A Travellerspoint blog

January 2014


overcast 60 °F

Today was my only full day in Wellington, the capital of New Zealand. I spent the majority of the day schooling, touring around the city, swimming in the hotel pool, and eating.

Then, at seven o'clock, my dad and I left the hotel to start on the quest for the kiwi, part two. We walked to the bus stop and saw that the bus was about to pull away, so I sprinted faster than I have ever ran before and we managed to catch the bus. With help from a friendly guy sitting next to us, we got off at the stop for Zealandia Wildlife Preserve. Then, we took a quick walk in a nearby jungle and waited at the entrance of the preserve for the tour to begin.

Zealandia Wildlife Preserve is a sanctuary dedicated to restoring over two-hundred acres of native bush to its former state before the arrival of man to ane Zealand. They have done intensive restoration projects, including setting up a pest-free fence surrounding the protected area, trapping all nonnative pests that are detrimental to the ecosystem (cats, stoats, rats, etc.), and clearing out all invasive plants and bush. Then, they introduced nearly every native plant and animal species found in the Wellington area before the arrival of man, to the two hundred acres. The effect is amazing, and the native wildlife has simply abounded there!

Our tour started off with being given flashlights (they call them torches here in New Zealand) and headsets to help us hear our guide. Our group of about fifteen people then proceeded into a small exhibit explaining the preserve, and then we started on our journey. Common birds seen and heard throughout the tour were KAKA, PARADISE SHELDUCK, PIED SHAG, MOREPORK, MALLARD, GREY DUCK, and BROWN TEAL. It was especially a treat to see the Brown Teal since they are an endangered species.

Our first stop was to admire some PARADISE SHELDUCKS along the predator-free fence. The females in this species are more attractive than the males, which is an oddity for avian species. Here is a picture of the one female present amongst the gaggle of male shelducks:

Then we visited a colony of nesting PIED SHAGS. A BLACK SHAG was also seen among the others.

Pied Shag:

Next, our guide stopped us at a certain part of the trail, told us that they had laid out bait for kiwi along the area, and we waited. Then, after a single minute of waiting, an insanely cute, furry little creature came bouncing down the path toward us. It was a LITTLE SPOTTED KIWI! The BEST bird I have EVER seen! It then proceeded to forage for the bait set out near our group, allowing for photos. Note that it was dark by the time we saw this bird and the guide didn't allow flash photography, so these are the best quality images I could get:

After that, the rest of the tour was pleasant but not as exciting. A few other nice highlights of the tour included a second sighting of a different LITTLE SPOTTED KIWI and two more kiwis singing throughout the night. Also seen were amazing glow-worms and an odd reptile that is extremely rare, a Tuatara. Here are the pictures:

Glow worm. The glow worm is the microscopic dot of light just to the left of the center of the photo.


It was the best day of birding I have ever had. A bird-of-the-day award is too undistinguished for the Little Spotted Kiwis I saw today, so I will award it my bird-of-my-life award. Before this it was a Cerulean Warbler, and before that it was a Snowy Owl. It will be pretty tough to knock this bird off of first place!

Tomorrow we take a ferry from Wellington to the South Island, so we will be saying our goodbyes to the North Island of New Zealand. What an adventure it has been so far!

Good kiwi-ing,

World Life List: 498 Species (2 new life birds today)

Posted by skwclar 02:42 Archived in New Zealand Comments (2)

Day 17: Martinborough to Wellington

semi-overcast 62 °F

Today we drove from the quaint town of Martinborough to Wellington, the capital of New Zealand (Auckland is a larger city even though Wellington is the capital).

Our first major stop along the way was a beautiful three-hour hike in a national reserve. It first went through a "city of rock pinnacles", which was a beautiful and other-worldly sight. Then, it switch-backed up a high bluff near there and came out at a magnificent lookout. From the lookout, you could see the entire city of pinnacles from above instead of from below like before. You could also see the surrounding bluffs, Cook's Strait, which forms the gap between the South and the North Islands, and our first glimpse of the many snow-capped mountains of the South Island. Birds seen along the trail included WELCOME SWALLOWS and NEW ZEALAND PIGEONS. Here are some photos from the trail:

The pinnacles and interesting rock formations from below:

NEW ZEALAND PIGEON, the only bird of the day which allowed for photo ops:

The view from the lookout:

Our next and final stop on the drive was at a certain cape which happened to be one of the most southerly points in the North Island. It is funny to think about the fact that just about a week and a half ago we were at the most northerly point in New Zealand. Some birds seen around the point included VARIABLE OYSTERCATCHERS, RED-BILLED and KELP GULLS, YELLOWHAMMERS, WELCOME SWALLOWS, AUSTRALASIAN HARRIERS, and SPUR-WINGED PLOVERS, none of which allowed for photo ops! I saw many seals and sea lions around, so I took a bounty of photographs of them. Here are the best ones:

Bird-of-the-day today to the NEW ZEALAND PIGEON which was the only bird to allow me to photograph it today.

Tomorrow is our only full day in Wellington. My highlight of the day will probably be going on a personal guided night tour at a local preserve to see Little Spotted Kiwis in the wild. I am SO excited!

Good birding,

World Life List: 496 Species (no new life birds today)

Posted by skwclar 15:13 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Day 16: Hawke's Bay to Martinborough

sunny 70 °F

Sorry I haven't posted in a while; the wifi has been absolutely atrocious lately.

Today we drove from Napier in the famous Hawke's Bay, to Martinborough, a very far outskirt of Wellington, New Zealand. Many common birds were seen from the car such as AUSTRALASIAN HARRIER, SPUR-WINGED PLOVER, WHITE-FACED HERON, YELLOWHAMMER, and AUSTRALIAN MAGPIE.

Our first major stop along the way was at a small bird sanctuary on the side of the ocean. I saw a few birds, including the ones pictured below as well as all three of New Zealand's Gull species.

Little Shag. This one was part of a nesting colony at the bird sanctuary.

Our next stop was at the summit of the beautiful Te Paku Peak. The top of the peak was cool and windy, so we didn't stay very long despite the mind-blowing views. After a few minutes, we retreated to the car and gobbled up a few delicious Subway sandwiches (we had two sandwiches to split between the whole family, of course I got a whole sandwich and the rest of my family had to share the other one. Ha!). Here's the view from the top of the mountain:

Our next stop was at the Mt. Bruce Wildlife Refuge. I saw a number of rare bird species in cages, including seeing two Brown Kiwi up close! Sorry, but I'm a birder, which means I do not, under any circumstances, take photos of birds in cages. Speaking of kiwi, in two days, I will take a guided night tour looking for kiwi...

Anyway, back to the wildlife refuge. I saw a number of nice wild birds, including a TUI, COMMON CHAFFINCH, and many KAKA, a marvelous maroon-colored parakeet species. We watched a park officer refill the Kaka feeders, and the Kaka were already waiting before the guy even filled them! They were aggressive and not shy at all. Here are the photos of those avian wonders:


Common Chaffinch


I also saw many eel in a stream on premises, none of which I got a good photo.

It was a fabulous stop!

By the time we arrived at our motel, it was early evening, so we spent a lazy rest of our day there. I got a new bird for New Zealand at the motel, a nice, albeit introduced COMMON REDPOLL.

Bird-of-the-day to the life bird KAKA; it was very pleasant to see so many of these gorgeous parakeets up close.

Good birding,

World Life List: 496 Species (2 new life birds today)

Posted by skwclar 15:05 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Day 15: Hawke's Bay

overcast 65 °F

Today we drove from Lake Taupo to Hawke's Bay, a famous wine-making region.

First of all, however, before we left I took a quick walk to Lake Taupo and snapped a photo of this gorgeous BLACK SWAN:

Other water-oriented birds seen were GREY DUCK, GREY TEAL, and a WHITE-FACED HERON.

Our first stop on the drive to Hawke's Bay was a pull-off to admire the far-away Ruapehu, the highest mountain in the North Island of New Zealand (but not the highest in the entire country). Even though it is the middle of the summer, it still has snow and ice on it, including the last of the North Island's alpine glaciers. All of the other glaciers and perennial snow bodies in New Zealand are found on the South Island. Here is a photo taken from afar of this magnificent mountain.

Our second stop was at a beautiful waterfall, the fourth major waterfall we have seen in New Zealand.

Our third and last stop of the day before arriving at our destination was at a small but nice fruit stand, where we bought a myriad of fresh New Zealand fruits. My dad determined there that apples don't only taste good in America.

Finally we arrived at Hawke's Bay. After a quick lunch, we split up. My parents checked in at the hotel while I watched Pearl at the playground and managed to sneak in some birdwatching at the same time. Some avian species seen included KELP, RED-BILLED, and BLACK-BILLED GULLS as well as TUI and LITTLE SHAGS. More common species were seen also, of course.

A beautiful Black-billed Gull, endangered species.

Kelp Gull, New Zealand's largest gull species.

Little Shags

We had a fancy dinner later that evening. I had a delicious chicken dish, with the succulent chicken wrapped in bacon and ham and stuffed with cheese and spinach. It was sprinkled with peppers and rosemary and was laid on a bed of mashed potatoes. Yum. My parents also enjoyed sampling the fine wines that Hawke's Bay is internationally known for.

Bird-of-the-day to the Black-billed Gull again. I like this gull species so much because it is an endangered species and yet so cooperative for photographs. I believe this is the third time it has won the bird-of-the-day award.

Tomorrow we drive to Martinborough. We are considerably further south in the North Island than where we were a week ago, and will continue to march our way south in North Zealand.

Good birding,

World Life List: 494 species (no new life birds today)

Posted by skwclar 23:55 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Day 14: The Drive to Lake Taupo

rain 68 °F

Today we drove to Lake Taupo (did you notice I didn't start this post with "hi all"? It was becoming too much of a personal cliche), the largest lake in New Zealand within the largest volcanic crater in the world (a sunken crater, of course). Quite the study of superlatives. Most of the day, however, was dominated by the drive and stops along the way. I just added the photos.

Our first three stops were at places with a great deal if geothermal activity. It looked very similar to some of the scenery at Yellowstone National Park last summer (and boy did it smell like it, too!). Everywhere it smelled acutely of sulphur. The first stop was at something called a "mudpot", which is exactly what it sounds like. A bunch of icky mud boiling up to the surface of the earth to form a big muddy bog. It was...interesting, and somehow mesmerizing to watch.

Our next stop was at a beautiful geyser called Lady Knox Geyser, a beautiful geyser that shot up about sixty feet in the air. The funny story behind this geyser is that it is man-made. A couple hundred years ago, the area around the geyser was a big prison. The prisoners discovered a "hot springs" and decided to wash their clothes in it. As soon as the soap touched the hot spring, it triggered an extreme geothermal reaction, and to their fright, hot water along with their clothes spewed sixty feet in the air. The geyser will not go off unless it is triggered, so a staff person at the nature preserve put a biodegradable soap-like material into the geyser vent, and within a minute, there was a major eruption. I thought that it was a very intriguing geyser.

Our third stop was a two-hour hike around a very active geothermal area, and we saw quite a variety of geothermal features such as mud pots, hot springs, multi-colored lakes, and inactive geysers.

The Devil's Bath. My father called it the "Devil's Urinal". Blugh.

My sister Pearl plugging her nose in an especially stinky area.

I saw a few nice birds on this hike including a PIED STILT which was in the middle of a very hot geothermal lake. It was eating insects that were caught in the hot water, although somehow the bird itself wasn't actually affected by the temperature.

Some other birds seen were NEW ZEALAND SCAUP, PARADISE SHELDUCK, BARBARY and SPOTTED DOVES, NEW ZEALAND FANTAIL, and a TOMTIT (again, the bird, not the breast).

New Zealand Fantail


Our last stop of the day was a viewpoint across a scenic valley facing a nice waterfall (this is the third major waterfall I have seen in New Zealand). It was very beautiful there.

After we arrived at our cottage near Lake Taupo, I took a walk around the lakefront. I saw some very nice waterbirds including LITTLE BLACK SHAG, GREY DUCK, GREY TEAL, NEW ZEALAND SCAUP, and a family of absolutely stunning BLACK SWANS.

Grey Duck Family

Leucistic Grey Duck. Leucism is an uncommon phase in animal species where there is an abnormal amount of white pigment present in the feathers of a certain bird, creating a "half-albino" look about the bird.

A beautiful family of Black Swans, with a Grey Duck tagging along just for fun.

Black Swan

New Zealand Scaup

Little Black Shag

Bird-of-the-day to the family of BLACK SWANS. They are so odd and yet still beautiful compared to the swans in North America.

Good birding,

World Life List: 494 (4 life birds today)

Posted by skwclar 23:41 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

(Entries 1 - 5 of 19) Page [1] 2 3 4 » Next