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