After my morning seawatch (viewtopic.php?f=9&t=7840), I made my way inland to the Huntly area. There are numerous large peat lakes between Whangamarino and Te Awamutu and I try to visit most of them every couple of months at least just to see what's what. Today took me to the main ones around Huntly, including the two largest--Whangape and Waikare. In general these lakes can be quite disappointing, as the habitat appears superficially tantalising but the water is so heavily sedimented that it is unsuitable for most foraging ducks.
Today all lakes held good numbers of swan and Canada Goose though most of the swans were foraging in adjacent fields (easily 1000+ of both total). All 4 regular shag species were present at virtually every site, with Pied Shag being the most common at several spots (This is one of the few spots in NZ where this species is found commonly inland). I checked A LOT of cattle herds today but no white egrets came into view sadly. But back to waterfowl, if swans, geese, and coromorants are so abundant, shouldn't ducks be too? Well actually, for the most part I could count the number of ducks on a single lake on my hand! This isn't too unusual for these lakes however (As I mentioned earlier).
So.... Imagine my surprise when I came upon a flock of close to 2,000 dabbling ducks on the east side of Lake Waikare just on dusk. "Hmmm, must be a large roosting flock of mallards, in from some flooded maize fields", I thought to myself. Put the scope up and most of them were shoveler! I counted through several times and estimated a minimum of 1,400 shoveler, and 400+ Mallard, along with a handful of Grey Teal. But where are these shoveler feeding during the day? I have never seen an inland Waikato flock of shoveler greater than 100 birds (and the largest group I've seen around Miranda was 400 or so). I see the odd one here or there around Huntly but I've never seen numbers anything like this. Are they in the field during the day with mallards? They certainly wouldn't fit on the Te Kauwhat WTP!
Anyway, you would think there had to be a Northern in there right? Well frustratingly the birds were backlit (sunset) at my position and a breeze made most birds turn away from me and bob in the waves. I spent an hour or so trying to pick out a possible northern but to no avail. Best thing would be to check this spot first thing in the morning. I have marked the flock on the map below. There is an unmarked pull-off picnic/boat launch area right beside it off the Waikare Rd (east side of lake). Worth checking out this flock in better light as this is where you might find a pintail or gargany or some such juicy thing. Also in the area were at least 13 Caspian Tern roosting on some rocks.
Would love to hear more from Waikato veterans about shoveler numbers and movements from past and present surveys.
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