Steve Happ Photography Ramblings and dissertations

October 13, 2011

Ashburton Birds

Filed under: Birds — Tags: , — admin @ 3:23 am

Birds along the Ashburton River.

13th October 2011.

This morning I went to the Ashburton River just below the bridge that goes over the river at the town of Ashburton in the South Island of New Zealand. On a soccer oval next to the river, I found a few Song Thrush who were hopping around feeding on some worms. There were also some Blackbirds, Greenfinch and House Sparrows around as well.


Ashburton Birds video

When I went down to the river I saw a pair of Paradise Shelduck feeding amongst the rocks on the river bed. Not far away from them were a pair of Banded Dotterel and later on I saw lots more. I even saw an immature Banded Dotterel and I am sure I saw both male and females. The male has quite a brighter reddish chest band which stands out very strongly. There were a pair of Pied Oystercatchers behaving quite strangely and I got the impression that they were trying to lead me away from their nest but I could not be sure. There were also quite a few Pied Stilt on the river as well as a couple of Masked Lapwing and a solitary White-faced Heron.

Song Thrush (Turdus philomelos) is a common species introduced from Europe. This one was pecking around on the oval next to the river. They feed mostly on the ground, where it hops rather than walks. They are of the same family (Turdidae) as the Blackbird.

Banded Dotterel
Banded Dotterel

Banded Dotterel (Charadrius bicinctus) is called the Double-banded Plover in Australia (Is it a plover or a dotterel? ), and are endemic to New Zealand, some migrating to Australia. They breed on sandy beaches, shellbanks and riverbeds from July to January.

Paradise Shelduck (Tadorna variegata) are a common New Zealand Endemic. The male has a large black head and a dark grey body. The female has a white head and chestnut body. In flight they have prominent white patches on the upperwings. They are usually seen in pairs on pastures, ponds and shallow freshwater lakes throughout New Zealand.

Ashburton Bird List

Banded Dotterel
Pied Stilt
Paradise Shelduck
Pied Oystercatcher
Black-backed Gull
Masked Lapwing
White-faced Heron
Australian Magpie
Song Thrush
Greenfinch
Chaffinch
House Sparrow
Blackbird

October 10, 2011

Canterbury Birds

Filed under: Birds — Tags: , — admin @ 11:46 pm

Lake Ellesmere and Methven.

The first stop after leaving Christchurch was Lake Ellesmere. It is a convoluted route to get there. I had to go out onto the main highway and dart off into this maze of roads leading through all these low-lying areas. Eventually I found the reserve and camped there for the night. There were a lot of birds in the surrounding pine trees – mainly Blackbirds, Starlings, Chaffinch, Greenfinch and Yellowhammer. After that I went for a walk along the track to the hide at Harts Creek.

Lake Ellesmere
Lake Ellesmere

Black Swan (Cygnus atratus) were introduced from Australia and are quite common.
Mute Swan (Cygnus olor) were introduced to New zealand in the 1860’s and there are a small number in Lake Ellesmere.
White-faced Heron (Ardea novaehollandiae) colonised from Australia and are now common throughout New Zealand.
Mallard (Anas platyrynchos) were introduced from Europe and America as a game bird and are very common.


Video of Canterbury Birds

Australasian Crested Grebe or Great Crested Grebe (Podiceps cristatus cristatus) nest from November to January. Just trying to work out if the Australasian Crested Grebe(Podiceps cristatus australis) in New Zealand is a sub species of the Great Crested Grebe of Australia. It seems that there are 3 sub species, European, African and Australasian. Our one and the nz ones are the same sub-species, australis.

Australasian Harrier or Swamp Harrier (Circus approximans) are very commonly seen over roads and fields in New Zealand. They are easily identifiable by their white rump. The only other raptor as far as I can tell is the New Zealand Falcon (Falco novaeseelandiae) which is very closely related to the Brown Falcon of Australia. I saw one once in a vineyard in the Awatere Valley in the Marlborough.

Pukeko or Purple Swamphen (Porphyrio porphyrio melanotus) are very common both here and in Australia. In all there are about 13 sub-species around the world.

Southern Black-backed Gull, Maori Name: Karoro, Scientific Name: Larus dominicanus. Also known as the Kelp Gull – very similar to the Pacific Gull of southern Australia, Lars pacifius, which i thought it was at first. The Kelp Gull has a stripey tail and the Pacific Gull has a red tip on the bill.
Red-billed Gull(Larus scopulinus).
Grey Warbler – Maori Name: Riroriro, Scientific Name: Gerygone igata.

Hutt Ranges
Hutt Ranges

Pied Stilt or Black-winged Stilt (Himantopus himantopus leucocephalus) has a very controversial taxonomy. There are about 5 sub-species around the world with much disputation about the validity of their various statuses. To compound the issue further, the Pied Stilt interbreed with the Black Stilt in New Zealand and create some obfuscating hybrids. Hopefully I will get to see the Black stilt at the hide in Twizel, up in the Mackenzie country.

Masked Lapwing (Vanellus miles) colonised from Australia in the 1930’s.

New Zealand Fantail , Maori name: Piwakawaka (Rhipidura fuliginosa) is considered by some to be conspecific with the Grey Fantail of Australia, having different calls.

Sakura in New Zealand.
Cherry Blossoms in Ashburton Domain

The New Zealand Pigeon (Hemiphaga novaeseelandiae) is an endemic New Zealand bird that lives in the forest and feeds on fruits, flowers and leaves. The ones that I saw at Taylor’s Stream near Mount Hutt were eating cherry blossoms. Their nest is a flimsy structure of twigs and sticks supported on several smaller branches. They breed from November to March and generally have one egg with an incubation period for about 30 days.

Canterbury Bird List

Welcome Swallow
Blackbird
Chaffinch (Fringilla coelabs)
Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis)
House Sparrow (Passer domesticus)
Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)
Australian Magpie (Gymnorhina tibicen)
Yellowhammer
Greenfinch
Red-billed Gull
Black-backed Gull
Pied Stilt
Masked Lapwing
New Zealand Fantail
New Zealand Pigeon
Swamp Harrier
Grey Warbler
Black Swan
Mute Swan
Great Crested Grebe
Pukeko
White-faced Heron
Mallard
Masked Lapwing

October 9, 2011

Kaikoura Wildlife

Filed under: Wildlife — Tags: , , — admin @ 8:40 am

Seals and Birds.

A couple of months ago I went for a trip to Kaikoura. I can’t even remember why I went now it was that long ago. Kaikoura is about 125 kilometers south of Blenheim at the top of the South Island of New Zealand. The town has rebuilt itself as a tourist destination for whale-watching tours. It is a very nice spot indeed with the sweeping panorama of the snow-capped Kaikoura Ranges in the background.


Wildlife of Kaikoura

About thirty kilometers north of Kaikoura is the Ohau Stream. Every winter Hundreds of New Zealand Fur Seal pups come to the Ohau Point Seal colony. The pups are born in November and December on the rocky seashore and move up the stream. They stay in the stream for a few days each visit but have to return to the seashore to get a feed of their mom’s rich milk. To feed their pups, the mothers spend time at sea hunting for Arrow Squid and Lantern Fish.

In earlier years the New Zealand Fur Seal was hunted for food and skins. Hunting them was banned in 1894, but they were nearly wiped out. They are making a comeback but present numbers are estimated to be at only 10-20% of their original population. The Maori name for them is Kekeno. Seeing the baby seals frolicking in the stream is the highlight of my trip to New Zealand so far. I highly recommend stopping and paying them a visit.

In Kaikoura itself I went for a wander around the rocky headland and saw some more seals. They just lay around the car park sleeping all day. I saw some oystercatchers, both the Pied Oystercatcher and the Variegated Oystercatcher. Two types of gull – the smaller Red-billed Gull and the large Black-backed Gull, also called the Kelp Gull. There were a number of cormorants, called shags over here.

If you do come here make sure you do an Albatross Encounter. You go on a boat ride and see heaps of albatross from what I can gather. Plus lots of other seabirds as well. I have not been yet, but hope to some day.

Kaikoura Bird List

Little Black Shag
Pied Shag
Little Shag
Black-backed Gull
Red-billed Gull
Pied Oystercatcher
Variable Oystercatcher
Mallard
Starling
Blackbird
Welcome Swallow

October 7, 2011

New Zealand Overview

Filed under: General — Tags: — admin @ 12:46 am

Travels in New Zealand.

I arrived in New Zealand in early April and proceeded to look for a car. I eventually found a Subaru station wagon that I bought from some Israeli backpackers. I was glad to get out of Auckland and headed south past the Waikato River to Raglan, which is a world famous left-hand surfing spot. It is a nice little town, typical of most surfing towns.

Raglan
Raglan Point

After that I headed through Hamilton and Taumuranui to the Tangariro National Park and Mount Ruapehu where I was interviewed for a job working on the ski lifts. But alas I did not get the job. Here is a photo of one of the chairlifts. There is not much snow yet as it was very early.

Mount Ruapehu Chairlift
Mount Ruapehu ski lifts

I had to get a job fast as I was running out of money, so I headed north to Te Puke to look for a job picking kiwifruit. I finally found a job driving a tractor, carting the bins of kiwifruit back to the orchard centre where they got put into a truck. I was not doing enough hours so I applied for a job at the packhouse and eventually found a job working night-shift. It was tough at first working ten hours at night and trying to sleep in the day but eventually I got used to it. And then the season ended. doh!

After that I headed south to Wellington to get on a ferry to cross the Cook Strait to the South Island. It is a very spectacular trip, especially as you enter the sound that goes to the harbour.

Cook Strait entrance
Entrance to the Marlborough Sounds

The sounds go for miles and miles and are a very pretty sail. You can see dolphins chasing the other ferry in its wake and the hills around are very green and the water is so clear.

Marlborough Sound
Marlborough Sounds

Finally we got into Picton and the other ferry was docked at the wharf.

Picton Harbour
Interislander Ferry

I drove from Picton to Blenheim and then south a short way where I worked for three months in vineyards doing wrapping and pruning.

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