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.

Exploring Coastal Hawkes Bay

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Even though we have lived in New Zealand all our lives, there are some more remote areas that we may not have visited. One such area for us was southern coastal Hawkes Bay, and in exploring this area we found some nice gems, in addition to the birds we are always searching for. One such place was there Waihi Falls, as pictured below. Coastal places we visited were Porangahau, Herbertville, and Akitio. During our travels we noticed a number of rooks, and also numerous black-backed magpie, both birds more common in this area than anywhere else in NZ.

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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.

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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.

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Book Arrival – BIRDS NZ beauty like no other – 2nd edition

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This week the shipment of our new book, BIRDS New Zealand beauty like no other – 2nd edition, arrived safe and sound, with no damage that I can see. Our son Stephen got his work mates to help stow away the 333 cartons, for which we were very grateful. We are now packing pre-orders and planning to have them to the shops by 1 August 2018. Bird books remain very popular and demand from shops is as good as ever.

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Advance Copies of New Book Arrive

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Two copies of the new book, sent by international courier, were received today, so more great excitement. Very very happy with the real thing, the book is simply beautiful. More pages but less weight, so this new book comes in well under 2 kg. The bulk shipment of books is coming by sea freight with expected arrival of July 25.

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Book proofs arrive – great excitement

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Before committing to book printing, a good look over the proofs is essential. It is always an exciting stage in the book production, and allows us to get our first look at what the book will actually look like. We are VERY pleased with the colour reproduction, and are certain the final book will be just beautiful. Below is a phone picture Jane took of me today poring over these proofs, in readiness to return them to China, to be used in the press room.

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