Taranaki Roadie Report (Apr 21-24)

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RussCannings
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Taranaki Roadie Report (Apr 21-24)

Postby RussCannings » Tue Apr 24, 2018 7:50 pm

Hi all,

My wife and I are on school holidays (we're teachers) and after spending most of our free time over the past few weeks working on our new house, we needed some time away! It's been a while since either of us have been down to the 'Naki so we made some last minute bookings with friends and air bnbs and hit the road on Saturday morning. Looking at eBird before we hit the Waikato-Taranaki border I was surprised to see that I had the highest Taranaki lifelist (on eBird) with 63. Having only spent around 8 or 9 days in the Naki over 3 previous visits this obviously shows the general lack of birding coverage the area gets (and when it does get covered, how much gets onto eBird). Using this as some extra inspiration, Lisa and I tried to visit a few new spots and target a few species that might push the regional totals up a bit.

With the westerlies still blowing we pulled into Awakino (Still technically in the Waikato), where after noting 5 roosting Royal Spoonbills on the river, we parked up at Awakino Heads and scoped offshore. The first bird I got in view was a Cook's Petrel which I thought was a great start. Things got quiet though with only a single Fluttering Shearwater putting in an appearance along with a lone Sooty Shear, 2 Fairy Prions, and 2 distant giant petrels. Tried Mokau as well but that was even quieter other than the odd gannet passing by. Awakino had 22 Pied Shag which was promising since I have yet to record one in the entirety of the Naki (spoiler alert--we missed it yet again!).

After crossing into the Taranaki it didn't take long to add my first new 'LiferNaki' --- as 2 peacocks were foraging in a paddock in the Tongaporutu Valley along with a few turkeys. From there we pretty much cruised to New Plymouth and took in the city sights for a bit before walking the urban section of the fantastic New Plymouth Coastal Walkway. It was close to dusk but the wind was still blowing and after setting up the scope I was delighted to see hundreds of mollymawks arcing offshore. Unfortuantely they were backlit and distant but a few came close enough to ID with the vast majority being White-caps and at least 1 being a Buller's. Fluttering Shearwaters and gannets were also in good numbers, a few Sooty Shearwaters came close enough to ID, and a single Arctic Skua ripped past. A lone Little Black Shag was another LiferNaki as it fished at a creekmouth.

The next morning (Sunday) after breakfast we hit Port Taranaki to see if any Pied Shags might be perched on the breakwaters or maybe some weird thing that rode in on a freighter. Neither of those, but a Reef Heron was a nice one to pick up, hunting along the beach. A few mollymawks were still offshore (along with at least 1 Northern Giant Petrel) however sun-glare was now an issue. Best to head around to the west coast! First stop was west of Oakura near the wreck of the Gairloch. A NZ Pipit on the beach was another new one, and at least 13 White-capped Mollymawks were confirmed offshore along with loads of Fluttering Shearwaters passing by. Continuing along the coast we accidentally went to the Cape Egmont Light Museum instead of the actual Cape Egmont Lighthouse (Which is at the actual cape). Still put in 10-15min of seawatching and estimated 300+ Fluttering passing by along with at least 8 Fairy Prions bouncing in the waves plu 7 WC Mollies. The wind was dying a bit and turning SW so we raced around to the proper Cape Egmont which in my estimation is the best seawatching site on the west coast of the North Island (Though still nothing compared to east coast sites) as it's about as far as you get get from the big shallow bights on either side of Taranaki. While it would have been much better the day before, we got much closer views of Fluttering and Sooty Shearwaters than previous sites along with a dozen Fairy Prions and surprisingly only one WC Molly.

After lunch in Opunake we popped into the small "Lake Opunake"--which, while small, is by default one of the mightiest lakes in the Taranaki. Good mix of waterfowl to add to the list including 7 shoveler which was another Lifernaki! A good number of decent-looking Grey Duck were also present sticking to the opposite side of the lake from the mallards and usual mutts. In the end I recorded 8 pure-types but there were closer to 20 that looked very close (i.e. Dark body plumage, strong contrasting face, grey bill, darkish legs, green speculum with no white edges). Our final stop on the coast on Sunday was Kaupokonui Beach. The wind had died down truly now and unfortunately the warm sunny afternoon (while pleasant) spelled the end for productive seawatching. On the plus side a surprise pair of Reef Heron flew past meaning that after close to 2 days in the Naki we had seen 3 Reef Herons and ZERO White-faced Herons!!!

We checked into a neat bnb near Eltham in the late avo (a reno'd bus), then headed for Rotokare which I was particularly excited about! If you have never been, it truly is a gem in the Naki (http://www.rotokare.org.nz/). It's 230ha predator-free bush santuary surrounding a lake. Not only is it teaming with endemics like Brown Kiwi, Robin, Tomtit, Bellbird, Tui, Fernbird, and Saddleback, but it's a truly gorgeous place to visit and has an easy 4km loop track around the lake. Stitchbird are also in the park, and apparently 100 new birds were translocated from Tiri the day before we visited. We only noted 3 on our dusk walk but there's lots of space for these guys to spread out. In addition to 20+ fernbird noted on the walk, it was great to hear Spotless Crake spontaneously calling at 3 different points of the trail (Apparently a regular phenomenon here). We bagged about 30 species in the fading light of Rotokare (last being a morepork) and headed into Stratford for a well-earned pizza. Our tally for the day was 58 which appears to beat Liam's 'old' Taranaki big day record of 48--a challenge for next time anyone! Having missed a number of 'easy' things like Pied Stilt, Grey Teal, and any geese this total should be very vulnerable to anyone who wishes to try.

Monday morning started--where else--the Stratford Wastewater Treatment Plant. As WTPs in NZ go, this one is a corker. Being inland you can only hope for so much, but this one boasts some key birding ingredients such as 1) Bird numbers, 2) Bird diversity, and 3) You don't need to hop any fences to see the birds! Here's the full list: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S44839667 Some of you may not be blown away by this list but for the Taranaki, anywhere that has teal AND shoveler AND dabchicks AND Canada Geese is quite special. Birding then took a back seat as we explored some more of New Plymouth city. After lunch we headed to the now iconic Te Rewa Rewa bridge and the mouth of the Waiwhakaiho River. This spot, while stoney like so many river mouths in the Naki has always struck me as one with tremendous potential for oddball birds. There always seems to be a large flock of bathing Black-backed Gulls and today they were joined by 3 Royal Spoonbills (My first for the Taranaki!). Fluttering Shearwaters were offshore along with several White-capped Albatross (the wind had generously picked up again), and a lone Reef Heron put in a close appearance (Managed this with my phone!)
Reef Heron_New Plymouth_2018.jpg
Reef Heron_New Plymouth_2018.jpg (153.6 KiB) Viewed 497 times


From here we worked up the coast to a farmstay in Waiiti, checking out Waitara, Urenui, and a few other beach accesses. On Tuesday morning we headed home via a walk out to the Three Sisters on the north Taranaki Coast, adding SIPO as our final Naki bird for the trip (68 species for the trip; besting my previous life total of 63, and bringing me up to 79---will have to come back for that kiwi!).

And the final highlight of the trip was a White Heron (Great Egret) flying down the Awakino River (Sadly in the Waikato...)

That's it for now--hope you all make your way to the Taranaki some time--it's a brilliant area--just being in the presence of that mountain to start!

Russ & Lisa Cannings
GrahamB
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Re: Taranaki Roadie Report (Apr 21-24)

Postby GrahamB » Wed Apr 25, 2018 10:20 am

Excellent stuff. My first birding in NZ was in Taranaki, when we moved out from Cornwall to New Plymouth (lived at top of racecourse next to Bowl of Brooklands Park). I joined the local bird group almost straight away and it was a great experience with some wonderful people (Barry Hartley, David Medway). Several of them (Barry included) were also top-notch field botanists, so it was steep learning curve on the group outings around Taranaki. Two most memorable outings were on the back of Barry's quad back zooming along beaches near Cape Egmont doing beach counts and a trip at dusk to the breeding site of the Grey-faced Petrel at Tongaparutu. Happy days.
Cheers
GrahamB
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RussCannings
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Re: Taranaki Roadie Report (Apr 21-24)

Postby RussCannings » Wed Apr 25, 2018 11:09 am

Cheers Graham!
I too had my first look at the Taranaki coast from the back of Barry's quad. I was on exchange from Canada at Otago Uni in 2008 and a friend and I took a winter roadie north when Barry offered to take me out and check on some NZ Dits which--at the time--were the southernmost (northern) birds in the country.

Always a supreme delight to benefit from local knowledge and kindness.

Russ
Grahame
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Re: Taranaki Roadie Report (Apr 21-24)

Postby Grahame » Wed Apr 25, 2018 11:37 am

I also had been going down there, but Grandchildren got in the way.

Can I take it that you didn't find the Cape Barren Geese down there Russ

Grahame
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RussCannings
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Re: Taranaki Roadie Report (Apr 21-24)

Postby RussCannings » Wed Apr 25, 2018 12:41 pm

That's right Grahame. Didn't have detailed gen but scanned the main fields around the original location without any luck. Doesn't mean they're not still there somewhere! Lots of grass out there.

Russ
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Liam Ballard
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Re: Taranaki Roadie Report (Apr 21-24)

Postby Liam Ballard » Fri Apr 27, 2018 3:16 pm

Noooooo...... :cry: :cry: I wondered how long I could hang on to that record! Well done Russ for contributing to the bird knowledge of the area (and eBird I'm sure!) and beating my tenuous record!

I'll have to pop back down once I get my Restricted...
Liam Ballard

Latest lifer: Chestnut-breasted Shelduck!

http://dippinginparadise.blogspot.co.nz/
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RussCannings
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Re: Taranaki Roadie Report (Apr 21-24)

Postby RussCannings » Fri Apr 27, 2018 5:34 pm

Oh I'm sure many a record will fall at your hands Liam. Just drive safe eh ;) Taranaki is certainly ripe for the picking.

Russ C

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