I landed in Auckland in the late morning to a perfectly fine sunny day. Hot even. If I could get to the harbour in time I was going to try for another whale trip because the one last year (in September) yielded precisely zero cetaceans. There was a bus outside the airport waiting to go, and handily enough it stopped in town directly across the road from the place I was staying, Princeton Apartments. This is a place that I guess you could best describe as somewhere you’d stay if you’re a tight-arse but not if you want somewhere, well, nice. Anyway, with bag stowed, I shot off down Queen Street to the harbour where I was just in time for the boat. Last year’s one was a bit of a flop to put it mildly. No whales, no dolphins, not even any stops for seabirds. This time was much better. The first birds I got ID views of were gannets and Buller’s and fluttering shearwaters. Then a pod of common dolphins turned up so the boat stopped, enabling me to get some better bird views, with flesh-footed shearwater, grey-faced petrel and common diving petrel all added to the bag. Oh,
and some common dolphins too. Mustn’t forget them I guess. I even bothered to take some photos of them! Quite a few pods of dolphins were about that day; no Bryde’s whales unfortunately, but maybe next time.
The plan for the next day was going to be Tiritiri Matangi if the weather looked good, or the Mangere Wastewater Treatment Plant if not. Last year I stayed on Tiritiri for three nights and it was awesome; this trip I only had time for a day-trip. In the morning I looked out the window and saw blue in one direction and grey in the other. Fifty/fifty. I decided to bet on the rain holding off, and chose to go to Tiritiri. Bad decision. The rain held off right up to the point where we set foot on the island, and then it just bucketed down. I headed straight for the brown teal pond, the “always” reliable site for spotless crake. Last visit the water levels were too high and I never saw a crake – this time the water level was too low!! The pond had recently been dredged out to increase its size and all that remained was
a shallow puddle at the bottom as it refilled. There were of course no brown teal on the pond either.
There was no point hanging around the pond so I headed for the Wattle Track to find kokako (which I did not succeed at). Despite the absence of crakes and kokako most of the other birds were out in droves, especially the brown quail which were practically underfoot at every turn of the path. It wasn’t long however before the force of the rain sent me up to the reception building at the top of the island where hot coffee and a roof awaited. I felt pretty stupid having just paid $66 for the ferry over here and then doing nothing but sit inside, but the rain really was that bad, the sort of rain where a raincoat doesn’t actually keep you dry. Or maybe I need a new raincoat. It wasn’t long before the room was filled with everybody else from the ferry as well, all looking like survivors of a shipwreck, and it started getting a bit crowded for me. I’m a birder, dammit, not some kind of social butterfly! So I manned up, put
my coat back on, and strode forth into the tempest. The takahe which usually hang out around the lighthouse weren’t out today, sensibly enough, but their smaller and stupider cousins the pukeko were everywhere.
I made my way back to the Wattle Track where there were still no kokako. But I did find a morepork, out in the daytime, in the rain, like a moron. A bit like me really. This may have even been the same morepork I photographed last year in the daytime because it was only about 30 metres away from that spot. I took literally no photos on this day incidentally because there was just too much rain. However I did reach that rare state of peace you get when birding when you are just so wet/muddy/covered in leeches/insert any other condition here that you just don’t care any more because you pretty much can’t get any
more wet/muddy/covered in leeches/insert any other condition here than you are already, so you can just get on with the day instead of feeling miserable about it. Of course as soon as you reach that place the rain clears away and you’re just left sopping wet
spotless crake (Porzana tabuensis)
photo taken at the museum, because I didn't see a live one....
and mildly hypothermic but never mind.
Some extra birds seen before leaving were a couple of little blue penguins in a nest-box (with a lid you can lift to see if anyone is home!) and some eastern rosellas on the beach. Non-bird highlight: eagle rays feeding on the sea floor under the jetty!!
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