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The traveling Najade is traveling II

Discussion in 'New Zealand' started by Najade, 16 Oct 2017.

  1. Najade

    Najade Well-Known Member

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    Location:
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    As I'm now back from my recent trip(s) around the country I decided to create another travel thread.

    Itinerary:
    Tiritiri Matangi

    Queenstown
    Te Anau
    Milford Sound
    Invercargill/Bluff
    Catlins
    Dunedin
    Oamaru
    Christchurch
    Kaikoura
    Arthur's Pass
    Punakaiki
    Havelock
    Wellington
    Palmerston North
    Napier

    If I do any other smaller weekend trips before I leave the country I'll just add them on here. The style will probably be the same as in my last thread.
     
  2. Najade

    Najade Well-Known Member

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    Location:
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    Prelude - Tiritiri Matangi (Day 1)
    Foreword: I hadn't really planned on going to Tiritiri as the ferry price is just ridiculous ($70+ for a one hour ride from Auckland, or $50+ for a twenty(!) minute ride from Gulf Harbour), but as it was looking increasingly unlikely for my South Island trip to happen at the time I decided to go after all.
    The thing about NZ is that everything is worth about half as much as you are asked to pay, which is true for every part of this upcoming trip report. So I'll put it out there now and try not to complain about prices too much during the rest of my writings :fingerscrossedforgoodintentions:

    This time I wasn't alone on my trip but had a friend/colleague (E.) of mine join me. I boarded the ferry in Auckland in hopes of seeing some tubenoses on the way (which I didn't, only some gannets) and she joined from Gulf Harbour. I had managed to pre-book the last available bed for the night, or so I thought, so I got to stay overnight and she didn't. It turned out that there were actually three free beds left that night and I got a room all to myself (well, kinda), but for some reason they weren't available onlineo_O

    Upon arrival I put my luggage in the provided car and we made our way to the Lighthouse area (where the bunkhouse is located) via Wattle Track to attend the "how to overnight"-talk.

    The birds I most wanted to see were Kokako, Takahe and Rifleman and to a lesser extent Little Spotted Kiwi, Whitehead and Stitchbird.
    Just about ten steps up the track we found our first Kokako sitting in a tree. Score.:D

    After the talk we tried to find the Takahes that are supposed to be around at the Lighthouse area but only found Pukekos. Another thing we did find was a Fernbird under some bushes close to the shop. We made our way up the East Coast Track, then via Fishermans Bay Track and Ridge Road (saw two more Kokakos; one walking and feeding in the middle of the road) towards Kawerau Track and back down to Hobbs Beach.

    Tuis and Bellbirds were everywhere to the point that we started ignoring them after about half an hour and even Saddlebacks came close to being put in that category. While not as common Robins, Whiteheads (horrible to photograph as they are always in shrubbery and don't keep still), Tomtits, Fantail, Kereru, Swallows and Quails were all easy to find. For Stitchbirds the feeders were the place to be.

    We were down at the wharf a bit early, so we decided to try again for the Takahe at the Lighthouse but were unlucky once more. Kakariki (which E. had most wanted to see) I saw only after she had left on the days return ferry on the way back to the lighthouse where I was invited by the other overnighters (a group) for a potluck dinner. Another score:D

    Animals seen:
    North Island Kokako
    Whitehead
    Stitchbird
    Fernbird

    North Island Robin
    North Island Saddleback
    Bellbird
    North Island Tomtit
    Red-crowned Kakariki
    Fantail
    Kereru
    Tui
    Australasian Harrier
    Pukeko
    Welcome Swallow
    Brown Quail
    +gulls, oystercatchers, gannets
    ...

    Animals not seen:
    Takahe
    Rifleman
    Grey Warbler
    Weta
    any Reptiles

    Next up:
    Spotlighting

     
    Last edited: 24 Oct 2017
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  3. Najade

    Najade Well-Known Member

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    Nightwalk
    After dinner six of us decided to go out spotlighting for Kiwis. The others had heard about one having a territory up the East Coast Track so that's where we headed off to. After a bit of a walk we found one and got a semi-good luck at it in the underbrush before it disappeared. After some more walking the others decided to go back to the spot to try again and I split and went off on my own. The birds are easiest to find by listening so the less noise without the others the better I thought. I made my way back to Kawerau Track but only found a Brown Teal on the way (they run of as soon as there's light on them so it's hard to get a good luck at 'em). The end of Kawerau (towards Hobbs Beach) and close to the toilets near the wharf yielded four Tuatara and two Little Penguins (one in the artificial nest box and one outside). On my way back I found another Kiwi (good view this time) just off Wharf Road and another two Teals one of which I got up close near the Visitor Centre. With both these birds it pays to spotlight for a short time, then when they move away, to off the light completely, wait for them to come back and repeat...

    After that I went back to the bunkhouse. The others were back as well but hadn't been as successful (they hadn't seen anything after going our separate ways). I went to bed in "my room", but got a roommate during the night, as she got driven out of her room by the snoring of another group member (which was still quite audible from our room...).

    As I forgot to mention it in the last post: staying overnight costs about $30 per night and the ferry tickets need to be booked on the phone as the online process doesn't allow for a differing return date.

    Animals seen:
    Little Spotted Kiwi

    Brown Teal
    Little Penguin
    Tuatara

    Next up:
    Day 2
     
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  4. Najade

    Najade Well-Known Member

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    Tiritiri Matangi (Day 2)
    The big goal for day two was finding a Takahe. As there were still none to be found around the lighthouse (others had seen them there, but they were definitely hiding from me) I made my way up Ridge Road to Ngati Paoa Track where I found a group of three at the intersection of the two tracks immediately. I spend a bit of time photographing them while walking backwards (as they were less skittish when I wasn't facing them directly) and then just explored some of the nooks and crannies I hadn't been to the previous day like Papakura Pa, Tiritiri Matangi Pa, etc.
    Not much to see there except for gulls and oystercatchers.
    On the way back I saw most of the other birds again, though no Kokakos that day and still no Riflemen (no one that I talked to had seen any on either day).

    On the way back to Auckland Harbour I met a birder from the States and we had a nice talk (again only gannets and no tubenoses).

    The tubenose situation on Tiritiri itself was pretty frustrating too, as there were differing accounts of whether there are any nesting on the island or not. Some sites on the internet say yes (even those are pretty vague about it) others no, the volunteers weren't sure (only knew of a place were they are trying to attract them with voice recordings but haven't had any luck yet), the information-signs at the DoC hut didn't help and I most definitely didn't see any. I still don't know if there would have been anything to look for, not to mention finding out if it was the right month or where to go...

    Animals seen:
    Takahe

    Whitehead
    Stitchbird
    North Island Robin
    North Island Saddleback
    Bellbird
    Red-crowned Kakariki
    Kereru
    Tui
    Pukeko
    Welcome Swallow
    +gulls, oystercatchers, gannets
    ...

    Animals not seen:
    Rifleman
    Grey Warbler
    Weta
    any Reptiles

    Next up:
    South Island
     
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  5. Najade

    Najade Well-Known Member

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    South Island - Foreword
    As I said before this trip almost didn't happen for various reasons (the main ones being: Kakapo, pelagics and money), but then stuff came together somewhat last minute (which meant that I wasn't as prepared as I usually like to be). The first lucky break for me was that a friend of mine had booked a flight to Queenstown, which he wasn't going to use after all, so I got to fly down for free (with luggage) and the other was that Jucy had a deal on south-to-north one-way rentals, which meant I got the car for $22 per day, no one-way fees, plus one free tank of fuel, one free night at their hostel in Christchurch and a free ferry-crossing from Picton to Wellington. All in all the trip went from 27.09. to 09.10. (Tiritiri was on the weekend before that.)

    I had been to South Island earlier in the year and done the west coast from Queenstown up to Nelson, so I wanted to do the rest this time around. I had a rough idea of where I wanted to go but changed my itinerary quite a bit during the trip (especially towards the end) which meant the re-planning ate up a lot of time on the road. I should like to thank Chlidonias at this point, because I used him as a bit of a travel guide and I'm sure he got sick of all my questioning.

    My lists mostly won't contain introduced species (like finches, blackbirds, etc.) because they weren't of interest to me and they are everywhere anyway.

    Day 1
    Queenstown

    I arrived, got my luggage, a lot of tourist brochures and my car. It had a big bump in the front that wasn't in the paperwork, which cost me some time as I had to find the person responsible for adding that and then drove into town. I found a parking spot at the lake where I saw some grebes and ducks. The city itself I was done with in the matter of maybe an hour: I wasn't looking to do any of the extreme-sports/adventure stuff, nor was I willing to pay a ridiculous amount of money for the zoo's uninteresting collection, and there's not much else. If you're super into gulls Queenstown is the town for you though.
    Before I left I went to the Ferg Bakery which was good (thai curry pie:)) and then headed off for a quick detour to Arrowtown.

    Animals seen:

    Great Crested Grebes
    Black-billed Gulls
    smaller grebe
    ducks


    Arrowtown

    The museum had an entry fee and was open only for one more hour, so I decided to just walk around for a bit, buy something to drink for the road and then headed back south.
    It's a nice enough little town, if you're into that sort of thing, but there's really not much there.


    Te Anau Wildlife Centre

    My last stop for the day was Te Anau Wildlife Centre, which has a small native bird collection. It is open 24/7 as it's not fenced off, so you can still go when the rest of New Zealand has closed down early (as they do). The Brown Teal enclosure was interesting but doesn't lend itself to actually seeing the ducks and the Morepork aviary was a bit on the small side but other than that it was nice enough.

    Animals seen:
    s. species list


    As on my Aussie-trip I just slept on the backseat of my car to save the $25-30 for a hostel.

    Next up:
    Milford Sound
     
    Last edited: 29 Oct 2017
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  6. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

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    It's worth noting that the Black-billed Gull is the rarest gull in the world. They mainly breed on rivers, and are common in the inland towns like Queenstown and Tekapo.

    What did the "smaller grebe" in Queenstown look like? The only grebe there is the Great Crested Grebe, so if it was one of the small species (New Zealand Dabchick, Australian Little Grebe, or Hoary-headed Grebe) it would be well out of range, or an Australian vagrant.
     
  7. Najade

    Najade Well-Known Member

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    Never got a good enough look to identify it properly.
     
  8. Najade

    Najade Well-Known Member

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    Day 2
    Milford (Sound) Fjord

    Milford is about a two hour drive from Te Anau. I made my way up there early in the morning because I had booked one of the ferry cruises, the Jucy one. They had a deal going and because I had one of their rental cars I got another 50% discount on that, so I ended up paying $22. To me, looking back, that's about what the tour is worth and what should be the normal price. How they can justify prices upwards of $70 is beyond me.
    The boat was nice enough. I started out on the upper deck but went to the front after a while. They take you close to some waterfalls and stop for wildlife, which in our case was a Penguin and the obligatory Fur Seals. I didn't get a picture, because my camera had decided not to work again that day and they were too far for my phone.
    When we came back I had a quick look around the woods, but only saw a Kea and some Bellbirds.
    Driving back I had a quick stop at the Chasm and then went on to Homer's Tunnel, where there were three Keas on either side of it. I stopped at the car park to look for Rock Wrens after I had convinced two of those Keas to leave my car alone.
    I didn't see any Wrens and then it started raining. After about two hours the rain still hadn't stopped so I decided to drive off (a mistake in hindsight as that didn't really buy me any time for other activities). About a 45 minute drive later the rain cleared up (of courseo_O) which allowed me a dry stop at Mirror Lakes where I saw a Robin, Tomtit and a bunch of Scaups.

    Animals seen:
    New Zealand Fur Seal
    Fjordland Crested Penguin
    Seagulls
    Bellbird
    Kea
    Tomtit
    South Island Robin
    Scaup

    Animals not seen:
    Rock Wren


    Queen's Park, Invercargill

    From Te Anau to Invercargill was another two hour drive and after refueling I went to Queen's Park. Most of the animals are still visible late. Only the walkthrough aviary and some of the walkways in the farm animal section were closed off.
    Don't really have anything to say about the place (it's free and it's not bad) but I'll upload some pictures as soon as we get a gallery for it.

    Animals seen:

    s.species list


    After that I drove to Bluff for another sleep in my car.

    Next up:
    Bluff
     
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  9. Najade

    Najade Well-Known Member

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    Day 3
    Bluff

    I started of the day at Bluff Hill Lookout hoping to maybe see some tubenoses out at sea, but only got the usual assortment of gulls and terns (and some bushbirds on the way). It was the same from Stirling Point.

    Before the trip I had hoped to be able to go on a pelagic trip from Stewart Island but none of the three or four companies I talked to had any other bookings and as they only operate with minimum numbers of three to four people as a solo traveler I was s*** out of luck if I didn't want to pay $350+ for a three hour outing.
    A return ticket for the ferry to Stewart would have cost $130 for a one hour drive so I just skipped the whole thing altogether.

    Animals seen:
    Gulls
    Terns
    Silvereye
    Bellbird

    Animals not seen:
    Tubenoses


    Invercargill
    Southland Museum

    Back at Invercargill I went to the Museum which is nice and free. They have a couple of Tuatara exhibits, which hold individuals of all different sizes. I saw at least four. It looked like you can also view them from the outside. The museum itself was the usual mix of science, history and art.

    Queen's Park

    As the park is right next to the museum I went back for a quick look at the areas that had been closed the day before.

    Animals seen:

    s.species list


    Catlins
    I made my way through the Catlins with four stops: Waipapa Point, Curio Bay, Purakaunui Falls and Nugget Point. I didn't see any animals of note anywhere and because the drive was mostly over bad dirt roads it took foreeeeever. It took so long that I didn't get to the forest parts where I had wanted to look for Yellowheads before dusk and even skipping that I arrived at Nugget Point only after dark. Needless to say the whole day ended up a bit of a bust. Also and this might be down to me going to the wrong corners but I didn't really find "the nature" there all that impressive or different.

    Animals seen:
    White-faced Heron
    Gulls

    Animals not seen:
    Yellowhead
    Brown Creeper
    Yellow-eyed Penguin
    Tubenoses


    As I'd already been driving the whole day I decided to add another couple of hours to drive to Sandfly Beach for another backseat night in a carpark.

    Next up:
    Dunedin/Otago Peninsular
     
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  10. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

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    This is starting to sound like one of my trips: "I went to A and couldn't find the animals; I went to B and couldn't find the animals and everything was too expensive; I went to C and couldn't find the animals."
     
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  11. Najade

    Najade Well-Known Member

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    Queen's Park, Invercargill
    I decided to write at least a quick description of the park after all because what's the point of this thread if I don't talk about the "zoos"?

    There are basically three animal areas (excluding the Tuataras at the museum). The first is two enclosures to the right of the entrance gate (on Queens Drive): one for Ostriches (on the second day the Alpacas were in here too) the other for Red Deer.
    Coming down the main walkway, turning right will get you to the rest of the "Animal Reserve" area, which is a fancy way of saying farm animal exhibits. Following that path there's the Alpaca enclosure on the right-hand side and all the rest on the left-hand side: the first enclosure contains most of the birds as well as the Wallabies, the next one is for sheep and or goats (don't quite remember) and the third one held Kunekunes and Fallow Deer. Another enclosure towards the end was empty and seemed to be under construction. There's walkways going up between the exhibits towards a sort of farm-house roofed area. Going up the last in-between walkway will take you to the Slider tank. Heading back towards the main walkway you pass by a small pen for Auckland Island Pig on the left and enclosures for the different hens and guinea pigs to the right as well as the rabbits straight ahead.

    For the aviary section you have to turn left off the main walkway. There's a little bridge over a pond leading in and to a round stand-alone aviary with four exhibits for the different parakeets and weka. Behind that comes a row of aviaries starting (from right to left) with Kakas, then Teals, Rainbow Lorikeets, Galah, Lovebirds, Cockatoos, Keas, more Kakas, Canaries and Parrots (see list) and ending in the walk-through aviary (it's more a small u-turn than walk-through).

    The winter gardens close to the aviaries also have some goldfish.
     
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  12. Najade

    Najade Well-Known Member

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    That's probably down to me being bad at birding (and NZ being massively overpriced, overhyped and sometimes frustratingly unorganised[​IMG] ).
     
  13. Najade

    Najade Well-Known Member

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    Day 4
    Dunedin/Otago Peninsular


    Sandfly Beach
    First thing in the morning I went down to the beach, where I met a group of three from Queenstown watching a Yellow-eyed Penguin up on a dune having a stand-off with a Sea Lion waiting for it at the bottom (which meant long views). At some point the Penguin tried to get to the ocean and we saw a bit of a chase parallel to the water before it decided to go back up the sand to safety.
    When it became clear the Penguin was not an option the Sea Lion started heading in our direction and we thought it would just pass us by but nope. So we had to do a bit of running.
    (You can still see the Penguin in the middle of the sand dune in the first two pictures)
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]


    Animals seen:
    Yellow-eyed Penguin

    New Zealand Sea Lion


    Royal Albatross Centre
    After heading back up to the car I drove to the Royal Albatross Centre. The tour costs $50, which I found too expensive so I just had a look at the Spotted Shag colony next to it while getting s*** on by seagulls. On the way back to Dunedin I also saw a couple of Little Shags on some pier next to the street.

    Animals seen:
    Little Shag
    Spotted Shag
    Gulls

    Animals not seen:
    Northern Royal Albatross
    Otago Shag

    Otago Museum
    I went for a quick visit of the museum. Didn't have that much time there, because I had to get back out to the Peninsular. From what I saw it was as good as most of NZ's museums. There were four species of live animals there (s. list).


    Next up:
    Part 2
     
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  14. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

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    So... after seeing "the world's rarest gull", you then found the "the world's rarest penguin" and got chased by "the world's rarest sealion".

    Typical day in New Zealand.
     
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  15. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

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    The butterfly house at the Otago Museum is currently closed for renovation (as I just found out by googling), due to reopen next month: Development of Museum’s new science centre set to begin
     
  16. Najade

    Najade Well-Known Member

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    Yeah, this was definitely a better day than the one before.:D

    re. butterfly house: Wanted to put that in the description but then forgot about it.
     
  17. Najade

    Najade Well-Known Member

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    Monarch Wildlife Cruise
    For the cruise I had to go back out to the Peninsular, which is about an hours drive. I'd found the tour cheaper on bookme for $30. The boat was going out from Wellers Rock for one hour, which means they basically take you out to have a look at the Albatross colony from out at sea and then drive back. When I went on board I got handed a paper with pictures of the most likely animals to see (quite a few of them were pretty unlikely I thought, but I guess it looks more impressive that way) and Prostaff 10x42 binoculars, which came in handy.
    The boat was relatively full, which wouldn't have been a problem if there hadn't been two families with kids, that of course took up the most space, were the loudest and just generally managed to be in the way at all times. The mothers for example decided to stand behind their kids at the front of the boat, which meant (as everyone else was sitting) they were blocking half the view.
    Our first stop was the Otago Shag colony (on the same outcrop as the Albatross colony). Large number of birds there. Then we moved around the bend to the Albatross colony just to find it empty. There were some Fur Seals hauled out on the rocks though. We wasted a good bit of time oooohing and aaahing about the pups before driving out into the open water, where someone spotted a lone Hector's Dolphin next to the boat. I only got a short look at it, because as soon as that person called "Dolphin" everyone ran in front of me (the families first of course) and so I just got lucky that it came around to where I had moved for a second.
    After that the guides saw some Albatrosses coming back in but we didn't drive back for a closer look and so only got looks from far away through the binos, which was super-annoying.

    Another thing that I found was that for calling itself the wildlife capital of NZ there aren't really a lot of proper wildlife tours to be had around Dunedin. It's mostly just short, touristy look-at-the-most-common-seals-and-penguins sort of tours.o_O

    Animals seen:
    Otago Shag
    Northern Royal Albatross
    Hector's Dolphin

    NZ Fur Seal


    Animals not seen:
    other Tubenoses


    Next up:
    Part 3
     
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  18. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

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    Auckland has much more wildlife options than Dunedin, with all the offshore islands, nearby forests and wetlands, and whale boats.
     
  19. Najade

    Najade Well-Known Member

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    Yeah, it's just that this sort of advertising is really misleading (and I know that that's what advertising is, but that doesn't make it any better). A friend of mine that was in NZ last year f.e. was really surprised when I told her that I was going to Kaikoura for the Albatross-tour. Her exact words were "But I thought the Albatrosses were in Dunedin?" and got rightfully miffed when I showed her the pictures in comparison.
    Add to that that every leaf and stone in NZ has their own advertising campaign so that more tourists get pulled to even the most obscure places with basically nothing there (like f.e. the Moeraki Boulders coming up in my next post) and all the backpackers being totally taken in by this sort of stuff and you end up with a whole lot of overhyped places that you have to sift through in order to find the worthwhile ones.
    (And I don't wanna make it sound like NZ is the only country where this happens, it's just that out of the ones I've been to it's the one taking it to the extreme.)
     
  20. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

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    You didn't like the Moeraki Boulders? They are great, and hardly in an obscure place - they are right beside the only highway down the east coast.