Published: February 26th 2012February 14th 2012
I haven't been posting anything of late because I haven't been anywhere since the last trip to Asia. Well, I have been somewhere - I moved to the busy metropolis of Hokitika on the West Coast of the South Island, so I figured that until I go do some "real" travelling again I may as well post short blogs whenever I go on nearby birding trips. This blog is about Picton where I went to see a king shag. If you're not from New Zealand (or are not a birder, in which case why are you even reading this?) "shag" is what we call cormorants. The king shag is a particularly rare endemic species, found only in the Marlborough Sounds. The total population is about 650 birds.
I took the Dolphin Watch Eco-tours' boat which includes a stop on Motuara Island. I asked at the office if there was a good chance of actually seeing the shags on this trip, and the reply was that there were quite a few birders on board today so they would be trying extra-specially hard to make sure we saw some. The boat is equipped with binoculars for use which is a thoughtful inclusion
-- especially because none of the other "birders" on board had any....
Because the shags are so rare, and because they don't actually nest inside Queen Charlotte Sound where the boat is, you don't see lots of them (well, you do see lots of spotted shags and pied shags and little pied shags), so I was happy with the two king shags I did see. The photos aren't any good, but the birds themselves look really nice in the flesh.
Motuara Island, where Cook claimed the South Island for England, has had various native birds reintroduced there. There's a track up to the top of the island but I just sat down by "the birdbath" (an artificial pond constructed to capture the water from a natural seep) and waited for the birds to show up. There were loads of bellbirds, and after a while a juvenile saddleback, a couple of robins, and then a couple of yellow-crowned kakariki as well.
I was hoping for some cetaceans on the boat trip back to Picton (they regularly see Hector's and bottlenose dolphins, sometimes killer whales, infrequently common dolphins, and very seldom dusky dolphins) but I was out of luck
with any of them.
And that's the end of that. Look at the photos. (p.s. I hate the way Travelblog sets out its pages now, it is so easy to miss all the photos that have been posted on a blog entry)
There are more photos below