Steve Happ Photography Ramblings and dissertations

October 31, 2011

Catlins Wildlife

Filed under: Birds — Tags: , — admin @ 7:29 pm

The Catlins Coast.

The Catlins Coast stretches from Fortrose, just east of Invercargill, to Kaka Point, just south and west of Balclutha.

Catlins Wildlife Video

The first stop for me was Waipapa Point. I photographed the New Zealand Sea-lions that were sleeping on the beach and followed around some Variable Oystercatches and a mob of Ruddy Turnstones which I thought were their brood.

Waipapa Point
Waipapa Point Lighthouse

When the tide went out, the reefs were left exposed and there were these massive clumps of kelp left on the beach. In the water the kelp swayed around in big lumps.

Kelp on the Beach

Curio Bay is home to one of the rarest penguins, the Yellow-eyed Penguin. During September and October, eggs are laid in nests against the bank. From November to January the chicks hatch and remain in the nest. One parent guards the nest while the other fishes all day at sea to feed the chick. I managed to see some more sea-lions as well.

Curio Bay
Curio Bay

Tautuku Estuary Boardwalk is a twenty minute walk that meanders onto the estuary into fernbird habitat – saltmarsh dominated by jointed rush with sparse shrubs of saltmarsh ribbonwood. The fernbird is a shy red-brown sparrow-sized bird that flies reluctantly.

Tautuku Estuary
Tautuku Estuary Boardwalk

Lake Wilkie formed after the last ice age when water became trapped in a depression between ancient sand dunes and a cliff. It is called a “bog lake”, a rare ecosystem in this region. The shallow water is brownish due to organic acids released by peaty soils. Birds commonly seen here include Tui, Silvereye, Brown Creeper, fantail, Bellbird, Grey Warbler and Wood Pigeon.

Lake Wilkie
Lake Wilkie

Tautuku Bay
Tautuku Bay

At Papatowai Beach I saw White-fronted Tern (Sterna striata), which are a New Zealand Native bird. Juveniles migrate across the “ditch”, The Tasman Sea, and winter around the south-east Australian coast and the northern coast of Tasmania. They eat fish and small shrimp and hunt in coastal waters or a few kilometers out to sea. White-fronted Terns start breeding at three years and tend to return to the site where they were born, sometimes keeping the same mate for life.

Purakaunui Falls
Purakaunui Falls

I stayed for a couple of days on the beach at Purakaunui Bay and had a relaxing time. I did manage to film a Yellowhammer (Emberiza citrinella), a common bird found in parks and gardens in open country. The head and throat of the male is yellow with widely spaced brown markings and brown streaked wings.

On the estuary at Pounawea I saw a couple of Little Shag.

Nugget Point has another lighthouse and there is a hide where you can spot the Yellow-eyed Penguins coming in at dusk. But it is better to see the penguins at Curio Bay. The hide is too far away for a decent look. On the rocks below the cliffs there were some Royal Spoonbills perched on the cliffs. I had never seen that before. They were on the same rock as some nesting Spotted Shags.

Nugget Point
Nugget Point

Spotted Shag (Stictocarbo punctatus) parents guard the nest until the chicks are strong enough to fend off predatory birds. The Spotted Shag hunts far out to sea and in bays, catching fish and plankton. It is an endemic New Zealand bird. The ones at Nugget Point had nests on cliffs on a small rocky islet just off the point.

Catlins Wildlife

New Zealand Sea-lion
Variable Oystercatcher
Ruddy Turnston
Yellow-eyed Penguin
White-fronted Tern
Spotted Shag
Little Shag
Royal Spoonbill
Black-backed Gull
Red-billed Gull
Paradise Shelduck
Pied Stilt
White-faced Heron

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