Ohau & Otaki Today

My favourite places to bird. I love this stretch of land - it's beautiful and the birds are great!

I started out the bird adventure at the Otaki Sewage Ponds - a place where I would place a substantial amount of money on a mega rarity in the next few years. I love it here. You have so many species to sift through in hope of something incredible. I always like to start with scaup looking for the white bum of a hardhead, then I go through the shelduck for some orange breasts, the teal are next in line and the mallards are always searched through as well. You never know where a pure grey duck may strike. I checked everything today, swallows, stilts and the two Black-Fronted Dotterel present.

But the star of the show was the shoveler. There were low numbers of the other birds on the lake, but these chaps were EVERYWHERE! I checked as many as I could, but none jumped out at me. One female, pictured below, had an orangy bill, was lighter than other shoveler and had white at the sides of the tail. After a long time of study, I decided it wasn't quite right to be a rare Northern Shoveler and I moved on.

Stop two was the Otaki Estuary. Quick check of the ponds and looks out to sea brought no surprises other than lots of banded dotterel, including one bird still in non-breeding plumage. I looked in vein for Pacific Gull and Bittern, but no luck.

Finally, we stopped off at my #1 favourite birding spot in the world - Ohau Estuary. I wish they would put in an effort to clean it up and ban dogs as it is amazing. It is so fantastic to have such great birds that still require an effort to find it. The Blue Duck at Turangi and Brown Teal at Zealandia were both visible basically two minutes after getting out of the car, so birding was almost becoming to easy. At Ohau, easy doesn't exist. You are first met with a large stream to cross, then you must cross a gauntlet of Black-Backed Gull nests, and then there is mud that enjoys the taste of fresh foot.

Easily 300 Black-Backed Gulls were present, just 2 red-bills, 6 voc, 2 parries, 2 teal, 5 shoveler, 1 harrier, 1 feral pigeon and a surprising number of sparrows. The highlight of the estuary, and the reason I love it, is the surprising number of waders. You always walk in with low expectations and walk out on top of the moon. Today there were 82 Bar-Tailed Godwit (no other species as far as I could see), 10 knot (again, no rarities but views were letting me down) and 4 lovely little wrybill feeding with a lone spoonbill. There was not a single heron.

With a little management, this could become one of the 'greats'. I don't mind the fishermen who walk through off to their spots, it's the dog walkers and mad drivers who annoy me. They shouldn't be allowed to go all over a significant wader roost.


Some Shoveler (the mystery female at centre) and a Grey Teal at left.

Some Shoveler (the mystery female at centre) and a Grey Teal at left.