Recently I have been busy with a couple of bird censusses.
The first was a bird count down the Ashley River on 21/11. About 12 people turned out and were assigned different stretches of the river to count north of Rangiora. I and two other birdwatchers counted the lowest stretch to the SH1 bridge - about 5km of river. The Ashley is a semi-braided river running on gravel, so walking can be difficult. In wet areas algae can make it slippery under foot, and there are a number of river crossings to negotiate. We started about 10am after leaving a car at the end, and walked for about 3 hours. A fair number of different species were encountered - river specialties were Banded Dotterel (lots), Pied Stilts (lots), Black-fronted Terns (only a few and no nests), Black-billed Gull (one rather forlorn bird sitting alone on a nest), a few Pied Oystercatchers, and the highlight a pair of Wrybills with 2 young. I was carrying a GPS unit and was able to note the grid co-ordinates of the wrybills - important as a banding study is underway on the river, the pair was not known to be there until we found it, and a worker came and banded the chicks later in the week - so they could be identified in the future. Wrybills only nest on braided rivers. They are the only birds with a beak that curves to the side (always to the right), and birdwatchers come from all around the world to New Zealand to see them.
Wrybill - see how well camouphlaged the bird is to the greywacke stones of the riverbed
On 5th December there was a wader count at Lake Ellesmere. This is a large coastal brackish lagoon just south of Christchurch. Again about 12 people divided into groups. Counting was on mudflats mostly covered by a variety of salt-loving plants (samphire, musk. batchelor's button etc). I was allocated a section of the Greenpark Sands area of the lake shore that is usually best for unusual birds. However the area I walked was a bit too dry to attract these unusual species and we ended up with fairly low counts of common species only, such as Banded Dotterel, Pied Stilt, Pied Oystercatcher and Spur-winged Plover. the highlight, and only migratory species was 5 Bar-tailed Godwits - still a common species though. It was a nice walk for a few hours - in nice weather for a change recently. The count was followed by the annual barbecue where we all met together to exchange stories - and Hyeza and Olivia came too to brighten the day.