Belated Team Taranaki Global Big Day report

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Belated Team Taranaki Global Big Day report

Postby Nakilad » Thu Nov 17, 2022 10:03 pm

When planning a Taranaki/Whanganui trip for the Global Big Day, where else would you start the day but at Lake Rotokare Scenic Reserve, an absolute jewel in the region. The team included veterans Peter Fryer, Steve Purdon and the rookie Vaughan Turner. On Friday night we set up camp next to the lake so we could get started right at midnight. While waiting we were treated to a flyby of the Starlink constellation of satellites. At five minutes to midnight we set ourselves up on a pontoon under clear skies and a misty lake, and at midnight started our Ebird checklists, hoping one of us would create the first checklist for this edition of the Global Big Day. In no time at all we had heard north island brown kiwi and ruru, as well as some nocturnally vocal pāteke and scaup. It was pretty cold so we soon made our way back to the campsite. We heard plenty of kiwi on the way back, and even saw one walking across the track in front of us.

We woke to the chorus of bellbird, tui and a single shining cuckoo. After defrosting ourselves and Peter’s tent (it had iced up over night!) we started up the track, back toward the pontoon to collect daytime species. Before we entered the bush we had spotted pukeko, fantail and riroriro. As usual we all but tripped over saddlback as we entered the bush, and we soon heard, then saw, a flock of pōpokatea working their way through the lower canopy. Where the track touches the lake edge we started hearing the familiar u-tick calls of the fernbird/mātata and in no time found a couple on branches, illuminated by the morning sun (check out the photos in the trip report, link below). While at the pontoon we spotted black swan, putangitangi, mallard, grey teal and a harrier, but unfortunately not the spotless crake we had heard the night before. Just when we thought we might miss out on seeing one of the robins in the reserve, two popped out onto the track waiting expectantly for the soil to be scuffed up.
We packed up and drove off at about 9am having identified 33 species in the reserve alone. A dream start to the day.

The plan was to head straight down to Whanganui to hit up a few places we thought would return some interesting species. We made a quick stop at the Eltham oxidation ponds where interesting species have been known to turn up. This stop gave us our first Indian peafowl and an australasian shoveller. Vaughan and Steve nearly had a group of dabchick at the far end of the ponds, until Peter positively identified them as mallard ducklings. A little embarrassing but no worries though, we’d pick up dabchick later in the day.

We made an unplanned, and sudden, stop at an ephemeral pond in a farm paddock where we found a pair of pied stilt and a skylark for our list. We were also treated to the sight of a grey teal with 5 tealings (?). It was the first time I had seen grey tealings so it was a fortuitous stop.

The next planned stop was a place called the North Mole at the Whanganui Rivermouth to see what shorebirds, seabirds and waders we could find. There were plenty of fishers out and no one really gave a second look to three guys with binoculars and scopes. As well as white-fronted tern and three shag species, we also spotted a single black-billed gull. It took a few minutes of watching its behaviour and features but we reached a consensus.

We made three stops along the estuary and only added a couple of South Island pied oystercatchers, a solitary canada goose, and then a single bar-tailed godwit entered the scope’s view. With appetites demanding some attention the most obvious option was Behind the Door on 4 Cafe at Upokongaro. And yes, with a little help from the staff we found four nankeen night heron in a tree directly above us. Too easy! We got some great photos of these intriguing birds which are also in the trip report.

A short visit to Virginia Lake to see the mute swan also gave us little black shags and coots. A tree next to the lake edge was loaded with shag nests, and each nest crammed with 3-4 fledglings scrapping for space and trying not to fall out. We got distracted looking at all sorts of interesting birds and behaviours but it was 2:30pm and we still had a few places back in Taranaki to visit to try and add to our species list.

We decided to visit the northern side of Mt Taranaki to spot the ever present rifleman and the pair of whio which live on a bend of the Waiwhakaiho River inside the park. A 30 min walk to the river and back left us with neither. Quite a disappointment given the extra time it had taken up. With no other species in the park that we didn’t already have on our lists we left to check out a few more places where we knew certain species were. First up was Lake Mangamahoe which has a beautiful track around the lake with views of the Mounga and plenty of birds. It was here that we saw rosella and california quail. Unfortunately the two other species we hoped to see evaded us. The resident australasian grebe was nowhere to be found, and, once again, the dabchicks remained out of sight.

As tempting as it was to hang around searching for them, it was after 6pm and we had two more places to visit with about five target species. Meeting of the Waters on the Waiwhakaiho River provided a grey duck.

Our last stop was Te Rewa Rewa Bridge and the Waiwhakaiho River mouth which can turn up a range of species. The first added to our list was a ring-necked pheasant, calling from the paddocks. Within a few minutes of reaching the beach we spotted the pair of NZ dotterel which hang out there, and a pair of variable oystercatchers, and just when we thought we were done for the day we picked out some australasian gannets offshore.

By then the light was pretty much gone so we called it a day. Between us we finished with 67 species which was the upper end of our ambitions before starting out. It was an immensely enjoyable Friday/Saturday, not just for the species we ‘ticked’, but the locations we visited, interesting bird behaviours we observed, contributing to the NZ Bird Atlas, and the experience of camping out at Lake Rotokare. Anyone is welcome to join us in Taranaki for the next Global Big Day in May 2023.

Link to Ebird trip report >
Vaughan Turner
Birding Remotely
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Location: Waiwhakaiho, Taranaki

Re: Belated Team Taranaki Global Big Day report

Postby Threeps » Mon Nov 21, 2022 7:46 am

Nice write-up, Vaughan.
A very satisfying days birding and it was made special by camping overnight at Rotokare.
Steve Purdon

No te whenua mo nga Kotimana ahau.

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