The birds are getting very active here at Te Rakau with warmer weather and longer days stimulating breeding behaviour. I heard my first shining cuckoo call on Friday September 30 so the little grey warblers will be exceptionally busy if they end up rearing cuckoo chicks that are much bigger than themselves. In fact these industrious little birds have probably already reared a clutch of their own chicks before the cuckoos invade their nests as a safety mechanism to ensure their own future.
On Onoke Spit the Caspian Terns are starting to group up and begin the ritual of fishing for their mates – a kind of bird foreplay! We are keeping a much closer watch on their nesting site and have upped the number of traps along the spit to give them a better chance of rearing chicks successfully this year. Let’s hope that humans and their dogs play their part too and leave the birds in peace for the breeding season which can go well into January.
Caspian Terns and chick
Last weekend we hosted John and Gail Cheyne from Lake Hatuma in Central Hawks Bay. John is and ex NZ Wild Life officer and extremely knowledgeable about our matuku. He and his wife Gail are the official recorders of bittern populations in the Wairarapa Moana. On Sunday evening they heard 3 booming males around the Pounui Lagoons and just to add more excitement, early the next morning John heard the 3 males again plus a female response call. We are very pleased because there appears to be 1 more booming male than when the survey was completed a couple of years ago. It would appear that the predator control work around this important wetland area is making a difference. Let’s hope the birds breed successfully again this year.
Trying to hide
Just caught a fish!
We are very thrilled to have these new signs at our local sites as part of the wider promotion of Wairarapa Moana.
Entrance to Onoke Spit
This sign at the western End of Onoke Spit features the Caspian Tern who have begun their breeding behaviour. Last Sunday Dougal and I saw 21 birds congregated together at the end of the spit beginning their breeding rituals. As the pairs bond they go off to find fish to bring to their mates. We saw some of this behaviour just starting. It will probably be another month before eggs are laid but it is important that the birds are not disturbed during this important time. The “closed area” signs are up and so far vehicles seem to be keeping away.
Pounui Wetlands sign
The main bird featured on the sign overlooking Lake Onoke and at the entrance to the Pounui wetlands is a Grey Teal. These delightful little ducks are a joy to watch at this time of year. We have recently erected some nesting boxes around our big pond at Te Rakau specifically for Grey Teal. We are hoping that they will use the boxes so that we can help to increase the population of this charming native duck.
The banded dotterels are in full breeding plumage and some are even beginning to sit on eggs. Dougal and I visited Onoke Spit today and saw many of these delightful little birds in pairs spread out on the Spit. Let’s hope they’re not too early with their breeding behaviour as a late winter/spring storm could still be a possibility.
Pair of banded dotterels
We also saw four Caspian terns and plenty of black backed gulls enjoying the sunshine.
Caspian tern in flight
Saturday was a special day to go bird watching. Not only was it world E-Bird day – E Bird is a world wide birdwatching website hosted by Cornell University in USA – the weather was still and warm and Onoke Spit was full of birds.
The banded dotterels were gathered together in big numbers.
There were at least 250 white fronted terns.
It was also very exciting to see a number of Caspian Terns – about 40 and some beautiful little black fronted terns visiting from the South Island.
Enjoy these other pictures.
One mature and a juvenile black fronted tern
Black fronted tern stretching his wings in the sunshine
One Caspian tern amongst the smaller white fronted terns
When Dougal was checking the traps around the Pounui Lagoons yesterday he sighted another bittern.
Bitterns are able to be sighted more easily at the moment because the water level in the lagoons is very high because the mouth of the Ruamahanga river has been closed for a number of weeks. The Onoke Spit at the Lake Ferry end has built by southerly swells up and hence the river mouth is blocked. This closure leads to a back log of water as the streams and rivers are unable to flow out to sea. Good for waterfowl but not so good for waders as the mudflats are all under water.
What a wonderful couple of days Dougal and I have just had being hosted by Will and Rose Parsons at Driftwood Retreat near Blenheim.This is a very ancient and beautiful part of NZ and well a visit
We were really privileged to be taken out in kayaks on the Wairau Lagoon by Will for an evening tour to watch the wading birds of the lagoon area feeding. It was truly a magical experience to see so many birds and get so close to them because of the stealth and familiarity of the kayaks. We would highly recommend this trip to all bird lovers. To find out more go to driftwoodecotours.co.nz.
Here are some of Dougal’s pictures from the trip.
Spotted Shags roosting on driftwood
Godwits gathering in Wairau Lagoon
South Island pied oyster catcher dealing to a pipi
Pied stilt feeding
Will and I sharing bird stories over dinner
Wow what a summer we are having and while we are loving the warm weather the birds are feeling the heat around our garden. We have so enjoyed watching them feed and come in to our many bird baths either to drink or bathe.
Below are some of Dougal’s pictures over this holiday time.
Tui enjoying pohutukawa
Te Rakau is alive with tui at the moment. There is plenty of food for them with pohutukawa flowers just coming out and the flax buds are bursting through as well.
The picture shows a tui feasting on some newly opened flax flowers – note the pollen on his head.
The aerobatic displays are a joy to watch and illustrate just how happy the birds are at this festive time of the year.
On Saturday while visiting the Spit with seven members of the Wairarapa branch of Birds NZ we sited a bittern flying from the jointed rushes near the carpark and over the Kiriwai Lagoon. This was very exciting as just 2 days previously we had been at a meeting with bittern expert John Cheyne who told us that the Australasian bittern is extremely endangered here in NZ as well as in Australia. It is estimated that there are only approx 700-800 birds in NZ at present. So what a thrill to see one at Kiriwai Lagoon and then later in the day we saw another bird at the Pounui Lagoon. These birds are magnificent in flight, very graceful with an enormous wingspan. Dougal did try to take a picture, but the quality was poor as the bird really surprised us.
The following picture is of some white faced heron fishing around the waters edge – much easier to capture at the time!