November 5, 2015 … breeding plumage

On my way to lunch, I chose the route that gave me a view  of the harbour.

Radiance of the Seas

Radiance of the Seas reminds me of the old P&O liner Canberra which served so well in the Falklands War in 1982. Canberra was a big ship at 45,000 gross Tonnes. This monster is over 90,000 Tonnes

Brown silt from the swollen Hutt River coloured the harbour and made Matiu/Somes and Mokopuna islands stand out. Suddenly, between them was a huge white ship. Most cruise ships arrive in port by 8am to give the passengers a full day of shopping or touring. In fact the Dawn Princess was already berthed. This was Radiance of the Seas. a 90,000 Tonne monster ready to add her 2,500 passenger to the 2,000 from the other ship. Unfortunately, early season cruise visits to Wellington can be a lottery and these guys were out of luck with cold winds and driving rain.

Featherston St

I love my city, but I concede that it can be a bit mean-spirited with its weather from time to time. Featherston St/Johnston St intersection.

My friend and I enjoyed the magnificent bowls of mussels steamed in blue cheese and mustard sauce at Leuven, a Belgian Beer restaurant. After an excellent coffee, we regretfully made our way out into the cruel weather outside where there were few cruise passengers to be seen.

Spring

Spring when, according to Alfred Lord Tennyson, a young man’s fancy turns lightly to thoughts of love.The dark blur in front of the weeds is a Welcome Swallow passing by.

Because I am determined to complete my five years of photo-a day discipline, I went North and headed homewards around Grays Road along the Pauatahanui Inlet. A group of Royal Spoonbills was browsing in the ponds by the bird hide. I have seen the word “canteen” proposed as the appropriate collective noun for spoonbills, but I doubt that my source was especially authoritative.

Spoobills (2)

By my count, there are thirteen Royal Spoonbills and two pied stilts here.

Though I tried to remain inconspicuous (though there were few other idiots with cameras there), the birds got nervous and moved towards the water ready for flight. They are not as glamorous as the more elusive white heron, but the Royal Spoonbill is a handsome bird in its own right.

That’s all for now.

27 January, 2015 … almost done with the shorebirds

This was our second full day at Miranda.

Wrybills

Wrybills. I had never seen even one before.

 

Armed with yesterday’s experience, things should have gone better and to some extent they did. On the other hand, the wind ruffled the water, and there were less than half the number of birds compared with the previous day. Still, we were blessed with more expert knowledge by way of guides and experienced “twitchers” to fill gaps in our knowledge. My first shot of the day is of a flock of wrybills. These are apparently unique to New Zealand, and for some reason, their bills are curved sideways, but always to the right.

IMG_2832

Pectoral sandpiper

 

A solitary bird was browsing in front of the hide, and I was informed that this is a Pectoral Sandpiper.

dotterels

Banded dotterel flocking

 

Next, a flight of banded dotterels filled our view. It’s amazing that such delicate and endangered little birds can make such an impression.

Godwits

Bar-tailed godwits shifting to the pond

 

As on the previous day, the godwits were by far the majority presence, and I am struck by their sleek appearance in flight. If you are going to fly 12,000 km non-stop you had better have no drag.

Various

Various birds, mostly golden plover

 

On the way out, we paused at one of the ponds where a mixed group was sitting. Something startled them and they took to flight. This shot has many birds, most of them are Pacific Golden Plover so I am told.

Heron

The sun has gone …

 

My last shot was almost not a bird shot, but a sunset. How could I resist the heron in the tree?

The homeward journey tomorrow.

January 26, 2015 … birder in paradise

Since yesterday was our first full day at the Shorebird Centre, there are no prizes for guessing what today’s blog is about.

grass

Aliens? Crop circles? Strangely flattened grass

The time to see the most birds at Miranda is within a window two hours either side of high tide. Accordingly we set out on the 2.1 km walk to arrive 2.5 hours before the tide.  On the way I was puzzled by the manner in which an area of reeds or grass had been flattened.  Interesting texture.

stilts

Pied stilts in formation

As we went past the “stilt pond” a flight of pied stilts flew past fast and low. I get excited to see six or so at Pauatahanui.

Dotterels

More banded dotterels than I have ever seen before

 

Moments later another squadron passed by and now I was excited.A single banded dotterel is cause for celebration at home. This is about a tenth of the flock that passed by.

Godwits

Bar-tailed godwits … a tiny fraction of the thousands there

And as we arrived at the hide, we encountered the first of several incoming flocks of bar-tailed godwits. These are the crazy long distance fliers who go non-stop to Siberia or Alaska each year, breed and then fly back again.

shorebirds

Alfred Hitchcock comes to mind …

Naturally there were other serious photographers there and I was delighted to meet one whose excellent work I had long admired on Facebook. We had a good chat and I enjoyed being in his company. Meanwhile the birds were lining up in their various battalions. Oystercatcher were on the outer bank. There were godwits, wrybills, dotterels, plovers, knots, and many more beyond my power to identify.

landing

Godwits alight on the stilt pond

Slowly at first, and then with tremendous speed the tide advanced across the mud flats. The outer birds would fly over the ones still dry and a strange game of leap-frog took place until at last there was no safe place. Then in huge waves, the flocks arose in a great welter of beating wings and flew over our heads to alight in the stilt ponds. Just amazing.

bee

And still time to marvel at the honey bee

Still buzzing from all this, we walked back though the fennel to the centre. taking a moment to be glad for the feral honey bees that still abound in this area.

More tomorrow.

25 January, 2015 … a long haul to a golden end

Here we are in Miranda, on the Firth of Thames.

Mountains

Ruapehu – Ngauruhoe panorama

 

It’s a long haul from Wellington on one of the hottest days of the year. It seems that summer has arrived over the whole country in one extravagant hit. We set out early and made relatively few stops for pictures on the way. The first was on the Desert Road where I set up the tripod for a panorama. I got Ruapehu and Ngauruhoe but forgot to include Tongariro.

Ngauruhoe

Ngauruhoe as the Desert Road flashes past

 

As we continued North, I caught Ngauruhoe (aka Mt Doom)  through the window. Needless to say, Mary was driving at  this point.

Pohaturoa

Pohaturoa looks down on the Atiamuri dam

 

We had our food with us, so at lunch time we stopped at Lake Atiamuri a little South of Tokoroa and looked across the lake to the dam and to historic Pohaturoa. We arrived just as the local power boat club were launching, but it’s hard to be grumpy about families having fun on the water.

Hawk

Armed escort … the cruising hawk is seen off by the white-fronted terns

 

We arrived in Miranda in late afternoon after an unintended detour through Ngatea. The time to see the birds at Miranda is in the two hours either side of high tide. That meant that tomorrow would be the day. We stayed at the excellent Shorebird Centre which has a small amount of accommodation available at modest prices. After dinner we walked in the golden evening light to see the place where the birds gather. The first thing I caught was an Australasian Harrier being firmly escorted away from the nursery by a group of very determined white-fronted terns.

Heron

White-faced heron browsing in the late evening sun

 

There were small numbers of birds about, especially Welcome Swallows, Skylarks, Terns and White-faced herons. There were even a few Godwits and Dotterels so it boded well for tomorrow. The light was pure magic, and the water was still. I could ask for nothing more.

Sunset

The end of a golden day

 

Walking back along the 2km track to the accommodation, I was mindful of the fact that the Auckland region has little or no twilight, and the electric fence beside the track would not be good to encounter in the dark. I enjoyed the sunset, but kept moving.

It was a long day but a good one.