Saturday, 17 June 2017

Winter on Foxton Beach

Well it might be cooler at the moment but it is still very mild when the sun is out. And it was a stunner today. While walking along the estuary towards the beach, the bushes were alive with little birds, busy in their preparation for the spring season ahead. My favourite is always the grey warbler and when I spotted a pair, I played a recorded call for them and they shot over to examine the intruder. They are territorial and will often do this, flying close overhead or sitting on a branch staring at you. 

After that I found a small flock of chatty goldfinch and luckily enough, one stopped just long enough for me to catch it. Their red head is always more striking than the gold plumage.

On the way home I heard the familiar croak of a white-faced heron. Such an inelegant call for such a lovely bird! I tracked it as it flew past me and I swear it turned its head to look at me.

Lastly, when I got home I found a pair of starling courting. Even such common birds are beautiful when you look closer at them and the bright sunshine always helps!

Thursday, 25 May 2017

White Herons

The white heron (ardea modesta) has always been my favourite bird, even before I really started bird watching. I remember seeing them in Florida and being amazed at how it could unfurl its neck to show that incredible kink. I've seen them several times in New Zealand and have been lucky enough to spend time just watching them going about their business. Much larger than the very common white-faced heron, would you believe these birds only weigh between 700 and 1200 grammes?

Apparently there have been a couple of white herons over wintering at Foxton Beach in recent years so it was a thrill to see one arrive about a month ago. Every time I have a few minutes spare I scout around the township looking for it, trying to build a picture of its behaviour. Yesterday afternoon, after several days of very heavy rain, I found it next to a drainage pond. It was relaxed and appeared to be enjoying the last bit of sunshine. I know we tend to put human qualities on animals but it did look like it liked the sun. I watched it as it stretched and preened and checked out the activity on the pond. Wonderful.

Saturday, 13 May 2017

Australasian Harrier

The Australasian harrier is also know as the swamp harrier, hawk or marsh harrier. It is seen all over New Zealand, usually swooping over open land looking for food. They are very difficult to get close to, disappearing as soon as they see a human. My best photographic success has been from the window of my car. A little tricky with a large lens.

The birds plumage is very interesting. Young birds are darkly coloured and as they get older, they get paler. This weekend I was lucky enough to spot an old bird flying low over a pond (gave the ducks a fright) and land to eat a kill. Later on, I watched as it hunted over a field with 4 masked lapwing mobbing it. Not much difference having a big lens as to when I had a point and shoot. Aim it, take lots of photographs and hope for the best. The result? My best harrier photos.

Thursday, 11 May 2017

May Bird Count

Each month I try to get out around the estuary and township to do a count of the birds there. This is my count from the 7th May 2017. Highlights were an arctic skua harassing terns for food (a reasonably common occurrence at this time of year) and a white heron skulking around the local drainage pools. I thought my count of 43 species was pretty good and a tough target to beat in future weeks. 

6 greylag geese
85 Canada geese
8 black swan
1 paradise shelduck
35 mallard
2 Australian shoveler
1 grey teal
15 NZ scaup
1 common pheasant
1 dabchick
2 little shag
1 black shag
3 little black shag
1 white heron
9 white-faced heron
23 royal spoonbill
1 Australasian harrier
17 pukeko
95 pied stilt
11 South Island pied oystercatcher
2 variable oystercatcher
7 masked lapwing
2 double-banded dotterel
21 wrybill
18 bar-tailed godwit
1 arctic skua
1 black-billed gull
2 red-billed gull
22 black-backed gull
5 Caspian tern
6 white-fronted tern
19 feral pigeon
9 sacred kingfisher
1 grey warbler
2 Australian magpie
5 NZ fantail
2 welcome swallow
12 blackbird
2 song thrush
45 starling
3 greenfinch
2 goldfinch
25 sparrow

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Largest glossy ibis sighting for 50 years at Foxton Beach

I was out walking the dog and luckily took my camera in case I saw the bittern. At the very same place that I saw the bittern fishing for the eel, I spotted some funny looking shags fly over. Anything that looks out of the ordinary attracts my attention so I took some photos and realised they were glossy ibis. They are infrequently seen at Foxton Beach and elsewhere in New Zealand but always in ones or twos. This number of birds has not been seen for decades. In fact, when I posted the sighting, people did not believe me. Good job for the photos.

I first saw the ibis after the tail end of cyclone Debbie from Australia hit the coast. You could assume they were blown over from the east coast but who knows? The birds are still here, 10 days later and feed and roost over the inaccessible land on the south side of the river. Makes it a bit tricky to photograph them but hopefully they will treat me to another fly by.

Saturday, 8 April 2017

Further bittern sighting

This time I was more prepared and the sun was out. The bird is more skittish and I don't think it will be hanging around for people to look at it any more. Felt very privileged to get so close to such a rare bird.

Saturday, 1 April 2017

Australasian Bittern moves in to Foxton Beach!

Australasian Bittern (Botaurus poiciloptilus)
I am most ashamed to say that despite walking my dog along the estuary every morning and priding myself at being aware of the birds around, I had to be told that a bittern had moved in. Oh well, guess I can't be the first to spot every new bird. Is it a peculiarity of all birders that they are so competitive?

Anyway, the bird was first spotted on Friday the 30th March and has been feeding the reeds around high tide for the last couple of days. This morning, whilst walking my dog and paying more attention, I spotted it at low tide feeding in the creek. After rushing back (poor dog) to get my gear, I spent a couple of hours watching the bird as it moved up and down the creek and through the wetland. My patience was rewarded when, right in front of me, it dived into the mud and wrestled an eel. The eel wrapped itself around the bittern's neck and it took nearly half an hour for the bird to kill and eat it. Absolutely phenomenal!