again. I have now flown to New Zealand, in search of as many new bird species as I can track down, at a semi-pedestrian pace, mixed with some normal tourist activities. Now mind you, I am not one to waste a day, let alone just completely lose one. Please understand, I am fully aware of the International Dateline. You lose a day when you travel across it, but then you get it back when you return. The glitch in that theory is that we are continuing on around the world, and ending up back in Seattle, so we will never actually get that lost 24 hours back. March 1st, 2018 is a day that will just be wiped from the face of my calendar. Mark it down as a “Zero” day for new birds. Still having a hard time wrapping my head around that. OK, there I got that off my chest, not sure I feel better, but there is it.
Seattle to Los Angeles, to Auckland New Zealand, and then to Christchurch, N.Z. Is just a whole lot of time on an airplane. The LA to Auckland leg is 6577 miles all by itself. But, we are here, and I for one, and very excited. We were picked up at the Christchurch airport by our family friend, Neville Blampied, who as it turns out, is an amazing local bird guide, disguising himself as a Professor of Psychology at the University of Canterbury. We are just a few kilometers from the airport, and following along a waterway, when I look up, and see a duck, sitting on top of the street light. Of course, it is crazy busy traffic, and all the drivers are driving on the opposite side of the road, so stopping for an identification is out of the question. But, that was my first official New Zealand bird. Note: Later saw another one, and it turned out to be a Paradise Sheldrake.
As you might figure, I am pretty wiped out, but there are birds to see, and I am letting nothing stop me now that I am finally here. On our way to Neville’s house, we pass along the tidal flats, and a small bay that is called Mc Cormacks Bay Reserve. I could see oystercatchers, gulls, cormorants and shags all over the place. We got to the house and I could not sit still. Neville took me back down to the bay, for a walk, and the ticks started rolling in. Right off the bat, there dozens of Red-billed Gulls, along with a couple of Black-billed Gulls, and several Black-backed Gulls. Pied Cormorants, Great Cormorants, and Little Black Cormorants dotted the bay, and most every solid resting spot. Variable Oystercatchers, in both the Pied and Black Phase, were out in very large numbers. As we got closer to the actual Mc Cormacks Bay Reserve, the fun really started! A small flock of Gray Teal were right alongside the road, four Pied Stilts, and two White Fronted Terns all sat comfortably there in the reserve. And then, there they were, my first ever Masked Lapwing! I have seeing this wonderful bird’s photos for years, and was like a little kid when I saw them. They, on the other hand, showed much less exuberance at my long awaited appearance here in New Zealand. Everything we were looking at was low light and backlit, so any decent photos would have to wait until the next day.
Here the Masked Lapwing, the next morning.
The first thing in the morning, Neville was again the most gracious of hosts, taking me back to the reserve for pictures. The Masked Lapwings were still there, along with a pair of White-faced Herons. As I walked along the short bit of trail, 4 Sacred Kingfishers were buzzing around the shallow end of the bay. They did not seem to have any interest in getting their photo taken, and just about the time I was ready to give up, one flew right over to me, and landed on a nearby bridge.
After a quick breakfast, we were in the SUV and headed for Arthurs Pass, and what I am told is a very reliable location to find Kea’s, an unusual Alpine Parrot. Along the way, I saw Australian Magpies, Rooks, one very beautiful New Zealand Falcon, and several Australian Harriers. Once we got to the pass, there is a small alpine style village, with a few restaurants, and a D.O.C. (Department of Conservation) visitors center. This beautiful high mountain area, yielded Chaffinches, Silvereyes, European Blackbird, Lessor Redpoll, South Island Robin, and several Fantails. We traveled the last few kilometers up to the top of the pass, to the area, that is one of the most reliable areas to track down the Keas. While it is a truly amazing view, I walked all over the mountain top and the Keas just never appeared. The clouds were moving in, and a light drizzle started to fall. I headed back down the mountain to the parking area at the overlook, where my traveling companions were waiting patiently. Just before I go to the car, I heard the crazy squawking that could only be parrots. Looking up at the top of the high voltage power line poles, there they were. Hiding in plain sight were four Keas. Now, if they would just come down from the top of that 150-foot-high power pole. 30 minutes later, nothing doing. In fact, it looked like they were snugging up there, waiting for me to leave. So, I did.
Sitting on the top of the power pole.
Last minute additions to the list came on Sunday. We did a lot of tourist stops, but in the stops, there was a Botanical Garden, two mountain top viewpoints, and drove thru a Water Treatment Plant. This added the Song Thrush, Black Swan Paradise Sheldrake, Yellowhammer, European Goldfinch, Purple Gallinule, New Zealand Scaup, and the New Zealand Pipit.
Here is the New Zealand Pipit.
The European Goldfinch.
My first two half days here in New Zealand turned up 42 species, of which 36 were additions to my Years List, as well as every one of those a new Lifers! For those of you following along, as of today, the year’s list now stands at 238.
Here are few more on the images from the last three days!
This is the New Zealand Robin, South Island subspecies.
This is the Yellowhammer.
The Sacred Kingfisher sitting on a bridge.
and last but not least, The Fantail – Pied subspecies.