Sunday, 17 August 2014

A weekend in Wellington, NZ

I was visiting NZ for work-related meetings and presentations this week and took the opportunity to do a little wildlife watching and photography in and around Wellington.

After my last meeting the weather looked like it was breaking up so I headed north up to the Kapiti Coast.

Kapiti Island, from Queen Elizabeth Park, Paekakariki, NZ

Kapiti Island is renowned as a birdwatching location but without the time to organise my self to get there for a day trip (this to add to my growing wish list for NZ birding sites) I had to be satisfied with the 'mainland' at Queen Elizabeth Park. While the rain had stopped it was still VERY windy (surprise, surprise...) and there were not many birds viewable in the scrub and bushland in the park - lots of activity could be heard in amongst the foliage but nothing seemed willing to pop it's head out into the wind. The beach, however, was more productive with Southern Black-backed Gull (= Kelp Gull) and Variable Oystercatcher feeding on cockles. The gulls pick up a cockle, fly up to 10-15 meters above the ground and drop it, repeatedly until it breaks.

Southern Black-backed Gull (Kelp Gull)
Queen Elizabeth Park, Paekakariki, NZ

Most of the other flying was close to the water, obviously avoiding the worst of the wind.

Southern Black-backed Gull (= Kelp Gull),
Queen Elizabeth Park, Paekakariki, NZ

The oystercatchers have a different strategy, picking up a cockle and placing it in the shelly grit at the water's edge then pounding the shell with their bill until it cracks open.

Variable Oystercatcher,
Queen Elizabeth Park, Paekakariki, NZ

They also spent time just wandering up and down the beach.

Variable Oystercatcher,
Queen Elizabeth Park, Paekakariki, NZ

The weather was miserable (again) so rather than persisting with birding I decided to check out the lighthouse at Cape Palliser, the most southerly point on the NZ North Island.

Cape Palliser Lighthouse, NZ

Just before you get to the lighthouse, there's a large colony of New Zealand Fur Seals with many sitting right on the edge of the road (the following shots were taken out of the car window with a 70-200 and 50 mm lens!)

New Zealand Fur Seal
Cape Palliser, NZ

By mid-afternoon, the weather had improved (still windy but no rain) so I took a detour on the way back to Wellington to visit the Pauatahanui Wildlife Reserve. Not much about but I did get to see Paradise Shelduck close up.

Paradise Shelduck (female)
Pauahatanui Wildlife Reserve, NZ
Paradise Shelduck (male)
Pauahatanui Wildlife Reserve, NZ

as well as an adult and immature Pied Stilt (= Black-winged Stilt)

Pied Stilt (= Black-winged Stilt)
Pauahatanui Wildlife Reserve, NZ

and some ring-ins...

Feral Goose + Canada Goose
Pauahatanui Wildlife Reserve, NZ

Feral Geese are quite variable in their plumage but this one looks distinctly 'Canada Goosish'. Apparently this is a common hybridisation in North America and Europe so I suspect this is the case here.

I arrived back at the car park right on sunset and managed to spot a couple of chatty bush birds.

Silvereye, Pauahatanui Wildlife Reserve, NZ
New Zealand Fantail, Pauahatanui Wildlife Reserve, NZ

There is some argument that the New Zealand Fantail (Rhipidura fuliginosa) is synonymous with the Grey Fantail (Rhipidura albiscapa) in Australia but Christidis and Bowles (2008) list them separately.

Of course, with me about to leave the country, the weather was glorious - sunny, warm and very little wind - but I wasn't flying out of Wellington until Sunday afternoon so I spent the morning checking out the spectacular south coast of Wellington, particularly around Island Bay

Island Bay, Wellington, NZ

where cormorants (known locally as shags), gulls and oystercatchers dominate the rocky and sandy shoreline.

Southern Black-backed Gull (= Kelp Gull) 1st and 2nd year immatures
Island Bay, Wellington, NZ
Pied Shag (= Pied Cormorant)
Island Bay, Wellington, NZ
Variable Oystercatcher
Island Bay, Wellington, NZ

I also took the scenic drive around the Miramar Peninsula, east of Wellington Airport, and finally managed to spot a Tui (an endemic NZ honeyeater). I'd been hearing what I was assuming were Tui in various places for the last two days but they had proven very difficult to spot. It must have been the better weather that brought this one out (almost) into the open.

Tui, Miramar Peninsula, Wellington, NZ

and the final bird for the weekend was a close-up view of this New Zealand Kingfisher (a subspecies of the Sacred Kingfisher found across Australia, New Caledonia, Lord Howe, Norfolk and Kermadec Islands).

New Zealand Kingfisher (= Sacred Kingfisher)
Miramar Peninsula, Wellington, NZ

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