Wellington to Turangi Big Day - 70 Species

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Wellington to Turangi Big Day - 70 Species

Postby Michael » Sun Oct 23, 2016 10:21 pm

Hi everyone,

Today I enjoyed a cracking big day out with fellow youngsters Huia and George. The driving was kindly done by Mr. George, and Turangi, Blue Duck, Bittern and Yellow-Crowned Parakeet were in our grasp.

George and I began our Labour Day Weekend outings last year, where George narrowly slotted victory. This year I did it properly, getting up before sunrise, opening the window and turning on the ears. By 6 I had four species, by the time we left I was comfortable on 12. Though I was doing a short 20 km drive to George's long haul from Wellington to Otaki, I kept my head clean. When we met up at Otaki Estuary at 20 past seven, I led at 27 (me) -23 (George) -17 (Huia).

Otaki was a good place to start. We got Spotted Shag flying along the coast, pheasant and pipit, plenty of Banded Dotterel and I was delighted by a Black Fantail, but unfortunately it didn't pop up for George.

We headed from there straight to the Sewage Ponds, only getting lost once. It was next to empty. There weren't even scaup. Few shoveler, few teal, two dabchick, surprisingly many mallard, a pair of Paradise Shelduck and their chicks and two Black-Fronted Dotterel. Nothing was there to be turned into a vagrant, so we headed off unsure of how well our day would go.

Stop two was brief- a pubic toilet near the sewage ponds. One species snuck onto the list - a feral chicken was feeding in the long grass. After this break, we headed north. The bird list was slow to turn and between the lavatory and Turangi, I got just three species - Feral Goose, Black Shag and White-Faced Heron.

Confidence wasn't brimming when we drove into Turangi at 10:45. I held a narrow lead, but birds were ridiculously thin on the ground. I got Myna as we entered town. This species was mine for just a few moments, as I had blank-mindedly forewarned George of Myna at a playground near the BP station.

The Blue Duck spot saw us all tie up fast. Huia notched her dead-heat of the morning in Silvereye and Fantail, and George cleaned up with Greenfinch. George's first lifer opportunity of the day - Blue Duck - wasn't showing. I decided I would take him up to where I had seen suitable habitat in the past (down the south past the wobbly bridge; to be frank I'd never seen a Blue Duck there before) and acted like it would boost our chances. As soon as we started our walk, a Blue Duck flew right in front of us. Another joined it, before they retreated to a distant pool to bathe.

Moving on, we headed to Wharf Road, Tokaanu to grab the bittern, fernbird and crake. George got a glimpse of a Bittern, we heard two Fernbird and the crake was a no-show. It was one of those spots, however, where it is the little species that made the difference. We saw the only coot of the day, the only Black-Billed Gulls, our first Caspians, first Scaup and Warbler. It was nice to get whitehead back in the open habitat - I always love seeing them being all adventurous in home.

I'd regained a lead and sat at 52 species as we pulled out. We went south, pulled into ST HWY 47 and headed into the beautiful bush of the Central North Island. Pulling in to the Rotopounamu track, we decided a long walk would compromise our chance at Foxton so we limited ourselves to five minutes in, five minutes listening and five minutes coming home. That was all you needed. As soon as we got out the car, robin and bellbird song greeted us. It was lovely. A few minutes in the bush and Rifleman and Yellow-Crowned Parakeet joined our list. Yellow-Crowned was George's fourth lifer for the day! On the way out we met a rifleman who sat on the ground: SO CUTE!! Kaka called and Huia and I also saw one on our drive out.

After passing through Waiouru I looked to the left and my eyes nearly fell out of my head. "ROOOOOOK", I screamed. Though not a lifer for me, it was for the other two and George had told me off just minutes before for saying Rook were likely and yet we hadn't seen them. A pair, seeming to be a juvenile and an adult, sat on a fence line for a few moments before finally heading off.

The remaining drive involved a few false calls inspired by our recent luck. We quickly gave ourselves a slap on the cheek, pulled ourselves together and prepared for Foxton. I was going in two above the others, though they were now turning the tables.

Foxton's tide was surprisingly low and there were a lot of people about. We were constantly seeing flocks of birds shifting over to a roost on the other side of the estuary. It still pushed us up though. We got three Sipo and plenty of Knots and Godwits. Amazingly, not one of these birds had any bands as far as we could see. I thought I may have scored a winning bird in White-Fronted Tern after seeing some clear the river mouth, but then two flew in right in front of the others!!

As George got changed at the Foxton Information Centre, Huia and I discussed a game plan. He now had a lead of one bird, and there was no way the James Birding Competition was going to him again!!

The game plan worked out well, with Huia and I getting turkey half-way between Foxton and Levin, though most of that was just George's mistake of swapping sides in the car.

We pulled into Ohau Estuary at half-past five, all on 65 species. George and Huia got Barbary Dove at Otaki, so the multitude calling here set me one ahead. George's California Quail in Turangi was also taken by Huia and I. There were plenty calling at Ohau, which I have never heard before here. Redpoll were flying over, and it was getting tense.

A bittern booming in the nearby swamp calmed us all down as we tried to get proper views, but none came. It was amazing how the boom would resonate through your chest!

We couldn't spend all day looking at reeds though, so we got on to the estuary. We spent five minutes chasing a funny knot, but after good views in flight we moved to the main flock. Due to an outstandingly low tide the godwits were well spread and would be far too difficult to count, but there were good numbers. Only two knot were present, and none of the Wrybill I got two weeks ago. Four spoonbill were a nice surprise though.

Walking out on 69 species, the target of seventy was automatically appointed. George and Huia continued to hack away at my lead, hearing Shining Cuckoo as we regained the bittern hunt. At least two and possibly three birds were booming, none were definitely seen, however. George and I found a bittern in a picture taken here last year and have never quite forgiven ourselves for the miss. Today we were rewarded with the knowledge they were still in the area. We didn't go too close for fear of flushing the beautiful songster.

Music fell on my ears at last. At 6:45PM, a rosella flew into a hedge row and began singing, so I hit seventy! I admit the birders bum shuffle of celebration probably wasn't the best choice when two of your party are looking for a bittern, but I only did it for a few seconds. An evening scout for Morepork didn't pull any up, so I live on waiting for the results of my colleagues-

-And a morepork!

Latest Lifer: Malaysian Pied-Fantail in Vietnam's Mekong Delta

Happy birding to all who dare to take the challenge
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Re: Wellington to Turangi Big Day - 70 Species

Postby zarkov » Mon Oct 24, 2016 9:09 am

Good story, well written.

For your interest, when I was last at Tokaanu I saw bittern way in the distance toward the Tokaanu marina, so drove round and next to the boat ramp discovered that you can get a superior elevated view back into the swamp from the other direction.

Definitely worth look if you come up short at the wharf, with the added bonus of being right next to the lake.
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Re: Wellington to Turangi Big Day - 70 Species

Postby harryhatman » Fri Oct 28, 2016 3:49 pm

Sounds like a great trip. Well done!
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Re: Wellington to Turangi Big Day - 70 Species

Postby zarkov » Thu Oct 18, 2018 8:18 pm

Yesterday from the marina I had a great view of two Bitterns flying in a probable courtship display for about 10 minutes.

It was so unusual to be able to watch them flying so freely when the usual view is of a Bittern disappearing over the horizon.

They're great fliers, and in the right conditions could soar without difficulty.

Felt so lucky my regular visits paid such a dividend,
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Re: Wellington to Turangi Big Day - 70 Species

Postby Jim_j » Thu Oct 18, 2018 9:01 pm

Wow very lucky - haven't had a decent view of a bittern since I was 10years old - a very long time ago!
Cheers Jim
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Re: Wellington to Turangi Big Day - 70 Species

Postby chris » Fri Oct 19, 2018 10:27 am

Manu o te tau kau? No bird of the year?

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