Steve Happ Photography Ramblings and dissertations

November 25, 2011

A day at the Beach

Filed under: General — Tags: — admin @ 9:43 pm

Sumner Walk.

Yesterday, I went to the outdoor shops looking for a Goretex jacket. My old one is falling apart and is held together with my constant stitching. The only problem was that they were outrageously expensive. The cheapest one was about $300 and that was really thin and crappy. They had a raincoat for $200. What a joke. I think I will just make do with my old jacket until it totally falls apart.

Disillusioned, I found a bus into the city center and grabbed a bus to Sumner, which is on the coast to the east of the city. I went past the estuary of the Avon and Heathcote Rivers. There were some great mud flats with mainly oystercatchers, herons, whimbrel and godwit. I did not have a good look because I did not have my video camera. I will go back in a few days and get some video footage. I got off at Sumner and went for a walk along the beach. I think it was called Scarborough Beach.

Scarborough Beach
Scarborough Beach

Along the beach the cliff had collapsed due to the earthquakes and a few houses had tumbled down the cliff. Maybe it is a little bit problematic building a house at the edge of a cliff in an earthquake zone.

Earthquake damage
Earthquake damage

Early Maori had two main settlements near the estuary. They lived here year-round, taking advantage of the plentiful supply of eels, fish and shellfish. Maori used to wade the shallow water of the estuary to fish for flounder by the light of torches, using pronged wooden spears called matarau. The fish were stored for winter food and exchanged with other settlements. Shag Rock is a column of rock guarding the entrance to the Avon-Heathcote estuary.

Shag Rock
Shag Rock

Further down the estuary, Moncks Bay is an excellent site for observing birds at high tide. As the tide falls the first feeding grounds emerge. Estuary birds feed from varying depths. In this way many similar species can live side by side without competing for food. Across the water is Brighton Spit, where roosting birds can be seen at low tide. Birds seen in the estuary may include Little Shag, Pied Shag, Black Shag, Spotted Shag, White-faced Heron, New Zealand Kingfisher, Welcome Swallow, Pied and Variable Oystercatcher, Black-backed Gull, Red-billed Gull, White-fronted Tern, Caspian Tern and Bar-tailed Godwit.

November 21, 2011

Christchurch Birds 2

Filed under: Birds — Tags: — admin @ 12:50 am

The Groynes 2

This was my second trip to The Groynes Reserve in the North-west of Christchurch in New Zealand. It is great reserve and is well worth many visits, mainly because you can get so close to the water birds. This is probably because the ducks and such are so used to the continual presence of tourists and they get fed heaps of bread and other stuff which is problematic in itself.


Groynes Birds Video

The main feature in the video is the presence of the chicks in various stages – Eurasian Coots and hybrid ducklings. I also got some decent shots of an Australasian Shoveler, of which I only had some long shots from my trip to the Sinclair Wetlands to the west of Lake Waihola. All in all I was quite satisfied with the day, although there were no new birds.

Otukaikino Creek
Creek running through the reserve

To me, these are just creeks that run through the reserve but they are called rivers here in New Zealand. Actually, this is a creek, the The Otukaikino Creek, once the south branch of the Waimakariri River. This trip to the reserve I saw a number of trout, ranging from small ones to reasonable sizes.

Chaffinch
Chaffinch

The Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs) was introduced to New Zealand around 1862 in the Nelson district and spread to other areas. They feed on insects, fruits and seeds, mainly on the ground.

The Groynes Reserve
Ponds at The Groynes

The Groynes Bird list

Black Swan
Chaffinch
Eurasian Coot
Mallard
Paradise Shelduck
Australasian Shoveler
New Zealand Scaup
Blackbird
Silvereye
Song Thrush

November 14, 2011

A Day out in Christchurch

Filed under: Birds — Tags: — admin @ 10:00 am

Christchurch Birding.

This morning I went for an early trek to Englefield Reserve which is in the suburbs to the North-west of Christchurch. It is a nice little park but was devoid of birds except for Blackbirds and Song Thrush. That was a bit disappointing so I trekked on down to the Supa Centa and caught a bus into the City Center. I had a Bus pass which allows you as many trips in a day for $4.60, so I went out to the airport to suss it out for my departure to Australia.


New Zealand Scaups video

Then it was back to the city center and off to the Botanic Gardens which are behind the museum. They are quite large and there are lots of exotic plants and a few ponds.

Christchurch Botanic Garden
Botanic Gardens pond

I saw a few ducks and the ubiquitous Blackbirds and Song Thrush. I got to one pond and a pair of New Zealand Scaup (Fulica atra) were feeding right in front of me, sometimes coming to about a meter away from me. I got some great footage and you can see it in the video above. The male New Zealand Scaup has a yellow eye, while the female does not, but has a white face patch during the breeding season. On the way back I took a few photos of the beautiful flowers and foliage.

Rhododendron
Rhododendron

I was blown away by the green of these leaves. I have no idea what it was.

green leaves
Green leaves

Then I took a photo of this really old gnarly pine tree. It was like something out of the Lord of the Rings, where the forest comes alive.

old pine tree
Old pine tree

I also saw a pair of Silvereye and they looked remarkably like the Tasmanian sub-species. I had better check that out later. Its later now and I did do a search but could not find anything. I will have to look into it a bit further. It does seem that Silvereyes did migrate naturally from Australia and were not introduced. I did find it after all, and it seems I was right. I found this on a website at http://www.abc.net.au/science/articles/2001/05/01/2616451.htm

“The Silvereye is an adaptable bird capable of spreading to new habitats with ease. In the 1830s they turned up in New Zealand, apparently after being blown off course when crossing Bass Strait from Tasmania, and they are now common in that country. There are several races of Silvereyes, but it’s only the Tasmanian race that performs the incredible migration across Bass Strait and up the east coast of Australia. Other races do migrate and cover considerable distances, but they don’t compete when it comes to this annual long-distance migration.”

Christchurch Birds

Blackbird
Song Thrush
Paradise Shelduck
Chaffinch
Silvereye
New Zealand Scaup

November 11, 2011

Christchurch Birding

Filed under: Birds — Tags: — admin @ 4:21 am

The Groynes.

This morning I went to the Groynes, which is a reserve just over the road from where I am staying in Christchurch. There are lots of picnic areas and ponds which has a number of creeks flowing into them. There were heaps of Mallards in the ponds, and they congregated towards the kids who came down to the water to feed the duckies.


The Groynes video

The Groynes Reserve is just off Johns Road, which is also State Highway 1, heading towards the airport. The reserve follows the Otukaikino River and the walking track is called the Waimairi Walkway. As well as the waterbirds in the ponds and creeks, the waterways are also home to trout and other fish, so it quite a popular spot for young kids who like to fish.

I got some good footage of some Eurasian Coot (Fulica atra ). The Australian and New Zealand subspecies, Fulica atra australis is called the Australian Coot here in New Zealand. Ironically, it is called the Eurasian Coot in Australia. These came quite close to me and I think they were almost tame because of the constant exposure to picnickers. It is a very popular spot for the local Christchurch people. The coots had a few really ugly chicks following them around. The parents would dive down to get some food and then feed the chicks. Wikipedia says that Coots can be very brutal to their young when there are pressures such as lack of food. They will bite young until they stop begging, who then starve to death. The young are also commonly prey for birds like herons and gulls.

I even got a lot closer to the New Zealand Scaups than I have before. They were not skittish like they usually are. They are a diving duck and can stay down for 20 or 30 seconds and can go to depths of up to 3 meters to feed on plants, fish, snails, mussels and insects.

A strange site for me was a California Quail stanging up on the railing of a bridge. It was just standing up there on one leg. I have no idea what he was up to. I only did about half the walk around the ponds. I am going to leave the other half for another day. The long loop is 5 kilometers long and follows the riverbank through farmland to an old orchard on the way back.

The Groynes Bird List

Eurasian Coot
New Zealand Scaup
Mallard
Canada Goose
Pukeko
Starling
Goldfinch
Black Swan
Welcome Swallow
Song Thrush
Blackbird
Chaffinch
California Quail
New Zealand Fantail

November 7, 2011

South Canterbury Birding

Filed under: Birds — Tags: — admin @ 4:17 am

Timaru to Ashburton.

When I got to Timaru, I went out to Patiti Point and headed off for a walk along Saltwater Creek. There were some Paradise Shelducks and New Zealand Scaups and quite a few Little Pied Cormorants (Little Shag) and Pied Cormorants. When I first got there, they were all sitting on the train line, maybe waiting for the next train. I went walking along the train line, hoping that there will not be a train along soon and got some good footage of a Pied Cormorant, showing the identifiable yellow patch in front of the eye. They also have blue around the eye. The Little Pied Cormorant has black around the eye and is very much smaller.


Video of South Canterbury birds

In the park there were the usual assortment of introduced birds – Blackbird, Chaffinch, Yellowhammer, etc. After that I went downtown to the port and went for a walk to what is reputed to be a wetland at Caroline Bay, but its really lame. Just some ariticifial pond with a couple of mallards quacking away. There were, however, some Black-billed Gulls on the beach. I just learned today that they are the rarest gull in the world. I bet they still hastle people for chips, but. Not much else except a few Masked Lapwings and Variable Oystercatchers.

Caroline Bay, Timaru
Caroline Bay, Timaru

I camped somewhere between Timaru and Rangatati and this morning went to the Ashburton Domain to wander around. I saw an Eastern Rosella, which was very strange and filmed some cute little ducklings that were huddled up together. I also filmed some Redpoll in the trees. Next stop was the Ashburton River, where I saw this sign. That is how I found out that the Black-billed Gull was the rarest bird in the world. I kept my eye out for a Wrybill, as I had not seen one yet, but no luck. I think a lot of birds nest at the mouth of the Ashburton River as well. I had seen a Double-banded Dotterel displaying the broken wing trick.

Endangered Birds Nesting!
Nesting Birds sign

But alas, I did not spot any Wrybills, hopefully another time.

South Canterbury Birds list

NZ Scaup
Paradise Shelduck
Mallard
Little Pied Cormorant
Variable Oystercatcher
Pied Cormorant
Welcome Swallow
Blackbird
Chaffinch
Yellowhammer
Goldfinch
Redpoll
Starling
Australian Magpie
Red-billed Gull
Black-billed Gull
Black-backed Gull
Masked Lapwing
Pied Stilt
Eastern Rosella

November 4, 2011

North Otago Wildlife

Filed under: Birds — Tags: — admin @ 6:28 am

Dunedin to Oamaru.

After editing up my last video in Dunedin library, I headed north up the windy hills to the north along State Highway 1 (SH1).


North Otago Wilflife video

I saw this sign for a boat ramp and took off for the coast as it was getting dark. I found a nice spot on a hill for my camp and in the morning went down and had a look at Karitane .

Karitane Beach
Karitane Beach

There is a nice surfing beach and lots of wetlands with the potential for some good birdwatching. In 1837 Long and Wright set up a whaling station at Karitane and in 1840 a settlement was established. I walked up to the Huriawa Peninsula, the site of an old Maori pa, or fortified hill.

Shag Point
Shag Point

Then I carried on north and stopped at Shag Point. I was glad I stopped off here because I saw some New Zealand Fur Seals straight away.

New Zealand Fur Seal pup
Baby New Zealand Fur Seal

And then spotted a colony of White-fronted Terns who were within decent distance for some filming.

White-fronted Tern
White-fronted Tern colony

Then, to crown things off, I saw a whole bunch of Stewart Island Shags and Spotted Shags. The Stewart Island Shag was a new tick for me, so I was well stoked about that. Shag Poing is well worth a visit, especially as the Stewart Island Shags and Spotted Shags are so easily seen.

Stewart Island and Spotted Shags
Stewart Island Shags and Spotted Shags

There are also Yellow-eyed Penguins there too, but I am not very sure that they are very easily seen there. The best place for seeing Yellow-eyed Penguins is Curio Bay in the Catlins. I also got some nice shots of the New Zealand Fur Seals, so Shag Point was a good place for me.

After that, I headed west and camped at Trotters Gorge. There is a wonderful creek and some beautiful rain-forest that you can walk through. I went for a massive walk along the creek, then climbed up this enormous hill to the top of the gorge. I was knackered by the time I got back to my camp.

Trotters Gorge
Trotters Gorge Rainforest creek

The next morning I went and had a look at the Moeraki Boulders which are some spherical rock formations formed by some complex geological processes that I could not really understand.

Moeraki Boulders
Moeraki Boulders

They are really remarkable and well worth a look.

Moeraki Boulder split
Moeraki boulder split open

North Otago Bird List

Australasian Grebe
Red-billed Gull
Pied Oystercatcher
Variable Oystercatcher
Song Thrush
Goldfinch
Little Shag
Stewart Island Shag
Spotted Shag
Starling
Silvereye
Brown Creeper
Pied Stilt
Australian Magpie
White-fronted Tern
Welcome Swallow
New Zealand Pipit
New Zealand Pigeon
New Zealand Fantail

November 2, 2011

Otago Birding

Filed under: Birds — Tags: — admin @ 6:07 am

Birds of Otago.

The Sinclair Wetlands was my first stop off after I left Balclutha on my way to the Otago Peninsula. These wetlands are on the western side of Lake Waihola. They are doing a great job regenerating the bush back to native plants and trees. The area was covered in scottish heather which may look pretty but does not belong there.


Birds of Otago video

I just went for a wander around the edges of the waterways and happened upon some Redpoll (Carduelis flammea) which is an introduced Passerine from Europe. The Redpoll is the smallest of the finches that were introduced from Britain in the 1860’s. They are now very common throughout New Zealand. They were feeding together and as soon as I got a bit close they would all take off together. Up on the hill I managed to get a fairly wide shot of a New Zealand Shoveler (Anas rynchotis variegata). There are two subspecies, the nominate rhynchotis ( Australasian Shoveler), breeds in Australia and the New Zealand variegata breeds in New Zealand. They inhabit lowland swamps, lagoons and lakes. They feed on seeds, insects and earthworms.

On the eastern shores of Lake Waihola near the picnic area I finally managed to get some footage of the Black-billed Gull (Larus bulleri). The Black-billed Gull inhabits inland lakes, rivers and estuaries. They have a thinner bill than the similar Red-billed Gull and a slimmer build. And of course they have black bills and black feet. As I was walking back I saw this Blackbird (Turdus merula) chick that must have fallen out of its nest. I had a look around for its parents but it seemed to have been abandoned. The Blackbird is an introduced passerine from Europe and they are very common in parks and farmlands.

When I got to the Otago Peninsula this morning, it was windy and raining. I was not impressed. I went and had a look inside the Albatross Centre at Taiaroa Head and then went outside to the cliff top, hoping to see some Albatross, but no luck. I did manage to get some great footage of some Spotted Shag (Stictocarbo punctatus), a New Zealand endemic bird. If you look closely at the video, you will see small spots all over the back feathers. I guess that is why it is called Spotted Shag, doh!

Otago Bird list

Chaffinch
Redpoll
Mallard
Blackbird
Paradise Shelduck
New Zealand Shoveler
New Zealand Scaup
Black Swan
Yellowhammer
Welcome Swallow
Canada Goose
Red-billed Gull
Black-billed Gull
Spotted Shag
Little Shag

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
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
Goldfinch
Variable Oystercatcher
Ruddy Turnston
Yellow-eyed Penguin
White-fronted Tern
Spotted Shag
Little Shag
Royal Spoonbill
Black-backed Gull
Red-billed Gull
Yellowhammer
Pukeko
Blackbird
Paradise Shelduck
Pied Stilt
Tui
White-faced Heron

Invercargill Birding

Filed under: Birds — Tags: , — admin @ 4:43 am

Birds of Invercargill.

The weather this morning is cold and blustery. I think the temperature is not going to get above 7 degrees Celsius. There are not many birds about so I have been really disappointed. The estuaries around Invercargill in the South Island of New Zealand are prime habitat for waders, but there is nothing around. What is going on? Maybe they have not arrived from Siberia yet, or they are still up the North Island around the Firth of Thames.

Oreti River estuary

The first stop off was the Sandy Point Domain which is about 7 kilometers west of Invercargill. It has a good walking track along the estuary edge with its unusual fringe of totara dune forst. I did happen to see a few Royal Spoonbills and some White-faced Heron. The waders that do come here will eventually feed on an abundant supply of worms and shellfish.

After that, I headed to the Bushy Point Fernbird Walk, but did not see any Fernbirds. This is a 600 meter track and boardwalk that goes through mature podocarp forest, shrubland to a coastal wetland meadow of jointed rush and estuarine mud-flats. The estuary is fringed by salt marsh and Jointed Wire Rush dominates the tidal zone which gives way to coastal scrub including cabbage tree, manuka and flax. Birds often seen in the vicinity include Tui, Fernbird, Little Shag and Black Shag. South of here lies remnants of kahikatea, matai and rimu trees, a reminder of the original podocarp forst that once covered much of the area.

The Invercargill Estuary Walkway is very close to town on the eastern bank of the New River Estuary. The long walk starts from the historic Stead Street wharf. Recent reclamation has led to the creation of a circular walking and cycling track.

Invercargill Bird List

Masked Lapwing
Australian Magpie
Royal Spoonbill
Blackbird
Song Thrush
White-faced Heron
Black-backed Gull
Paradise Shelduck

October 25, 2011

Birds of Central Otago and Mackenzie

Filed under: Birds — Tags: , , — admin @ 11:12 pm

Mackenzie and Central Otago Birds.

Before I left for the Mackenzie region of New Zealand I filmed a few Canada Geese and New Zealand Scaups in the pond at the camping ground at Ashburton. Then I headed up the hills past Geraldine and stopped at a bridge going over the Opuha River. There was a New Zealand Kingfisher (Halycon sancta vagans) on the wires and a Welcome Swallow and Chaffinch sitting on some rocks in the river. At the Pioneer Park, a few kilometers down the road, I went for a short walk up the hill and saw lots of song birds that I could not identify and a a New Zealand Pigeon.

Canada Goose
Canada Goose ( Branta canadensis )

After that, I headed to Fairlie, past the gorgeously coloured Lake Tekapo to Twizel, where I had hoped to visit the Black Stilt hide. Black Stilts are an endemic wading bird with completely black plumage in their adult form and long red legs. They had neared extinction due to destruction of habitat and the introduction of feral predators. But chicks reared in captivity are released into the wild. Now Black Stilts numbers are increasing and extinction has been averted. I did not eventually go to the hide because of car trouble but I did see one fly past at the Ahuriri River.


Mackenzie and Central Otago Birds video

I camped that night on the banks of the Ahuriri River 3 kms north of Omarama. I managed to films some Canada Geese, and saw some terns in the distance fishing in the river. A Pied Oystercatcher was flipping the rocks on the river banks. Just before Cromwell, in Central Otago, I spotted a pair of California Quail (Lophortyx californica) at Bendigo on the banks of the lake formed by the Clyde dam. The male has a distinctive plume on top of his head.

I went for a day trip to Queenstown and there were quite a few Mallards who were being quite aggressive at times towards the endemic New Zealand Scaup, of which there were only two. New Zealand Scaup (Aytha novaeseelandiae) are found in mountain lakes and coastal ponds. The male has a bright yellow eye and a dark greenish head. The female is without the yellow eye and has a white face patch during breeding season.

There were also some Black-billed Gulls waiting for the tourists to throw them scraps of food and fighting amongst themselves for the tidbits. The Black-billed Gull (Larus bulleri) is usually seen inland and is common on the South Island of New Zealand. Immature birds have pink bills and legs so are difficult to distinguish from the Red-billed Gull. They nest in colonies, mainly on shingle river beds.

Mackenzie and central Otago bird list

New Zealand Scaup
Mallard
Black-billed Gull
New Zealand Pigeon
Australian Magpie
Blackbird
New Zealand Fantail
Welcome Swallow
Black Stilt
New Zealand Kingfisher
Chaffinch
Pied Oystercatcher
California Quail

Older Posts »

Powered by WordPress