This is a very belated response to Russ Canning's call for reports on favourite seawatching spots from around NZ:
A few months ago I moved to Rarangi Beach, just north of Blenheim. My living room has a large bay window that looks straight out into Cloudy Bay, with Wellington, and the Makara Windfarm visible to the ENE, and Cape Campbell visible to the SSE. Although the view is pretty magic, I was initially a bit pessimistic about the birding potential, as I'm situated in the broad, sweeping hollow of Cloudy Bay so not exactly the best spot to be picking up some of the more pelagic seabird species.
However, repeated seawatches over the last few months have really paid off, and I've managed to accumulate a pretty nice "living room" bird list so far (Not to mention that I'm doing my seawatching from my couch, with the heat pump set to a balmy 25 degrees, and a cup of freshly-brewed coffee in my hand - no trekking out to blustery, windswept headlands for me!). Here's an annotated checklist of what I've managed to spot so far:
Black swan: Two birds seen sitting on the water just offshore, on one occasion
White-capped albatross: Occasional distant views on windier days, plus closer views of birds trailing along behind the occasional trawler
Black-browed/Campbell albatross: Seen once or twice trailing along behind trawlers
Northern Giant Petrel; Seen regularly close to shore, particularly on windier days. On one recent day with a 4-5 metre swell, 10 NGPs were sitting on the water just offshore
Fluttering shearwater: Seen regularly
Hutton's shearwater: Large numbers seen occasionally over the last couple of weeks. Remarkably, last weekend I was up in the Seaward Kaikouras helping to catch and spraypaint 2000 Hutton's shearwaters as part of a census being carried out by DoC and the Hutton's Shearwater Charitable Trust. The day after I returned home, I estimated around 10,000 Hutton's sheawater flew past my house, including one of our spray-painted birds!
Australasian gannet Single birds seen occasionally
Pied shag: Single birds occasionally seen
Spotted Shag: Single birds and small flocks seen flying along the coast most days, regular flights of birds heading south in the early morning, and north in the late afternoon
Australasian Harrier: Seen regularly, including birds that seem to be coming in off the ocean, possibly having crossed Cook Strait
Spur-winged plover: Seen on foreshore on a handful of occasions
Variable oystercatcher: Seen regularly flying along foreshore.
SI pied oystercatcher: One bird seen loitering on the beach on one occasion
Black-backed gull: Seen every day. Spend a great deal of time dropping clams and other shellfish onto the gravel shore to break them open.
Red-billed gull: Seen most days, sometimes in large numbers
Black-billed gull: Seen occasionally
Black-fronted tern: The most common species of tern that I've recorded in the first three months living here, which is quite a novelty for a North Islander! Encounter rates for this species have dropped away in the last 6 weeks or so though, as most birds make their way up the rivers for breeding.
White-fronted tern: Seen occasionally in ones and twos
Caspian tern: Single birds occasionally seen, foraging along beach
NZ falcon: Large female with a gammy leg seen on the foreshore on two occasions
Rock Pigeon: Seen flying in off the ocean on a couple of occasions - having flown across Cook Strait?
Sacred kingfisher: heard or seen regularly on the foreshore. Seen catching skinks from among driftwood
Bellbird: Heard calling most days
Tui: Heard calling on a couple of occasions
Grey warbler: Heard and seen occasionally
Australian magpie: Occasionally seen on the foreshore
Fantail: Heard and seen regularly on the foreshore
Skylark: Heard most days
Welcome swallow: Small numbers of birds seen hawking for insects along the foreshore in early morning and late afternoon, most days
Silvereye: Seen on foreshore most days
Blackbird: Seen on foreshore most days
Song Thrush: Seen on the foreshore on two occasions
Starling: Seen every day; nesting in my roof.
Dunnock: Heard or seen most days.
Chaffinch: Seen on foreshore most days
Goldfinch: Seen on foreshore most days
Greenfinch: Seen on foreshore most days
Redpoll: Seen on foreshore most days
Cirl Bunting: One very bright male seen on the foreshore on one occasion. Remarkably, I haven't yet spotted a yellowhammer!
House sparrow: Seen every day; nesting in my roof.
NZ fur seal: Single seals occasionally seen mucking around in the surf
Hector's dolphin: One individual seen just offshore, on one occasion
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.
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Living the dream! Now I just need to build a house at Cape Palliser
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What do you use to spray paint Huttons Shearwaters and why do you do it?