Sunday, 1 May 2016

A Wrybill or two (thousand)

After yesterday morning photographing Gannets at the Muriwai Gannet Colony, I spent this morning at the Miranda Shorebird Centre. Most of the Arctic migratory waders had gone but the real target species for the trip was to photograph Wrybill - small endemic New Zealand plovers with a uniquely sideways bending beak (allegedly always to the right). I had never managed to see these birds before so was looking forward to an encounter. I checked the tides and was happy to see that high tide was early afternoon, which would give me enough to time get to Miranda (about an hour's drive south of Auckland on the Thames estuary), visit the Miranda visitor centre and after the compulsory t-shirt purchase, check out the hides overlooking the tidal mudflats. So far, all was going to plan. What I did not check, though, was the tidal height. It was a neap tide (the lowest high tides in the tidal cycle) so even at its highest point, the water did not cover the mudflats in front of the hide so all the birds remained hundreds of metres away. However, you make the best of what you find so I settled in and scanned the mudflats to see if I could at least find a few Wrybill among the small wading birds pottering around the mudflats.

As I was about to give up, a flock of waders wheeled over the distant sand bar towards the hide

Wrybill, Miranda Shorebird Centre, New Zealand
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8, ISO 800, f/5.6, 1/1600
Wrybill, Miranda Shorebird Centre, New Zealand
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8, ISO 800, f/5.6, 1/1600

and settled along the small channel in the centre of the mudflats, about 250 metres away.

Wrybill, Miranda Shorebird Centre, New Zealand
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8, ISO 800, f/4, 1/2500

Closer inspection confirmed them to be Wrybill - it is just possible to see the characteristic black 'necklace' on some birds and, if you use your imagination, a few appear to have curved bills. So, mission accomplished, I have now seen and photographed this species, albeit at a distance. The flock apparently numbers about 2600 birds - I didn't count them myself, but feel free to have a try in the photograph below :-)

Wrybill, Miranda Shorebird Centre, New Zealand
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8, ISO 800, f/5.6, 1/6400 (stitched panorama)

There were also lots of birds flying past and overhead but the only half decent shot I got was this pair of Pied Stilts aka (in Australia) as Black-winged Stilt,

Pied Stilt (Black-winged Stilt), Miranda Shorebird Centre, New Zealand
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (+ 1.4x adaptor), ISO 800, f/8 1/1000

which could also be seen more closely, feeding in the ponds alongside the road (this one was photographed through a fence from the car window).

Pied Stilt (Black-winged Stilt), Miranda Shorebird Centre, New Zealand
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (+ 1.4x adaptor), ISO 800, f/8 1/1600

Now, to plan a trip back to Auckland in summer and at a good high tide...

2 comments:

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