Saturday, 26 November 2016

20th November 2016 - Ruddy Turnstones

The ruddy turnstone is a shore bird that you never have any problem identifying. It's bright orange legs and unusual patterning makes it unmistakable. They turn up in ones and twos at Foxton Beach each year and stay for short periods of time. This non-breeding adult was foraging along the shore line and I watched it do battle with a crab for a while. Fabulous.

Ruddy Turnstone (Arenaria interpres)

Friday, 18 November 2016

19th November 2016 - it's that time of year again

In the second half of November, we are hopefully saying goodbye to changeable weather and looking forward to long, warm summer days. And that means only one thing, lots of fledglings. The starlings nesting above my head in my roof, haven't ejected their young ones yet but judging by the amount of noise they make, it won't be long. However, around Foxton Beach you can often hear the plaintive cry of young birds wanting to be fed. 

This week a nice man kindly stopped his car in the middle of the road to accommodate my photographing 3 welcome swallows waiting patiently for their parents. He (and my ever obliging greyhound) patently thought I was a bit odd. Lucky he didn't see me trying to impersonate a white-faced heron so the chicks would look down at me from their fir-top perch! 

In the small stand of trees next to the motor camp (see post on October 16th), I have noticed a lot of white-faced heron activity. Unfortunately, you may know where birds are nesting but seeing them is another story. So I was thrilled this week to see 2 young herons precariously wobbling about high up in the firs. 

Welcome Swallow (Hirundo neoxena)

White-faced Heron (Egretta novaehollandiae

Friday, 11 November 2016

12th November 2016 - Little Tern

I was walking on the beach early evening and saw a bird flash along the shoreline. Nothing remarkable about that, but there is. For the most part bird identification is pretty straightforward. My mum was very impressed when I confidently identified a far away white blob as a spoonbill. Easy, because that is pretty much all it can be. Over the years watching birds in New Zealand I am tuned to spot things that are different, a shape, colour or movement. That is when the excitement starts.

So, when I saw a white tern-shaped bird fly past me I new it was special because it was too small to be our most common tern, the white-fronted. I didn't see it again until a couple of days later when I was scanning the shoreline and saw it. Obviously a small tern, it now gets tricky because my identification of NZ birds might be good but these rarities, especially waders, are much more difficult. Only one thing for it - photographs.

Once I have photographs, if I still can't identify the bird I put it on the local bird forum and ask for help. I plumped for a white-winged black tern as I have seen them once or twice at Foxton Beach. Of course, it was the other possible tern - the little tern.

I spent much of the next day sitting quietly on the beach as the tide pushed the waders towards me. The little tern sat near to the white-fronted terns and flew along the shoreline. It was still quite gloomy but I was pretty happy with my photos. When I have good quality images I submit them to the national bird encyclopaedia and if they are good enough they are uploaded to the site. Great that these were.

Saturday, 5 November 2016

5th November 2016 - in search of mynas

Growing up in central England and then moving to Wellington, I have been unfamiliar with mynas regarding them as a tropical, exotic bird. Since I have been in New Zealand, I have seen them in the top half of the North Island at times and although I know they are classed as being invasive pests I can't help but be glad to see them.

In NZ, mynas are only seen in the warmer northern parts of the North Island so I was very surprised (nearly crashing the car surprised) when I saw a couple of them in Foxton recently. Foxton is the local metropolis to Foxton Beach and I spent yesterday morning driving around, looking for the mynas. I found a reasonable population and got a few photos, although it was quite gloomy. 

Common myna (Acridotheres tristis)

Thursday, 3 November 2016

4th November 2016 - the black shag (phalacrocorax carbo)

After getting home today, I bundled the dog (aged greyhound) into the car and drove round to the beach. The dog had a good run but the tide was out so the waders were a bit distant. On the way home along Seabury Avenue, the road runs between some small pools and sitting on the edge of one was a stunning black shag. The biggest of the common shag species in New Zealand, they are often tricky to get close to. I crept up to it in the car (greyhound breathing down my neck) and rattled off a couple of shots before it flew away. I think it is in breeding colours as the eye and facial colourings are bright and the crest is full. The giveaway with black shags is a white patch on the thigh. 

Black shag (Phalacrocorax carbo)

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Foxton Beach Flashback - January 2013

Foxton Beach is one of the best places on the west coast of the North Island to see waders. Pretty much every year an oddity turns up. Now, when I say oddity, I mean for New Zealand. If you go to the coast in Australia, you can see a large variety of waders regularly. Here, it is more challenging. For example, I have been birding at Foxton Beach for 6-7 years and have seen the following birds only once. You might think it is frustrating  but I think you just have to get excited when you see new things. And this was a good day - 2 new species at once! 

Common Greenshank (Tringa nebularia)

Marsh Sandpiper (Tringa stagnatilis)

Sunday, 30 October 2016

16th October - not just on the beach

Today I walked a little inland from the estuary. There is a little stand of trees next to some small pools that regularly turn up interesting birds.

On the ponds were some Australasian shovelers, grey teal and mallards. The teal and shoveler are more tolerant of people here and it was good to get close to them, even in the fading light. The mallards had several ducklings which they fussed over, the same as the world over.

Australasian shoveler (Anas rhynchotis)

Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)

The highlight of the evening though, was a white-faced heron landing on top of a tall tree. They are nesting nearby and you can see them during the day circling and squawking away. They never look very elegant when they are in trees.
White-faced heron (Egretta novaehollandiae)

Thursday, 27 October 2016

14th October - My first exciting find

I am always thinking about when the tide is on it's way up the beach as this is the best time to see the waders. So I found myself at dusk, just having a quick look along the shoreline. You get to know New Zealand birds, their shapes, colours and habits so when I saw something in the distance that looked a little darker and smaller than the surrounding wrybill, I was excited. Once my lens was on it, I could see that it was something different. I thought, and confirmed later, that it was a red-necked stint. You just never know what might turn up along this beach.

Red-necked Stint (Calidris ruficollis)

Further along the beach towards the sand spit was a solitary royal spoonbill. I can never quite get over the fact that I live somewhere that spoonbills live. They seem so exotic. They are truly royal.

Royal Spoonbill (Platalea regia)

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

2nd October - Sunset

There is pretty much nothing between the west coast of the North Island and Australia. At certain times of the year we may catch a glimpse of the South Island but really it is just ocean. Does provide for a rather beautiful sunset though.

And it is not just birds that enjoy the beach. My 10 year old greyhound is reliving his racing days. Not a bad impersonation of a kangaroo!

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

30th September - Meet the godwits

My first real visit to the beach and I was looking forward to seeing the godwits. These incredible birds are the marathon runners of the bird world flying extreme distances every year. In New Zealand, when they arrive it is a sign of warmer months coming so they are celebrated when they are here and mourned when they leave.

Bar-tailed godwit (Limosa lapponica)

As I watch the birds being pushed up the beach, this bird looked a bit put out at having to move and steadfastly refused to lower its second leg from roosting position.

Resident on the beach are small numbers of Caspian terns. They are the largest tern species and have a distinct squawky call in flight. These birds are in non-breeding plumage with white flecks in their cap. The bird on the left is a youngster crying to the parent (unsuccessfully) for food.

Caspian tern (Hydroprogne caspia)

The white-faced heron is pretty shy so getting close to it can be a bit tricky. Luckily in Foxton Beach, there is a sand spit where the birds roost and across from that is the walkway along the estuary. With luck and a good lens, you can get pretty good images.

White-faced heron (Egretta novaehollandiae)

My last find of the day was the adorable wrybill. The only bird in the world that has a laterally curved bill. During the winter months, they scamper up and down the shore using that bill to dig up food. 

Wrybill (Anarhynchus frontalis)

Monday, 24 October 2016

2nd September - Welcome to Foxton Beach

Arriving in Foxton Beach and my first look around. This view is at the end of my road looking east along the Manawatu river towards the Tararua ranges.

My first bird spotted! Looking west along the river, the tide leaves small streams. This white-faced heron (Egretta novaehollandiae) is a native that self introduced from Australia in the mid 20th century. It is our most prolific heron.