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

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

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