Oil on Canvas Painting of waders on the Whanganui River Estuary

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I recently commissioned an old friend (now 82) to paint a scene of wader birds on the Whanganui River Estuary, that includes my special godwit flagged AJD (see previous posts). It is a masterpiece of one metre across and is now framed and hanging proudly in our home lounge, an original painting I will always treasure – thank you Elaine.

Little Egret – Manawatu River Estuary

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A recent visit to Foxton and the Manawatu River Estuary found both a little egret and a white heron, associating together. This was great for size comparison and to see behavior differences. Another thing I again observed was how each bird, especially the little egret, changed their shape completely, by either extending or retracting their neck. The egret pictured below is the same bird, pictured just a few minutes apart. Little egrets are a rare bird in NZ, but in recent years a bird has often been seen in the Foxton area.


Black Fantails – Whanganui

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In the North Island a black-form fantail is very rare, a little more common in the South Island. One has been at Gordon Park, near Whanganui, for several years but just last week, after a tip off from another birder, I again connected with it. The bird put on a good show for me and allowed a good series of photographs. Great to have this bird so close to home, and so accessible.


On a subsequent visit to Gordon Park we found two black fantails, together as a pair, quite amazing, considering how rare they are in the North Island.

Birding, Central NSW, Australia

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We recently spent two weeks at Lake Cargelligo, central NSW. I call the area “The Big Red” due to it being so, so dry, and so much red dust. However, it is a great birding destination and during my stay I photographed 70 bird species, from the huge wedge-tailed eagle, to the cute, tiny, fairy wren. Near water holes on farms was a good place to be, in addition to the lakes and waterways around Lake Cargelligo itself. I particularly enjoyed photographing the different parrot species, so attractive and colourful, but so difficult to approach. The red-rumped parrot, pictured below, was one of the more commonly seen grass parrots.


Long-tailed Cuckoo – an enigmatic bird

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The long-tailed cuckoo is an enigmatic bird – mysterious and little understood. Although reasonably common during their six-months in NZ each year, they are rarely seen, although often heard. Recently, along with a birding colleague, we visited a place, inland from Whanganui, where these cuckoos are known to frequent. We went early, as birds are more active then, and as the day warms, seem to disappear. We placed ourselves on the side of a ridge, across the valley from another ridge, and immediately we were surrounded with whitehead calls, the bird whose nests the cuckoo uses to lay their single egg. Soon, we had long-tailed cuckoos calling, and after I played a recording of their own call, a number of birds appeared and flew over us. We had up to five birds flying in the sky above, and a number of others calling from the bush, all at the same time, both their screech and rattle calls. This was repeated a dozen times. What a great morning, so good, that we visited again a few days later, with the same results. Next year I plan to go again, late January to early February, as it is such a great place for bush birds of all types.

Two New Bird Species

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Always a thrill to add new species to my NZ birding tally, not that I am a list maker of any sort. The first bird was an Oriental Cuckoo, that had been brought into Bird Rescue, after being caught by a cat. I got the job of releasing the bird after being in rehabilitation for six weeks. Nice to observe the bird for an hour, after release, as it went about discovering its new surroundings. Ten birders from around NZ were there to witness the release, with many having a new bird to add to their NZ list. The second bird was a Broad-billed Sandpiper, that has been at Miranda for the last few weeks. From a hide we observed the bird for some hours, but were not able to get close to it, so pictures were only possible through the scope/phone, and then very grainy. Our visit to Miranda for a couple of nights was part of a week-long birding road trip that also took us to Tauranga, Waihi Beach, and Sanctuary Mountain, the beautiful bush reserve in Central Waikato.

Eastern Curlew on the Whanganui

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During summer I regularly check the waders on the Whanganui River Estuary, and yesterday I got the surprise of my life, a lone Eastern Curlew feeding on the river edge. It was eating crab after crab, and allowed my reasonably close approach, so a great range of pictures were obtained. This is the first time I have seen one at this location, and only the third I have seen in NZ. They are the largest wader in NZ and have an enormous bill, yet he was probing the mud right up to his face. What a great start to the new year.

Godwit AJD back in Whanganui for the 11th Year

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Great to have back on our Whanganui River Estuary our old godwit friend AJD, having arrived on the 29th November 2018. This is the 11th year he has been here, after spending a little over two months at Foxton, the place he first migrates to from Alaska. I first caught up with him this season at Foxton, on the 22nd of September, 2018. We expect him to stay here in Whanganui until the 25th of March, his preferred day of departure for the Yellow Sea. The photo below was taken on my phone, through the spotting scope.

Godwit Arrivals

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It is from mid-September each year that the godwits arrive back in NZ from their northern migration, to north and western Alaska. I witnessed a returning group of five at the Whanganui River Estuary, on September 15, with some birds showing droopy wings. After a non-stop journey of nearly 12,000 kms it is no wonder they are thin, tired, and with droopy wings. They soon were feeding feverishly and within hours their wings were back to normal.


New Wanganui Pictorial

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This week we release another Wanganui Pictorial, our fifth book on Wanganui. It was produced at the request of our local Paper Plus and we expect it to be a steady seller, as have previous editions (4,000 copies were sold of the first edition). Most books are sold to tourists and visitors, so we repeat common scenes, because for visitors, they are all new. The book includes a first for us – aerial pictures taken using a drone.

Little Wanganui Book Cover 2018 1

Little Wanganui Book Cover 2018 2