The tides were against a tractor trip to Cape Kidnappers – no trip today and a red-eye trip starting at 7am on the 16th. Thus we paid a bit extra and took the overland excursion. I heartily recommend this for seeing the birds – you are delivered right to within metres of the colony in the comfort of a bus – no freak waves to contend with and there is a roof in case of rain. There is also the chance of seeing Brown Teal on Cape Kidnappers Station (though we didn’t). Hyeza got a couple of pictures of the famous golf course, though it was barely visible from the road we used. There is an interesting predator fence here. It isn’t finished as there is a gap the road goes through. With just mainly tea tree scrub regen, just slightly more interesting gullies, and a few (new) wetlands it will be interesting to see what the owners intend to put native wildlife-wise on what is otherwise a working dry-country farm. Anyway Gannet numbers were undoubtedly lower than their peak, with many young already gone, but those present were very entertaining and photogenic.
Hyeza and Olivia went looking at model trains and the shops in Napier in the afternoon and I was able to get a quick look at the wetlands to the south of the city from the Waitangi River to Haumoana. Some of the coastal wetlands look absolutely beautiful here, such as the northern bit of Muddy Creek. Others such as Haumoana Lagoon prompt the question ‘why on Earth would a Little Egret live here?’ Well it obviously asked itself the same question as it wasn’t home when I called. The White Heron was on the southern bit of Muddy Creek.
An early morning visit to the Ahuriri Estuary saw moat of the overseas visitors to this easy-visit city wetland in the centre of it, and only within telescope range. Travelling light without telescope they remained pretty much godwit-shaped dots. Walking along the embankment alongside the railway 4 Royal Spoonbills flew out of Westshore Refuge across the highway. Good numbers of wildfowl were also present on these freshwater wetlands. Back into the estuary a small flock of Pacific Golden Plovers remained in situ despite the closeness of the path, obviously used to people passing by they must be some of the tamest of their kind. The Grey-tailed Tattler was in the same area near the hotel. I never realised how mincing was the species’ gait – at least when seen from behind. I can only guess the AGP found later in the week was also present. Well the light was agin me, no scope and too blown away by the close breeding plumaged PGPs are my excuses.
Early afternoon saw us up at Boundary Stream. Great place for birds this, especially Tui and Bellbird which filled the air with their songs (despite it being a crap time of day and a crap time of year for birdsong). Shame about most of the bush being regen – can only think how it would be had it not been cleared. Nearby Lake Opouahi had lots less birds, despite the fence, but the Fernbirds near the gate were interesting.
The rest of the day was mostly spent battling the so-called state highway to Lake Waikaremoana. This is a state highway in name only with nasty corrugations meaning slowing to 30 kph for large sections of the last part of the journey on gravel. Transit seem to be spending millions shaving a few seconds off journeys by easing curves elsewhere on its network – here is one road where they could shave many minutes with just a basic tar-seal!