Fortunately Morrinsville has so far escaped the Level 3 Lockdown orders, so my family was able to get away for a pre-planned trip to the Napier area in recent days. Here is an abbreviated summary of some of the sites and sightings we managed between non-birding activities:
Whiteheads in the Pine Forest--Stopped for a few random point counts (and bathroom/coffee breaks) along SH 5 in the Kawekas, while travelling to and from Napier and it was nice to hear Whitehead at most places between Tarawera and the Mohaka River. Basically anywhere with pine trees along the upload stretches of the highway seemed to have them. While this is likely well known to locals, it's comforting to see them doing so well away from native bush (as is also the case in some areas around Taupo/Rotorua.
Ahuriri Estuary: Walked around part of the estuary and over the the 'Scrapes' on Thursday, Oct 14 on a falling tide. Then did the same right on high tide on Saturday afternoon. Highlights: 4 Wrybill on Thursday but none on Sunday, 3 NZ Dots on Thursday, at least 8 Pacific Golden Plover roosting in salicornia on the main estuary on Sat (none seen on Thursday), just over 200 godwit present in area both days, 1 WHIMBREL sleeping at Scrapes with the godwit flock on Saturday.
Southern Marsh: This site, now famous for crakes and rarities, takes a little while to get to on foot but there is plenty of exposed mud so I think the potential for some fun birds this summer is there. When I visited on Saturday it was all resident birds with a good mix of waterfowl along with nesting stilts, and a single Black-fronted Dotterel. A dozen Spoonbill were also roosting in the tall grass. Also had a gannet circle the marsh at one stage which was a little odd on a sunny afternoon!
Pied Shags on the rise: As locals have already mentioned, it appears clear that Pied Shags are on their way to being a common species around town. Once fairly scarce, I noted several in the Port area, and also saw one flying offshore further south down the coast.
Rooks heading the other direction: As has been discussed a lot on this forum, rook numbers continue to decline (it seems). While this is completely anecdotal, the last time my wife and I explored the backroads between Hastings and Porangahau (rural/coastal 'Central Hawkes Bay' District), we came across rooks seemingly everywhere. This time around we only noted a single bird on these backroads, with a loner foraging on Aramoana Beach. We also came across a singleton as we left the Hawkes Bay on SH5 just north of the Mohaka Bridge.
No sign of the Whistler: While I trust Sav completely, I gave Anderson Park a check and was unable to see any whistling ducks.
Clive Estuary/Waitangi: Usual great diversity with near guaranteed BF Dots in the area. Always a brilliant place to explore.
Porangahau Estuary: One of the larger estuaries in this part of the country, though underbirded due to its remoteness and access difficulties. We didn't have as much time as on our last visit but at least the weather was sunnier. We poked around a few corners pre-high tide on Friday and managed to find at least 17 WRYBILL, 4 KNOT, and 2 pairs of FERNBIRD among the more common species. Will have to camp out and stay longer next time!
Pourerere/Aramoana Beaches: Two new locations for us. These two beaches are gorgeous gems and are surely treasured by those lucky enough to have batches or family in the area. Clearly a lot of history in these nooks of the district and great for birding also with the coastal marine reserve that stretches south to Blackhead. Neat to see the flock of over 100 godwit at Aramoana (No estuary, just beach/reef feeding (like Mahia) I guess? along with a few NZ Dots.
I think that about does it? Happy birding all, wherever you may be.
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