Well, the end of Brent’s tour a few days ago marks the end of our 2018-19 summer season! It has been our biggest season to date, with nine 21-day tours, and a number of shorter custom tours throughout the season. It has certainly kept us and our guides busy for the summer, out there doing what we love, and that is showing New Zealand and it’s amazing birds to our clients. Of course there is a huge amount of behind the scenes work, and that will be the focus of the next few months and leading up to later this year, setting up all the accommodation, boat charters, making sure our plans are in place, and of course communicating with all our future clients, and responding to information requests from new prospective clients. There is always a lot to do!
With the season now complete though, it is a chance to reflect on what we are seeing around New Zealand. It is always interesting to see our clients reactions to seeing iconic birds in the flesh. For example, black stilt, a species we have pretty good success at showing people, but one which numbers less than 200 individuals in the wild. Despite massive conservation management over the last 30-40 years, this bird just holds on. Hard to believe that with so few birds, we can deliver this to hopeful birders, but what for the future, what if that intense management were to stop tomorrow? Would we be as lucky in 10 years? Not something we want to think about really. But then there are changes happening out there with other species that we have ‘confidently expected’ to show our clients. Yellow-eyed penguin is a species we have been relatively confident of showing our clients over the last 17 years since we started Wrybill Birding Tours, NZ. Yet, this year we had cause for concern, and the future for this species at least on Mainland New Zealand, really doesn’t look that secure. Both avian malaria and diphtheria are causing issues with the population, and although we did see yellow-eyed penguins on all of our tours, it is cause for concern. So too is the plight of the New Zealand fairy tern – a bird either considered as a species or sub-species depending on your taxonomic view. Which ever, even if you consider the New Zealand birds to be a sub-species, the species as a whole is listed as Vulnerable, and declining throughout its range, numbering less than 10,000 individuals in total, throughout Australia, New Zealand and New Caledonia. With less than ten breeding pairs, and only two chicks surviving to fledging this season, the bird is in serious trouble. Our early 2019 tours got to see one of these pairs feeding one of these fledglings, but for how many more years will our tours be as lucky?
There are many endemic species throughout New Zealand that are doing much better, and it is not all doom and gloom. But it is difficult to be in such a period of enlightenment about the conservation and environmental issues we face, not only in New Zealand, but Globally, and yet to realise there are species which are hanging on by only a thread. In some cases a thread that seems to be growing ever weaker. This is certainly not something Sav and Brent expected to face, when they started guiding less than two decades ago. Hopefully, showing these rare and special birds to birders from around the World helps to promote the threats and difficulties these, and many more species, face. It is only by seeing what we have that we can truly understand what it is we might lose. Thank you so very much to all of our clients that have chosen to travel with us this summer, and before. We really appreciate having the opportunity to show you New Zealand and its very special birds!
from Brent, Sav, Phil, Matt and Neil