Nankeen Night Heron Upokongaro

Bird sighting information. Use this forum to report bird sightings (especially rare and unusual birds), census and field count results, and trip reports. Messages posted to this forum will also be sent as a plain text email to the BIRDING-NZ newsgroup.
User avatar
ledzep
Posts: 704
Joined: Tue Jul 07, 2009 7:30 pm
Location: Wellington
Contact:

Nankeen Night Heron Upokongaro

Postby ledzep » Wed May 09, 2012 7:05 pm

I'm posting this on behalf of Paul Gibson who had an exciting find last weekend:

"I had a phone call during last weekend to say that at Upokongaro behind the cafe there were three unknown birds in the trees, but thought to be kookaburra. Sounded just not quite right, so as I had some free time I thought I’d check it out. I found three Nankeen night heron, two adult birds and one juvenile. Just metres away and sitting in the sun they made for perfect viewing. The cafe owner says they have been there some months but he had not realised what they were and it’s only as the trees have been losing their leaves the birds have become more exposed. He is happy for birders to come and look, especially so if they buy a coffee while there (open 9am to 4pm each day except Monday)! Best time for viewing is 3pm to 4pm as the sun is shining in on their roosting spot. Upokongaro is on the Whanganui River a few km upstream from Wanganui City, on State Highway 4.

The Nankeen night heron is a very rare bird in NZ, only known to breed at a few locations along the Wanganui River. We have estimated numbers to be less than 50 birds, but recent findings suggest that they are increasing their range and likely numbers. This new location is amazingly accessible (as compared with other locations we have observed them) and you can even have a coffee while you watch the birds! It is usual for them to roost during the day and then leave at dusk to go out for the night to feed. However, they often at this time of the year like to sun themselves for a while in the late afternoon."
User avatar
Peter Frost
Posts: 171
Joined: Sun Jul 05, 2009 9:59 am

Re: Nankeen Night Heron Upokongaro

Postby Peter Frost » Sat May 12, 2012 1:29 am

I went out to Upokongaro this evening and met up with Ormond Torr. Together, we spent about half an hour watching and photographing the juvenile/immature bird. The whole time that we were there, the bird sat about 25 m away watching us without much obvious concern. We didn't see any adult birds but there is so much cover in the vicinity that they could easily have been roosting nearby. Later in the evening, at 17:46, 28 minutes after sunset, two birds flew across to the Whanganui R from the general direction of the roost trees behind the cafe, but I could not see any details (only one bird was seen, the other was heard). One prominent feature of the bird that we watched was the thick, pale lime-green lower eyelid.

The owners of the cafe say that they first noticed the birds about four months ago, but did not know what they were. The timing suggests that this could be a 1st-year bird, given that we have records of apparently recent fledglings being seen in early 2009. Marsh and Lövei (1997, Notornis 44: 152-155), found a nest near Jerusalem, 50 km further up the Whanganui R, in early November 1995 with 3 chicks, the eldest of which was estimated to be about 3 weeks old. With a fledging period of about 6-7 weeks (HANZAB), these birds would have fledged in mid to late December. The birds at Upokongaro are certainly the most accessible ones around at present.

I attach a couple of photographs, the first one showing the lower eyelid over the eye. (In the original version of this post, I thought that this eyelid was a nicticating membrane, but looking at my other photographs, I see one in which the eyelid is closing upwards; a nicticating membrane would move across the eye laterally, so it can't be that.)

Peter
Nankeen Night-heron_Upokongaro_P1100182s.jpg
Nankeen Night-heron_Upokongaro_P1100182s.jpg (217.9 KiB) Viewed 6070 times
Nankeen Night-heron_Upokongaro_P1100177s.jpg
Nankeen Night-heron_Upokongaro_P1100177s.jpg (218.22 KiB) Viewed 6070 times
User avatar
ledzep
Posts: 704
Joined: Tue Jul 07, 2009 7:30 pm
Location: Wellington
Contact:

Re: Nankeen Night Heron Upokongaro

Postby ledzep » Sat May 12, 2012 8:25 pm

I visited the cafe at Upokongaro today. The owners are very understanding, and I can confirm that their food and drink is very good. They did advise that Sunday afternoons can be very busy for them, so others wanting to see the birds may want to take this into account. The juvenile was in the open, and one adult bird nearby but hidden in amongst the evergreen tree (fir of some type). White plume can be seen in the photo of the adult bird.

The sign on the adjacent property says "The Goose's Roost", which is close! If you check out google maps you will see Makirikiri Valley Road heading off to the right from the south end of the bridge near the cafe in Upokongaro. This road weaves round the other side of the creek, and whilst there is a little too much vegetation to see the birds during the day from the other side, it may be a better vantage point in the evening when the birds fly off to feed as there is a better view of the creek.

nnh2.jpg
nnh2.jpg (74.9 KiB) Viewed 6032 times


nnh1.jpg
nnh1.jpg (101.15 KiB) Viewed 6032 times


Video clip on Youtube http://youtu.be/2jTq05-2Ae8 (glitch in earlier video posted has been fixed)
User avatar
craigsteed
Posts: 46
Joined: Sun Aug 09, 2009 12:38 pm

Re: Nankeen Night Heron Upokongaro

Postby craigsteed » Sun May 20, 2012 6:55 pm

A group of six of us from Manawatu OSNZ had a wonderful trip across to Wanganui today to try our luck at seeing the herons. We took a detour on the way down Whangaehu Beach Road hoping to see Cattle Egret, successfully sighting one within minutes amongst a bunch of Black-backed Gulls and a herd of cattle. We headed on through to Upokongaro and were greeted by the cafe owner and we were fortunate to see one of the adult birds, though somewhat obscured by foliage. We enjoyed the cafe fare, while ducking back and forward to the tree in hope of better views. Given the bird was a lifer for all of us we left very happy, even if the views weren't quite what the others before us have seen.
User avatar
sav
Posts: 713
Joined: Fri Jul 03, 2009 9:49 am
Location: Havelock North
Contact:

Re: Nankeen Night Heron Upokongaro

Postby sav » Mon Jul 29, 2013 12:14 pm

Two adults and one immature were showing again, in the same place, on Saturday afternoon 27 July.
Sav Saville
Wrybill Birding Tours, NZ
Great Birds, Real Birders
User avatar
imogen
Posts: 161
Joined: Sat Sep 03, 2011 8:05 pm

Re: Nankeen Night Heron Upokongaro

Postby imogen » Mon Jul 29, 2013 4:52 pm

Thanks for the info Sav. I have been thinking about going up there for ages so this weekend might be it. I see that the first post says the best time to see the birds is late afternoon but I prefer to be there early in the morning. What are my chances?
Cheers
User avatar
sav
Posts: 713
Joined: Fri Jul 03, 2009 9:49 am
Location: Havelock North
Contact:

Re: Nankeen Night Heron Upokongaro

Postby sav » Mon Jul 29, 2013 7:02 pm

Hi Imogen,
Not sure, but it ought to be OK. Let us know how you get on!
cheers
Sav Saville
Wrybill Birding Tours, NZ
Great Birds, Real Birders
Paul Gibson
Posts: 165
Joined: Tue Jul 30, 2013 9:49 am
Location: Wanganui

Re: Nankeen Night Heron Upokongaro

Postby Paul Gibson » Tue Jul 30, 2013 10:09 am

Hi Imogen, Last Saturday and Sunday there were two juvenile birds showing off and on throughout the day, with two adult birds also present, but mostly hidden in tree foliage. Chances of seeing them are high, particularly if the sun is shining. If you need any further info or help, please email me. If in Wanganui you must also visit Bushy Park, as saddleback, hihi and general bush birds are plentiful.
User avatar
imogen
Posts: 161
Joined: Sat Sep 03, 2011 8:05 pm

Re: Nankeen Night Heron Upokongaro

Postby imogen » Tue Jul 30, 2013 8:13 pm

Thanks Paul, with the cattle egrets up that way as well I think it's a must trip. I assume the cafe is the 4forty4? Any other locations south of Whanganui I should try?
Paul Gibson
Posts: 165
Joined: Tue Jul 30, 2013 9:49 am
Location: Wanganui

Re: Nankeen Night Heron Upokongaro

Postby Paul Gibson » Wed Jul 31, 2013 10:06 am

Hi Imogen, Yes, the night herons are found in the backyard of Cafe 4forty4, the only cafe in the village. Yesterday I was there again and five birds were showing, three adults and two juveniles. After months of being mostly hidden in the tree foliage during the day they are coming out into the winter sun and giving great photo opportunities. If coming from south you should check out Lake Horowhenua at Levin for the Little Egret. The lagoon at Turakina Beach is also a good spot for Black-fronted dotterel.

Return to “Bird Sightings and Alerts”