NORTHERN SHOVELER in Te Aroha

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RussCannings
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NORTHERN SHOVELER in Te Aroha

Postby RussCannings » Mon Aug 19, 2019 6:44 pm

Hi all,

Enjoyed some wonderful sun in the late afternoon at the Howarth Memorial Wetlands in Te Aroha. While a bit choked with willow, this is always a birdy place and offers an impressive variety of plants as well (Mostly exotics).

Highlight was most certainly a drake Northern Shoveler that was sleeping and swimming among a large group of Aussie Shovelers. This was along the eastern edge of the park where the trail runs parallel to the Waihou River. There is an obvious open area which offers the best views of the waterfowl flocks. *Note that there are shovelers dotted throughout the reserve so it's worth keeping an eye out on the entire walk. The birds move around a lot, especially now that they're courting. Another place to check is just north of Te Aroha at the sewage ponds (just west of the road to Paeroa). You can drive right to the gate of the ponds as this is an access point for the cycle trail. There are usually 60-100 shovelers here as well.

Here is the full eBird checklist with more details from my walk today: https://ebird.org/atlasnz/view/checklist/S59097385

Unfortunately I did not manage a photo as I only had binoculars.

Russ C
Morrinsville, NZ
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Neil Fitzgerald
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Re: NORTHERN SHOVELER in Te Aroha

Postby Neil Fitzgerald » Tue Aug 20, 2019 11:40 am

Nice one Russ. I don't know the place at all. I must check it out.
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David Riddell
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Re: NORTHERN SHOVELER in Te Aroha

Postby David Riddell » Wed Aug 21, 2019 8:35 am

Annette and I were over there on 28 July and saw a shoveler with a very white breast roosting in almost exactly the same place, near the north-eastern corner. It was very distant (visible from half way along the eastern side, but obscured by willows from closer points), we only had binoculars, and it had its head tucked away - didn't think too much of it as it was well within the range of variation of an NZ shoveler, but on reflection could well have been an eclipse northern. Though looking at your checklist it sounds like your bird was a clean white on the breast?
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RussCannings
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Re: NORTHERN SHOVELER in Te Aroha

Postby RussCannings » Wed Aug 21, 2019 11:55 am

Hi David,

Yes this bird did not have any of the black speckles that generally typify even the palest Aussies. Still, that was a month ago and the plumage may have changed since then. The frustrating thing about that location is just how poor visibility is with all the willow everywhere. I always leave feeling like I only have seen 60% of the birds present. Might have to portage a kayak in some day! Great snipe habitat after all ;)

Often a place for spoonbill and kotuku in winter, though I saw neither on this past visit.

Russ
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David Riddell
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Re: NORTHERN SHOVELER in Te Aroha

Postby David Riddell » Wed Aug 21, 2019 6:05 pm

Yes, the bird we saw was a bit speckly, but good point about the time elapsed since then. Hoped to get a closer look as we went around, but as you say the willows really get in the way. Maybe it was just a very pale NZ bird after all, but now I'm wondering if it was one that got away. Might have to go back, it's not very far, and next time take a telescope!
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Re: NORTHERN SHOVELER in Te Aroha

Postby andrewcrossland » Wed Aug 21, 2019 8:01 pm

It would be great if someone could confirm this bird? I suggest that we can no longer rely on distant views to be certain of a Northern Shoveler ID - even by expert Canadians!!

This is not because people don't know what a Northern Shoveler looks like - its because actually, collectively, we possibly don't really know what every machination of a male NZ Shoveler looks like!!

This incredible occurrence of Northern Shovelers all over the country over the last 2 years has been fantastic, but I suggest its also really complicated our understanding of what differentiates a Northern Shoveler from an aberrant NZ Shoveler.

Until very recently, if one came across a shoveler with chestnut brown flanks, a bold white breast, white braces extending well down the back, and a head that in certain light kinda looked greenish and not bluish, then yep, absolutely no doubt, it could only be a Northern Shoveler! right!

But actually as our "shoveler-serendipity" progresses into its 2nd year we're now seeing birds that might look good for Northern Shoveler at a distance, or when viewed from angles where we can't see their heads side-on or close enough to really "see" them. But then, the bird moves, and bingo! a big fat white crescent appears. So what are these birds?? Are they Northern Shovelers with eye crescents (more distinct than they'd normally have when in eclipse/winter), or are these birds green-headed, white breasted, chestnut-sided aberrant NZ Shovelers? Or are they (heaven forbid) hybrids?

I have no idea about this Te Aroha bird (haven't seen a photo yet!), but this thread seems a good place just to insert a caveat.......

Here's a pic of a "shoveler" at Horseshoe Lake, CHCH, recently as a case in point.....

shov1.JPG
shov1.JPG (37.2 KiB) Viewed 308 times
Last edited by andrewcrossland on Wed Aug 21, 2019 8:09 pm, edited 2 times in total.
Tim Barnard
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Re: NORTHERN SHOVELER in Te Aroha

Postby Tim Barnard » Wed Aug 21, 2019 8:03 pm

I think it is confirmed ... I would back Russell's call Andrew.
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Re: NORTHERN SHOVELER in Te Aroha

Postby andrewcrossland » Wed Aug 21, 2019 8:07 pm

Glad to hear that it is - as this story of these birds appearing all over NZ (like the Gull-billed Tern story a few years ago) is a fantastic event for birding in NZ and something future generations will hear about as part of our folklore. But keep those UBRs coming in guys, with photos please, and hopefully one day soon someone will put pen to paper and nut out these various plumages and give us a great little ID article that we (and the Aussies, who I suspect have no idea that NZ "Australasian" Shovelers can look as they do), can sink our teeth into.....
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RussCannings
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Re: NORTHERN SHOVELER in Te Aroha

Postby RussCannings » Thu Aug 22, 2019 8:03 am

Cheers Tim,

I agree with AC that some healthy skepticism is warranted. "Invasion" frenzies like this often lead to some humbling realities of the variability of common birds and it seems that our awareness NZ shoveler ID has benefited greatly from deeper scrutiny. These lessons of plumage variation, assessing distant photos, and tricks of the light can of course be applied to many other birds as well. I look forward to that article Andrew!

I would also note that while I'm very confident of the Te Aroha bird, I would completely understand if the BRC rejects it within the context of the concerns Andrew has raised. Hopefully someone can manage a photo. If not, oh well!

Russ
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David Riddell
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Re: NORTHERN SHOVELER in Te Aroha

Postby David Riddell » Thu Aug 22, 2019 1:48 pm

The weather out the window wasn't as bad as the forecast so we shot out to Te Aroha this morning to have a look for this bird between the showers. No success, but there are so many potential hiding places there has to be a good chance it's still around. As consolation there was a very plausible pair of grey ducks, associating closely.

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