Our Great New Zealand Bird Tour

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Location: Tutukaka Coast

Our Great New Zealand Bird Tour

Postby ourspot » Thu Aug 25, 2016 6:52 pm

Just wanted to share with everyone what an amazing year my family are having birding around New Zealand - and we’ve just spotted our 101st bird species so far.

This year we’ve undertaken a mission to introduce our family (myself, my wife and 3 young sons) to as many NZ bird species as we can in the year (while still working, schooling and general life goes on). We saw it as a way to get out and show the kids our beautiful country and by the end of the year we will have travelled from Cape Reinga to Bluff, and had a total of 3 months away during our quest. We will have visited national parks, swamps, wetlands, rivers, forests, coastlines, estuaries, mountains, treatment plants, roadsides, gone on boat rides, and much more. Sure our sons have missed a bit of school (which they don’t seem to mind :), but what they’ve learned about nature, the environment, conservation, geography more than makes up for it, and their new knowledge of birds has blown us away - they just love talking about the birds they’ve seen.

The idea began when we happened across ‘The Big Year’ movie last year and what we mostly took from the movie was the great locations they went to that you may not normally visit, as well as the thrill of the search, enjoying wildlife and all it’s beauty and quirkiness, and also the possibility of encountering some very scarce species.

At the beginning of the year we set ourselves a hopeful year total of 100 species seen in the wild. And we’ve already just passed this thanks to an amazing two nights staying in Tawharanui Sanctuary (we’re up to 101 now) with new sightings of Kookaburra (x2), NI Brown Kiwi (x2), Kaka (x15), Banded Rail (x4) and Spotless Crake (x2) added to the total (and a total of 52 species accounted for in the time we were there – what a fantastic place). We have a family rule that my wife and I and the 2 oldest boys have to see the bird for it to be added to our list, which does mean we potentially miss a few but it keeps the kids honest :) Our 3yr old sees most of the birds too, but occasionally he’s fast asleep.

While I’ve always enjoyed nature I’ve never been a ‘birder’ as such so when we kicked off the year we had fairly limited knowledge, then early on as the common, more wider-spread birds were all sighted that’s when the quest really kicked in. This is when all the research and knowledge of location, characteristics, plumage, habits, habitats, rarity, seasons etc really began, and to be honest this was also the start of our conversion to the ‘birder’ side :) We love sighting a bird for the first time but get just as much enjoyment everytime we get to see a bird species again and are now getting to learn more about them by studying their different characteristics, flight patterns, etc.

Naturally this gained knowledge couldn’t have been possible without some great resources: the amazing helpful people we’ve met on the way, the ‘Birds of NZ guide book, numerous websites including eBird and NZ Birds Online, and of course a huge thanks to everyone posting on birdingnz.net where we’ve learned so much from what all you users have shared (which has resulted in many an unplanned trip away on a new species search). I’ll be adding more to the forums now that we’ve got a handle on what we’re talking about. Even with all the research it still amazes me how often you happen to fluke a sighting of a bird that just happens to be there – i.e. the Little Egret we saw happened to be in a field we happen to be looking in (although is it fluke, or just that now we have some knowledge and are getting out to places these birds might be ??).

SIGHTING HIGHLIGHT SO FAR - hard to say as so much has been awesome and just observing any bird species and their habitats has become rewarding, but some highlights in the memory banks include 2 Barn Owls swooping and screeching overhead in Kaitaia, about 500 Spoonbills in one spot at the Unahi wharf, admiring the Blue Ducks on the Tongariro river, every visit to Miranda watching the huge flocks of Godwits, Wrybills etc (as well as the odd surprise like the Curlew and Whimbrel), Kookaburras at Campbell Bay near Tawharanui (see pics below), watching the Spotless Crake at Tawharanui darting around trying to not be seen, overnighting on Tiritiri and seeing Kokako (a bird I’ve always wanted to see), night walks searching for Kiwi search … it just goes on.

With 4 months still left in the year and every spare minute researching or planning, a major South Island trip on the horizon, and spring about to hit (very excited to see more of the migratory’s which now we can get a better look as we know more), I’m sure we’ve got plenty more adventures to have and plenty more species and locations to discover.

We’ll never forget this year (for the birds, the travel, the locations, the friendly people and the family time) and we’re excited to have a new passion that will be with us always. Every bird we’re finding now (as it’s getting harder) has involved a knowledge gaining exercise and is incredibly satisfying when you finally see it (tho the ever elusive Bittern is still evading us).

So if you happen to see a family with 3 young boys travelling round holding binos and cameras, staring hopefully into fields, sky, mudflats, raupo swamps or any potential habitat, then be sure to give us a wave :)

All the best and see you on the trails

Scott, Helen, Ollie (10), Zef (6) and Jay (3) Brooks
Tutukaka Coast

PS … I see birds everywhere now and we are all officially ‘birders’ (the binos and camera are always close by).
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Re: Our Great New Zealand Bird Tour

Postby Jim_j » Thu Aug 25, 2016 9:37 pm

Wow what a great trip and a great experience for your children.
Good luck for the South Island - and the more you look for birds the more you do seem to fluke them - must be some sort of 6th sense I'm sure.
Spotless crake is my bogey - never seen one in over 40 years of active bird watching
If you're in Nelson - Marsh Crake are pretty reliable at the wetland at the oxidation ponds on Boulder Bank drive - but as always it's got to be at the right time!!

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Re: Our Great New Zealand Bird Tour

Postby FlyingKiwiGirl » Fri Aug 26, 2016 10:19 pm

Wow, what an awesome activity for all the family. You're going to love the South Island, and finding all the special birds down there. Good luck! Especially with the rock wren who keeps eluding me.
NZ Forest Birds on Flickr
Look out for the Wetland & Waders, & Seabirds sets too.
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Re: Our Great New Zealand Bird Tour

Postby ourspot » Sun Aug 28, 2016 6:35 pm

Hi Jim

Thanks for the Marsh Crake tip. Were off the Kaikoura around Xmas and was planning to head over Nelson way so will definately pop in to Boulder Bank for a look.

Had a great day yesterday over Kaipara when we finally managed to have a fantastic sighting of the Bittern which has eluded us all year. Initially saw it take flight from some Raupo and then it landed on a paddock edge where we got to watch it from quite close for about 10 minutes before it again took flight. What a stunning bird it was too.

Scott, Helen, Ollie, Zef and Jay Brooks
Bittern_Aug16_Scott Brooks_IMG_0189.jpg
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Re: Our Great New Zealand Bird Tour

Postby talishamacdoff » Thu May 31, 2018 4:44 pm

Lovely pictures! Hope you enjoyed your tour a lot.
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Re: Our Great New Zealand Bird Tour

Postby ourspot » Tue Jun 05, 2018 8:22 pm

talishamacdoff wrote:Lovely pictures! Hope you enjoyed your tour a lot.

Sure did enjoy the tour! One of our best years ever (if not the best). You can read the second half of the story on this post viewtopic.php?f=9&t=6515

Cheers Scott

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