Dunedin/Hokitika ‘twitch’ – 5-7 July 2002
Well I have just returned from the cold south….the big twitch didn’t go quite as planned, but we covered just over 1500kms from Christchurch and had a pretty fun time. Nick Allen, Paul Scofield and myself left Christchurch about 1730 on Friday (5/7) evening and headed down to Dunedin. Very cold and some wet conditions down there.
First thing in the morning checked out Tomahawk Lagoon, and found, as the email from Nick on Thursday had stated, that the Franklin’s gull was not there. A biting cold wind was ripping across the lagoon and we checked out the local paddocks, beaches and ponds for any sign of the bird. No luck. We then headed into town and checked pretty much every playing field and park in Dunedin (including Carisbrook and the Oval), but to no avail. Hopefully it will turn up somewhere again, this time a little further north please!!
We then decided that Hokitika via Haast was going to be a very long option, so we headed north again towards Christchurch, stopping in at Ki-Wainono Lagoon by Waimate. Quite a lot of water, and a lot of waterfowl, mainly mallard, grey teal and shovelor, lots of black swans and feral geese also. At the northern end saw a sandpiper as it was flying off (either sharp-tailed or pectoral), and several banded dotterel. Also several spoonbill and 2 white heron could be seen at the southern end of the lagoon.
Headed on past Christchurch and then up towards Arthur’s Pass. We stayed Saturday night at the Bealey Hotel backpackers, pretty nice and affordable, and then headed towards Hokitika the following morning. Stopped briefly at Arthur’s Pass village to check for kea, and then through into the rain on the western side. Got to Hokitika about 0930 and located the Pacific heron (YAY!) in the same paddock it was discovered. As it was raining pretty heavily and the light was very dull, we headed into town for brekkie. Then back out to the site. I took a few shots of the bird, and the owner of the land, Fiona, came over and we had a chat. It seems the bird doesn’t move very far, using either the paddock with the Jersey cows in it or the bull paddock just a little further down. It has now been there for three weeks, and apparently looked very exhausted when it first arrived, but looks pretty settled and happy now. Appears to be an adult bird coming into breeding plumage (?) as it had the longish white plumes on the breast. The black spots down the front were sometimes quite indistinct – possibly also due to the rain and poor lighting. So a very nice bird and well worth the effort.
We then headed back towards Arthur’s Pass, checking out all the likely areas for kea in the Otira valley, Arthur’s Pass area. We stopped in at the Hawdon Valley and had a bit of a wander, as it was not raining. Nice spot in by Paterson’s Lodge. We had a bit of a wander around the beech forest and found tomtit, rifleman, brown creeper and grey warbler in the area by the lodge. Also heard robin and parakeet (most probably yellow-crowned). Really nice area and would be a good place to spend some time birding in drier warmer conditions.
Then carried on with the aim of going up to Porters Heights Ski-field – ahhhh!!! – chains required due to the icy road so no go!! So yet again I dipped on kea – this really is becoming embarrassing!! Carried on into Christchurch and headed for the Travis wetlands. We headed to the paddocks at the back of the wetland (get access to these from Mairehau Road, opposite Inwoods Road) and sure enough the glossy ibis was in the wet paddocks, right opposite the park bench where it is usually seen – very glossy!
Then headed to the visitor centre and had a quick look from the hide. Not much on the pond except a couple of scaup, shovelor and mallard. As we were leaving a council ranger had pulled up and was looking at a bittern just off the side of the road. It was only about 30m away and pretty much in the open, before it skulked off. Great views and the first I have seen in NZ for a long time.
So, all in all a pretty successful weekend. Some excellent birding and some great fun along the way!!