Monday, 27 September 2021

Black Throated Thrush - Whipsnade Zoo

Not a life tick, but what a smart bird. This Black Throated Thrush was only 2nd in the UK, and being just an hour away, I just had to go see it. Birding pal, Lee @indoorstoomuch, needed it for a lifer so it would have been rude not to join him.

The bird had taken up resindence at Whipsnade Zoo of all places, but it was well worth stumping up the £25 entrance fee to see it.


Scilly July 23

 I have been lucky to visit Scilly a number of times in autumn on birding trips, including Oct 2020, with the star bird being a Black and White Warbler.

I have been trying to get my wife to Scilly for years but up until summer 2021 I had not been able to convince her. That all changed this year.

We booked a week staying in the Bordeaux apartment, in the centre of Hugh Town. We had glorious weather and luckily for me, Julia fell in love with the place. 

The highlights of the trip was catching up Wally the Walrus. We saw him on 5 of the 7 days as he lounged out on his pontoon in Hugh Town harbour. I also had the privilege of helping build him a new platform when he grew out of his first one. 

I went out on an evening pelagic which was quiet, with my main target, Wilson's Storm Petrel missed, but had a couple of Balearics and Sootys. I was just a week too early as shortly after (about a week) the pelagic trips had Wilson's I think on over 30 trips in a row! Maybe next year. 

Julia and I had a good boat trip out to around Annet and Wolfe Rock lighthouse, where we had good views of puffin, razorbill, guillemot and manx shearwater. 

I also managed, after many attempts, to see the adult Rose Coloured Starling that was knocking around the New Zealand Flame Trees dotted around Hugh Town.

I can't wait to go back.     



Monday, 26 August 2019

The rarest penguin in the world - Yellow Eyed Penguin

Along with the Galapagos Penguin, the Yellow Eyed Penguin, which is a New Zealand endemic, is the rarest penguin in the world, with less than 4000 individuals.

Not far from Dunedin on the south island is the Otago Penninsula. Here you can visit the Royal Albatross Centre, and take an escorted trip to a private reserve/beach to see the penguins, and New Zealand Sea Lion; another New Zealand endemic. 

Sunday, 11 August 2019

Albatrosses and other sea birds, Kiakoura, New Zealand

One of the added benefits of a whale watching trip is the opportunities it provides to see sea birds. Kiakoura is particularly good as there's a good chance to see Albatrosses.
 Shy Mollymawk 
Shy Mollymawk is a "small" albatross, of which there are numerous forms/subspecies
 Giant Southern Petrel - buzzard sized Petrel- scary!

 Cape Pigeon

  Royal Albatross

 Royal Albatross

 Royal Albatross

 A heavily crossed - Wandering Albatross

 Fairy Prion

 Wandering Albatross

 Shy Mollymawk really are smart birds

We wrapped the trip up with hundreds of Dusky Dolphins accompanying the boat as we headed back to shore.

Kiakoura - New Zealand whale watching

I do love a  it of whale watching. Seeing such huge and magnificent creatures up close in the natural habitat is awesome. Add to that the opportunity to see Albatrosses and other sea birds, makes a trip to Kiakoura, a must for all wildlife enthusiasts and birders, when visiting New Zealand. Kiakoura is on the east coast of the South Island, around 3 hours by car from Christchurch. 

We were booked on the afternoon boat allowing us plenty of time to get there without too much of a rush. In hindsight, I would have stayed in Kiakoura and repeated the trip the following morning as we only actually had around 2 hours out at sea where we could get out on deck and enjoy the whales and the birds.

We've  been lucky to have been whale watching previously and seen Blue, Fin, Humpback and Orcas.  Kiakoura offered the opportunity to see our first ever Sperm Whales. We saw at least three individuals up close and personal. It's hard to comprehend just how big these creatures are with just a small part of their body's viewable above water, but it was interesting to hear the guide say that they once found a fully grown Great White Shark, fully intact, inside a Sperm whale's stomach! 

Sunday, 28 July 2019

New Zealand - Tiritiri Island

My first birding excursion on New Zealand was a day trip to the wonderful Tiritiri Matangi island. Tiritiri is a wildlife sanctuary and is recognised as one of New Zealand's most important conservation projects.  All mammalian predators have been eradicated allowing some of New Zealand and the world's rarest birds to thrive. The island is around 1 hour and 20 minutes by boat from Aukland and once there you will be guided from the dock up to the visitors centre, and hopefully along the way you will see some of the rare birds the island offers the opportunity to see.

Brown Teal 
Once regarded as one of the world's rarest duck. It is thought there are fewer than 1000 remaining
Pukeko (swamphen)
One of the island's common residents

Red Crowned Parakeet - relatively common

Fan Tail - common but I never tired of seeing them

Stitchbird - a rare endemic
One of a few seen. They are significantly bigger than I had expected, were very skulky, hence the rubbish photo, and never sat still for more than a second or two   

Bellbird - common endemic

Brown Quail

Whitehead - another rubbish photo of another common endemic

New Zealand Pigeon - common endemic - a very large pigeon, at least 50% bigger than our 
Wood Pigeon

Another Fantail

Takahe - rare endemic - at one time thought to be extinct!

Kingfisher - common

Saddleback - another rare endemic
  • Blue Penguin
  • Kokaku - a rare endemic - unfortunately I only had one very brief view
  • New Zealand Robin
  • Eastern Rosella
As with many successful conservation projects, the island is mainly looked after and managed by volunteers, who do a fantastic job. Any birder visiting New Zealand, and in the Auckland area, MUST pay a visit.