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WINGS Birding Tours – Narrative

New Zealand: Island Endemics and Seabirds

2005 Tour Narrative

The January 2005 New Zealand tour presented itself through birds and sensational weather in a manner that would rank a “10” on anyone’s trip list. Our eyes feasted upon three endemic families, three species of penguin, five species of albatross (including six subspecies that may gain full species rank in the future), seven species of cormorant (including the world’s rarest shag), and the world’s rarest wader.

From the time that we met in Auckland, when the tide was perfect for our first sightings of the wader with the bent bill, Wrybill, and New Zealand Dotterels, to beach walks for views of the rare subspecies of Fairy Tern and a nighttime appearance of Morepork, following a delicious dinner at Te Kauri with Chris and Karen Gaskin, each birding experience seemed to be followed by a successive better one. Tiritiri Matangi and Little Barrier Islands offered examples of what New Zealand was like before the introduction of mammalian predators as Stitchbirds, Whiteheads and Kokakos were repeatedly sighted during our visits. And, the Hauraki Gulf demonstrated the richness of the pelagic side of New Zealand as the recently rediscovered New Zealand Storm-Petrel was enjoyed by all as were Blue Noddies, Fluttering Shearwaters, acrobatic White-faced Storm-Petrels and Cook’s Petrels on the calm seas during our all-day pelagic.

Winding our way through the North Island, a “native’ Kokako received accolades, while later, New Zealand Falcons made their first appearance of the trip. A nighttime visit to see glow worms in the Waitomo Caves achieved a special significance following our “sighting’ of David Attenborough in the hotel restaurant. Long-tailed Cuckoos with their distinctive flight profile were as enjoyable as the antics of Tomtits and New Zealand Robins.

Our ferry crossing to the South Island prepared us for further exploration of the waters that surround this country of the Long White Cloud. A trip to White Rocks in the Malborough Sound was successful with superb views of King Shags while our first pelagic out of Kaikoura was deemed as one defying superlatives as albatrosses astounded us by their proximity to the boat. White-capped and Salvin’s races of Shy Albatross offered side-by-side study views, Northern and Southern Royal Albatrosses circled us and Hutton’s Shearwaters flashed the distinctive darker underwing coverts that distinguish them from Fluttering Shearwaters. An optional whale-watching trip was highlighted with sightings of both Sperm Whale and the seldom-encountered Arnoux’s Beaked Whale.

Black Stilt was one of our highlight birds in the MacKenzie Basin with Mount Cook serving as a scenic backdrop to the braided rivers this rare species favors. None of us will forget the performances of Fernbirds during our stop before the ferry crossing to Stewart Island. Along our route, whether relaxing in family-owned hotels or sampling exotic meat pies, we were constantly treated to New Zealand hospitality and uniqueness as we birded the country in comfort.

Stewart Island may take the title of nature’s paradise on the trip as a Southern Brown Kiwi, spotlighted by a nearly full moon on a deserted beach, took any sting out of the muddy trek across the island. The weather cooperated fully with calm seas allowing us to circumnavigate Stewart Island during our daylong charter, a first even for Chris. With eager eyes searching land and sea, we sighted species that we had not dared hope for including Fiordland Crested Penguin and Antarctic Tern in addition to thousands of Sooty Shearwaters, Mottled Petrels and numerous albatrosses during the day. Ulva Island once again demonstrated a side of New Zealand that once was and, with the help of dedicated conservationists, is once again becoming as Wekas roamed freely and a Yellowhead and Brown Creepers made their presence known as we walked the trails in the lush forest.

The Milford Road offered eye-filling scenery that changed with each curve along the road. South Island (Rock) Wren became a star performer against a postcard-perfect scenic backdrop while our night spent on the comfortable Milford Mariner offered a side to the fiords of New Zealand that few visitors experience. All too soon, we retraced our route by air, enjoying the rugged scenery and coastline of this diverse country as images of our birding experience were replayed in our memories. And all would agree that a combination of exploration of New Zealand by land and sea offers an unforgettable and unique birding experience.

WINGS, THE MUSICAL (to the tune of “My Favorite Things’)

Rifleman, Bellbird, Pukeko and Kiwi, New Zealand Pigeon and Stitchbird and Tui. You never know what the new day may bring, That’s what you get when you travel with WINGS.

(chorus) When you’re seasick, when your feet hurt, When you’re feeling sad, You simply remember your favorite birds And then you don’t feel so bad.

Fernbirds, Gerygones,Yellow-eyed Penguins Morepork and Fantails and New Zealand Falcons. Wake in the morning to a Tui who sings, That’s what you get when you travel with WINGS—

(chorus) When you’re seasick, when your feet hurt When you’re feeling sad, You simply remember your favorite birds And then you don’t feel so bad.

Kakas and Keas are really big Parrots, Drive through a town with two gigantic carrots. Being chauffered “round and eating like Kings That’s what you get when you travel with WINGS.

(chorus) When you’re seasick, when your feet hurt When you’re feeling sad, You simply remember your favorite birds And then you don’t feel so bad.

Thanks to Jim McVoy & Susan McVoy for this rendition of “My Favorite Things’.

Judy Davis

Created: 28 March 2006