Young Birders Big Day Record!

At 3:30 yesterday morning, after a stunning one and a half hours sleep, I was running around getting dressed, fed, packed and ready for a huge day. My elite birding team, Joe Dillon (14 from Cambridge) and Oscar Thomas (16 from Auckland) were less awake and excited at the time. After 45 minutes of preparation we were finally ready and waiting for our driver, Donald B. Snook, to arrive. We stepped out the door, and in the darkness, at least three tui and several warbler called. We said our introductions, and hit out for Whangamarino wetland in the Waikato. 

Taking the Island Block Road turnoff, we had our first stop just before sunrise at -37.302460, 175.097525. A huge bonus of starting here is that you knock out all the common species of countryside and wetland early and learn what you need to target later in the day. After moving on from this site around 20 minutes later, we had 15 species: Tui, Grey Warbler, Song Thrush, Spur-Winged Plover, Pied Stilt, Blackbird, Skylark, Magpie, Yellowhammer, California Quail, Pheasant, Fantail, Grey Teal and Silvereye.

We moved on to -37.3091711,175.1244281, a site where Marsh Crake have been heard. This was a quick stop, and didn't turn up anything amazing. We added another 5 species, all of which were seen later in the day. Carrying on, we checked out a few traditional spots familiar to Whangamarino visitors, such as the Falls Road lookout. There were constant peafowl calls coming from the east along Falls Road.

Luck turned to our side at -37.336046, 175.178180 (I think that is the right location), where we found five fernbird and saw four. There were also Spotted Dove, Grey Duck, Grey Teal and Dunnock present. On our way out of Whangamarino, we pulled in to the original spot on Island Block Road and heard a Spotless Crake, meaning we left the area on 43 species. We tried and failed at Oram Road for Black Kite  .

Arriving at Miranda just after 9, we soon found our lists flowing. Due to the king tide, there were masses of godwit and knot. Lighting wasn't in our favor at the hides, so we moved to the Stilt Ponds to wait for them to move over. The cannon netting put them in the air and they soon were right in our face. Checking out the corner where the Marshie usually is (and was!) we were delighted to find the most beautiful three Pectoral Sandpiper and five Sharp-Taileds. At one point, all three peep species where in scope at once. We moved on to trawl through the godwits, and one loner standing with a knot caught my eye. I got the scope on it, and it was unmistakably a  Black-Tailed Godwit  , with a long straight bill, short eyestripe and smooth grey back. Joe said he saw the classic black-white tail as well, but it moved on quickly into the big flock. There was also a Brown Teal. The Wrybill were where they used to roost, accompanied by two dotterel species and six turnstone. We left Miranda on 61  

We tried Kaiaua, Rays Rest and Maungatauwhari for Redpoll and other misses, but there was no luck. 

Mangere was the next stop, which proved a great sight. Along the canal we got Black-Fronted Dotterel, New Zealand Dabchick, a pair of Brown Teal and large numbers of most common ducks, including some fairly pure Greys. We checked out some of the roosts, but the haze made thorough investigation impossible. We did find a single Whimbrel and 33 spoonbill.

Western Springs was a brief stop to get Coot and Feral Goose, both which came easily. We moved over to the Waitakere's hoping for Kokako, but struck out, though we did get Tomtit. At this stage (71 at 3 o'clock), we decided that we wouldn't be able to beat 104, so we changed the route from picking up lots of species to focusing on Tawharanui for an enjoyable finish to the day. We went via Waiwera getting Barbary Dove, dipping on Reef Heron, Kookaburra and Pipit, but crucially, we did get pizza.

We checked out Omaha spit before going into Tawharanui as a Fairy Tern has been seen lately. It wasn't there   But the place was crowded with breeding New Zealand Dotterel and Voc, which was great to see. 

On the drive in to Tawharanui, we got Kaka, and immediately after entering got Bellbird. Banded Rail were feeding out in the open at the lagoon. We pushed in, walking from the end of the road to Maori Point. The walk was amazing! So beautiful (as you can see on my Twitter)! We got most bush birds, though were missing Kakariki. The point is a high view down on the sea between Tawharanui and Kawau Island. We saw at least 15 Fluttering Shearwater working the waters. Donald wanted us out by ten, so we didn't have time to wait for penguin to come ashore. We did, however, get Morepork (heard and seen) while here. 

On the walk back, in fast fading light, we finally heard Kakariki. Just passing the pump house that pushes water around Tawharanui, we heard a rustle in the bush. Oscar and Joe jumped on it, trying to find out what it was, but I wanted to be back for Donald asap. Around fifteen meters ahead of them, I heard something massive run across the forest floor, and the fading light gave an unmistakable silhouette. It was a kiwi. Oscar soon got the torch on it as it ran deeper into the bush, and I notched my first lifer of the day at 9:30. Above us, Cook's Petrel called as they flew over the mainland to Little Barrier. Hearing these petrel was certainly the highlight. A Spotless Crake also called.

 Wader flock in flight @ Miranda - Donald Beresford Snook

Wader flock in flight @ Miranda - Donald Beresford Snook

 New Zealand Dabchick @ Mangere - Donald Beresford Snook

New Zealand Dabchick @ Mangere - Donald Beresford Snook

 Sharp-Tailed Sandpiper @ Miranda - Donald Beresford Snook

Sharp-Tailed Sandpiper @ Miranda - Donald Beresford Snook