New Zealand had been on our “top ten” list of future birding destinations for quite some time, as much for the scenery and the ease of travel as for the birds. Although the diversity of birds to be found there is not high (expect 130-150 species on a 3-week trip), the country hosts six bird families that are found nowhere else (kiwis, New Zealand parrots, New Zealand wrens, stitchbird, wattlebirds and whiteheads), plus an impressive array of pelagic seabirds. All together, 55-60 endemics and species that breed only in New Zealand can be seen quite easily. The best time to visit is in the austral spring or summer, roughly November to February, a period that coincides with the Northern Hemisphere academic year when we normally cannot travel for any extended length of time. With Cathy on sabbatical and free of her usual teaching duties, this seemed like the perfect year to take a summer vacation in the Southern Hemisphere. To see all of the New Zealand endemics requires visiting both North and South Islands, and three weeks is a comfortable amount of time in which to drive the length of both islands. Many of the endemic land birds can be seen by visiting just two of the predator-free sanctuaries that have been established to protect the rarest species (Tiritiri Matangi Island in the north, and Ulva Island off Stewart Island). But to see all of the endemics requires some hopscotching around the South Island, as a few species (e.g., Black Stilt, South Island Wren, Okarito Brown Kiwi, New Zealand King Shag) can be found only at very specific locations. Likewise, to see the full diversity of seabirds requires taking pelagic trips from Warkworth or Whitianga on the North Island, Kaikoura on the South Island, and Stewart Island in the far south. In the course of three weeks we drove 5300 km (3300 miles) and made seven ferry crossings; visited four predator-free sanctuaries; and took part in three pelagic birding trips, two nature cruises, and three nocturnal kiwi-spotting excursions.
We designed our itinerary around the schedule of pelagic trips offered by Wrybill Tours (http://wrybill-tours.com/pelagic-trips/). Between October and February, they organize half-a-dozen full-day trips into the Hauraki Gulf and off Stewart Island in conjunction with the regularly scheduled 21-day birding tours they offer. Although Aurora Charters runs pelagic trips off Stewart Island more frequently, the advantage to going with Wrybill is that their trips will not be canceled for lack of enough participants, always a danger with other operators. So our first step upon deciding to go to New Zealand was to contact Wrybill to reserve places on two of their pelagic trips. Sav Saville of Wrybill responded, and let us know that they also offer a planning service for birders who want to put together their own custom itinerary. Wrybill will do anything from full itinerary planning to simply giving advice about when, where and how to find particular species. We took advantage of their offer to help, and had them book some tours for us (e.g., Marlborough Sounds cruise, Kaikoura pelagic trips, Stewart Island kiwi excursion), and also make arrangements for us to stay overnight on Tiritiri Matangi Island, which turns out to be one of the more difficult things to arrange from outside of New Zealand. Sav was also happy to look over our proposed itinerary and make suggestions. Using other trip reports, we put together a 3-week itinerary that allowed us to spend a week on the North Island, including taking one of Wrybill’s Hauraki Gulf pelagic trips, then make a counterclockwise circuit of the South Island, reaching Stewart Island in time to participate in one of Wrybill’s full-day pelagic trips there. Unfortunately, after we had finalized that itinerary and bought our plane tickets, Wrybill changed the date of the Stewart Island pelagic trip, forcing us to reverse our route around South Island in order to reach Stewart Island at the right time. The revised itinerary worked OK, but meant we had to cram a lot into our first few days on South Island, and then had a few rather leisurely days at the end of our trip.
We rented a car from Jucy (https://www.jucy.co.nz/), picking it up in Auckland and dropping it off in Christchurch. The roads in New Zealand are excellent (in places narrow and winding, but there’s an amazing lack of potholes), and the Mazda 3 we rented at what seemed to us a ridiculously low price (~$600 USD for 3 weeks) was perfectly adequate and comfortable for the amount of time we spent in it.
18 Nov: Arrive Auckland. Waipu Wildlife Refuge, North Island Brown Kiwi excursion. Overnight Kerikeri.
19 Nov: Waipu Wildlife Refuge, Tawhranui Regional Park. Overnight Sandspit.
20 Nov: Wrybill Tours Hauraki Gulf pelagic trip. Overnight Sandspit.
21 Nov: Tiritiri Matangi Is. Overnight Tiritiri Matangi.
22 Nov: Tiritiri Matangi Is., Miranda Shorebird Center. Overnight Thames.
23 Nov: Mirando Shorebird Center, Pureora Forest. Overnight Turangi.
24 Nov: Lake Taupo, Manawatu Estuary. Overnight Wellington.
25 Nov: Ferry to South Island. E-Ko Tours Marlborough Sound cruise to Blumine Is. Overnight Picton.
26 Nov: Albatross Encounters 1 p.m. pelagic trip, Kaikoura (canceled). Overnight Kaikoura.
27 Nov: Albatross Encounters 6 a.m. pelagic trip, Kaikoura (canceled). Bushy Beach, Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony. Overnight Oamaru.
28 Nov: Ferry to Stewart Island. Overnight Oban.
29 Nov: Ulva Island, Ulva’s Guided Walks Kiwi excursion. Overnight Oban.
30 Nov: Wrybill Tours Stewart Island pelagic trip. Overnight Oban.
01 Dec: Ferry to South Island. Homer Tunnel. Overnight Te Anau.
02 Dec: Real Journeys Milford Sound cruise, Fiordland NP. Overnight Te Anau.
03 Dec: Lake Tekapo. Overnight Twizel.
04 Dec: Aoraki / Mount Cook NP. Overnight Twizel.
05 Dec: Haast Pass, Okarito Kiwi Tours excursion. Overnight Okarito.
06 Dec: Arthur’s Pass. Overnight Kaikoura.
07 Dec: Albatross Encounters 6 a.m. pelagic trip, Kaikoura. Fly Christchurch to Auckland. Overnight Auckland.
08 Dec: Depart Auckland to Los Angeles.
Accommodations and food:
We booked all of our accommodations via booking.com and other online agencies (agoda.com, expedia.com), sometimes choosing places we had seen recommended in trip reports but more often basing our decision on a combination of price (typically mid-range), availability and online reviews. We found everywhere we stayed to be perfectly acceptable to us, and only one or two places that we might not recommend to more finicky travelers. Most motels in New Zealand seem to be of a fairly uniform standard; rooms are typically quite spacious, and include a kitchenette with refrigerator/freezer, microwave, electric kettle and often some sort of stovetop. We cooked our own breakfast on most days, and also made many picnic lunches, carrying food with us in a cooler we purchased upon our arrival. Late November is the start of the high season in New Zealand, and some accommodations fill up fast. We started making reservations in early April, and discovered that there were already very few rooms available on Stewart Island except at extremely expensive, high-end resorts outside of Oban. The DOC Bunkhouse on Tiritiri Matangi can also fill up fast, but is a challenge to book because the online reservation system opens at a random, unannounced time. This requires logging on to the website regularly to check if reservations can be made yet for a specific date. Fortunately, Wrybill Tours keeps a close eye on that, and were willing to make a booking for us as soon as it was possible to do so.
We had read in other trip reports that the food in New Zealand is nothing to write home about, but we actually had quite a number of very nice meals. Lamb dishes and seafood were generally very good, and on a few nights when we resorted to pizza (either because we were in a hurry or little else was available) we found it, too, to be very good. Black Rabbit Pizza in Kaikoura might just be the best pizza we’ve ever had anywhere! The “pies” (i.e., meat pies) available in every gas station and bakery are also a uniquely kiwi institution whose many variations we sampled quite extensively. The local beers were also varied and generally quite good. Our taste leaned toward Tui (not just because of the name!), although it wasn’t available everywhere. Speight’s was a reasonable substitute.
Birder’s Rest B&B, Kerikeri.
Comfortable and spacious apartment attached to Detlef & Carol Davies’ house. Due to close soon.
Sandspit Lodge, Sandspit. Pleasant B&B on a hilltop with spectacular views. A short but steep walk down to Sandspit Harbor. Nearest restaurants are a 10-min drive away in Matukana.
DOC Bunkhouse, Tiritiri Matangi.
Hostel accommodations (need to bring sleeping bag and all food). Three bunkrooms sleep a total of 15 people, with shared bathroom and cooking facilities.
Rolleston Motel, Thames.
Comfortable, clean and quiet motel on the outskirts of Thames, about 30 min drive from Miranda.
Turangi Bridge Motel, Turangi.
Comfortable motel immediately adjacent to the bridge over the Tongariro River. Good restaurant on site.
Travelodge Motel, Wellington.
Clean, modern, high-rise in the center of the tourist district, about 1 km from the Bluebridge Ferry dock. Parking garage. Excellent value.
Bay Vista Motel, Picton.
Comfortable, clean and quiet motel right on the water’s edge, a bit outside Picton.
Blue Seas Motel, Kaikoura.
Comfortable and clean, but with very tired décor. Convenient location on the Esplanade, halfway between Encounter Kaikoura and Kean Point.
Federation House, Oamaru.
Eccentric B&B in historic house very close to Oamaru Harbor and Blue Penguin Colony. A bit like staying in a relative’s converted attic.
South Seas Hotel, Oban, Stewart Island.
Comfortable and surprisingly quiet room above the restaurant/bar, with shared bathroom down the hall. Also some en suite units at the back. This is the only restaurant/bar on the island (make a reservation to guarantee a place for dinner!), but the food is excellent. Try the lobster tails.
Lakeside Motel, Te Anau.
Clean, quiet motel on the lakefront, walking distance to the main shopping/restaurant district.
Mountain Chalets Motel, Twizel.
Comfortable A-frame units along the main road to Mt. Cook. Very few restaurant options in Twizel.
Okarito Kiwi Cottage, Okarito.
Run-down “bach” in Okarito village (pop. = 30). Cozy, but very musty-smelling. Ancient kitchen facilities. Bring all food. Overpriced for what you get, but the location can’t be beat. No cell phone reception in Okarito.
Useful Websites and Contacts:
Wrybill Birding Tours: http://wrybill-tours.com/services-tours/
Tawhranui Open Sanctuary: http://www.tossi.org.nz/
Tiritiri Matangi Open Sanctuary: http://www.tiritirimatangi.org.nz/home
Miranda Shorebird Center: http://www.miranda-shorebird.org.nz/
Bluebridge Cook Strait Ferries: https://www.bluebridge.co.nz/
E-Ko Tours: https://www.e-ko.nz/tours/bird-watchers-tours
Albatross Encounter Kaikoura: https://www.albatrossencounter.co.nz/
Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony: https://www.penguins.co.nz/
Stewart Island Ferry: https://www.stewartislandexperience.co.nz/getting-there/stewart-island-ferry-services/
Ulva’s Guided Walks: http://www.ulva.co.nz/
Real Journeys Milford Sound Nature Cruises: https://www.realjourneys.co.nz/en/experiences/cruises/milford-sound-nature-cruises/
Okarito Kiwi Tours: http://okaritokiwitours.co.nz/
The weather during our trip can best be described as changeable, or “four seasons in a day.” We had some rain on most days, but some sun on every day. During the first week while we were on the North Island, the South Island was hit by a storm that caused flooding in Dunedin and unseasonably late snow in the mountains. That storm was predicted to move north, and we watched the daily forecast with trepidation, as almost every day we had ferry crossings or pelagic trips that could easily be canceled by bad weather. Fortunately, the full brunt of the storm never made it to the north, and we had a week of days with intermittent showers that didn’t disrupt the birding much. Our luck ran out briefly when we hit the South Island, with lingering bad weather canceling both of our scheduled pelagic trips out of Kaikoura, but giving way to a mostly sunny week in Fiordland and Stewart Island. It was then back to “changeable,” with rain and sun alternating on a near-hourly basis as we made our way up the west coast and across the mountains to Christchurch. Although somewhat wetter, it was nonetheless warmer than we had anticipated, with temperatures mostly staying in the 10-20C range. Our raingear got a lot of wear, but the woolly hats and down vests we’d brought stayed mostly in the bottom of the suitcase.
18 November: Auckland to Kerikeri.
We arrived into Auckland at about 11 a.m. after a smooth overnight flight from Los Angeles. After picking up the rental car and stopping at the Warehouse immediately outside the airport to buy a cooler (“chilly-box” in the local lingo) and some other road trip essentials, we headed north. Our first birding stop was the Waipu Wildlife Refuge south of Whangarei, a known breeding location for Australian Fairy Terns. The tide was very high when we arrived, which had pushed several pairs of Red-breasted Dotterels and some Variable Oystercatchers above the wrack-line, where it was easy to get close for photos. Bar-tailed Godwits, Pied Stilts and Ruddy Turnstones roosted on exposed sandbars, and Australasian Gannets could be seen flying offshore. A few Caspian Terns were around, but there was no sign of Australian Fairy Terns. As we returned to the car park we ran into Brent Stephenson and his Wrybill Tours group, with whom we would spend several days later in the week. Brent told us there were currently only three Australian Fairy Terns resident at Waipu, and suggested they would be easier to find at low tide when they forage over the tidal channel.
We continued north to Kerikeri, where Detlef and Carol Davies run kiwi and other birding tours from their house, “Birder’s Rest”, which they also operate as a B&B. Unfortunately, they will be closing this operation down in the very near future. Detlef was away on a birding tour and Carol is in poor health, so their friend Cynthia Matthews took us out looking for kiwi at Rangihoua Heritage Park. Although not completely predator-free, this undeveloped peninsula nonetheless has relatively few introduced mammalian predators, and hence a healthy population of North Island Brown Kiwi. We arrived in a light rain to find the usual path to the best kiwi habitat blocked by a herd of cows that included calves and a rather intimidating bull. Deciding not to risk upsetting them, we headed instead into an area that was unfamiliar to Cynthia but seemed like it should have kiwi. Sure enough, within minutes we had close views of two different North Island Brown Kiwi. In the course of the evening we saw four individuals and heard another six or so calling, along with a couple of distant Morepork.
November 19: Kerikeri to Sandspit.
We left Kerikeri promptly after breakfast, planning to drive back to Waipu to catch a late morning low tide. We made a detour along the way to the aptly named Teal Bay, where we had been told we couldn’t fail to find Brown Teal at a spot where the road crosses a small river. Teal were nowhere to be seen when we arrived, and the surrounding pastures were fenced and posted “No Trespassing”. As we stood on the bridge wondering what to do next, three local women out for a walk stopped to ask had we seen the ducks. After hearing our disappointment, they spied the local farmer approaching on his tractor and flagged him down to ask if we might enter his pasture to look for the teal. He readily agreed, and we did not have to go far before we had excellent views of 25-30 Brown Teal loafing just around the first bend in the river.
We arrived at Waipu around noon to find little water remaining in the estuary. The dotterel and oystercatchers we’d seen at arm’s length yesterday were now scattered far and wide, but sitting on the sand in the middle of the channel was a lone Australian Fairy Tern. We shared a scope view of it with a passing British couple, turned away for a minute to record a Pacific Reef-Heron working the channel edge, and turned back to find the tern had disappeared. Lucky we arrived when we did!
We finished the afternoon at Tawhranui Regional Park east of Warkworth, which has a fenced, predator-free area that supports re-introduced North Island Saddleback, New Zealand Bellbird, and North Island Robin. We found all of these along the Fisherman’s Trail, as well as additional Brown Teal and the more widespread and common endemics such as Tui, New Zealand Fantail, Gray Gerygone, and New Zealand Pigeon. The open pastures on the way into the predator-free zone held a number of Paradise Shelducks and the ubiquitous Pukekos (Australasian Swamphens) as well as the only Australasian Pipits we would see.
November 20: Hauraki Gulf Pelagic.
Despite rain in the forecast, it was a clear day with only moderate wind and swell for Wrybill’s all-day pelagic trip into the Hauraki Gulf. We left Sandspit Harbor at 8 a.m. aboard the Assassin, with Wrybill’s group of four Americans plus several British birders who, like us, were traveling independently. Having tired long ago of California pelagic trips on which large boats are packed to the gunwales with birders, it was a pleasure to have plenty of space at the rail and views unimpeded by a wall of bodies. We picked up several Little Penguins and Common Diving-Petrels in nearshore waters, before spending most of the day drifting with the current off Little Barrier Island, attracting birds to the boat with liberal offerings of chum. Before long we were surrounded by a mob that included Red-billed Gulls, Flesh-footed Shearwaters, Cook’s Petrels, Fairy Prions and White-faced Storm-Petrels. The primary target species of the trip, the rare and endemic New Zealand Storm-Petrel, circled the boat periodically, and we also recorded small numbers of Fluttering and Sooty Shearwaters, Parkinson’s Petrels, and a single White-capped Albatross. It looked pretty black over the mainland at times, but thankfully the rain held off until the evening.
November 21: Sandspit to Tiritiri Matangi.
We had another early morning rendezvous with the Wrybill group, this time at the ferry terminal in Gulf Harbor, about an hour’s drive from Sandspit. The daily ferry to Tiritiri Matangi leaves Auckland and stops en route at Gulf Harbor before arriving on the island at about 10:30 a.m. Most of the passengers are day-trippers (including a lot of children on school outings) who take guided walks led by volunteer naturalists. Our plan had been to race up to the bunkhouse and lighthouse ahead of these groups, but of course we instead ended up birding our way slowly up the Wattle Trail, the main route between the wharf and bunkhouse that is also the best area in which to find the endemic specialties. By the time we finally made it to the bunkhouse and broke for lunch we had tallied North Island Saddleback, Whitehead, Red-crowned Parakeet, Stitchbird and a pair of nest-building North Island Kokako, as well as North Island Robin, New Zealand Fantail, and the hard-to-ignore Tuis and New Zealand Bellbirds. As we finished our lunch, we got word that a family of South Island Takahe was currently feeding in the open by the lighthouse, and ran up there to discover a very large crowd already watching them. Moments after we arrived, a few overzealous photographers got a bit too close, and the birds disappeared into the bush. Fortunately, they reappeared behind the bunkhouse after the crowds had left for the day, giving us ample opportunities to watch and photograph the pair with their adult daughter and two new chicks. During the afternoon we also wandered down to the pond below the bunkhouse where we had good views of a Fernbird and a pair of Brown Teal.
After the ferry returned to the mainland at 3:30 pm we had the island to ourselves, along with the Wrybill group, a handful of others who were also staying overnight at the bunkhouse, and a few researchers. As we all prepared our dinners in the shared kitchen it began to rain heavily, and for awhile it did not look like it was going to be a good night for nocturnal birding. Fortunately, the rain eased off just before sunset, and we hurried down the Wattle Track to the beach to start our search for kiwi. We had no luck along the shore, but as we made our way slowly back up the Wattle Track we heard rustling beside the trail, and a Little Spotted Kiwi crossed in front of us. A few minutes later, a second one wandered across the track. As we neared the bunkhouse it began to rain quite heavily again, and we called it a night, coming back out only briefly to spotlight a Morepork that was calling from a dead tree behind the bunkhouse.
November 22: Tiritiri Matangi to Thames.
In the morning we made another trip to the pond below the bunkhouse, where we successfully found a Spotless Crake rumored to reside there. Our attempts to explore the East Coast Trail were aborted when it began to rain, and we decided instead to slowly make our way down the more sheltered Wattle Track to the wharf. Instead of waiting to leave the island on the 3:30 p.m. ferry, we joined the Wrybill group to leave on a private water taxi at 11 a.m. Although slightly more expensive, this meant we would have plenty of time to reach our next destination, the Miranda Shorebird Center, well before dark. Before hitting the road for the drive through Auckland we first backtracked a short distance to visit the Waiwera Sewage Ponds, a reliable spot for some of the endemic waterfowl species. Two large, concrete-lined ponds held several Black Swans and an assortment of ducks that included New Zealand Scaup and a pair of Australian Shovelers, and in a natural pond about 500 meters to the west we found a pair of New Zealand Grebes.
A drive of several hours got us to Miranda by about 6 p.m., an hour or two before high tide. We went straight to the northernmost hide, where good numbers of birds were already roosting. Among the hundreds of Bar-tailed Godwits and Red Knots we picked out about 15 Wrybill. Over a hundred South Island Oystercatchers were also present. The tide was not fully in yet and the birds in the southern ponds were still spread out foraging, which facilitated spotting singles of Sharp-tailed Sandpiper and Red-necked Stint. In the surrounding grasslands numerous Eurasian Skylarks were conspicuous, singing both from the air and ground. A lovely sunny evening had given way to more rain by the time we arrived at the motel in Thames, a half hour’s drive from Miranda.
November 23: Thames to Turangi.
We were back at Miranda by 8 a.m. when the tide was due to be high again. The southern ponds were already completely full of water, and large flocks of White-fronted Terns, Black-billed Gulls and Royal Spoonbills could be seen roosting on the outer berms. All of the shorebirds were now in the northernmost pond which was also in better light for photography. A few Pacific Golden-Plover were new, and this morning we counted 80 Wrybill, but otherwise the same birds were present as the previous evening.
We drove south on a winding, rural route selected for us by our GPS, and finally arrived at the not-very-well-signposted Pureora Forest in time for a late picnic lunch. A walk to the forest observation tower turned up a couple of noisy New Zealand Kaka and several confiding North Island Robins but not much else; ditto the Totara Loop. This was a site at which we had hoped to at least hear if not see Long-tailed Cuckoo, but didn’t get even a whiff of that species.
We arrived into Turangi just before 6 p.m. and quickly checked the river on either side of the bridge for Blue Duck. We could just barely make out a grayish shape on a rock along the edge of the river upstream of the bridge, and had to pull out the spotting scope to confirm that it was a pair of sleeping Blue Ducks. Not the best look in the world, but at least we wouldn’t dip on that species. After checking in to the conveniently bridge-adjacent Turangi Bridge Motel, we walked back over to the river to find the ducks now awake and working their way downstream in the fading light.
November 24: Turangi to Wellington.
In the morning the Blue Ducks were still feeding close to the shore below the bridge, although the light was not much better than it had been the previous evening, and it was starting to rain. We drove the short distance to Lake Taupo, hoping to find waterfowl and perhaps Australasian Bittern in Tokaanu. By the time we reached the Tokaanu Old Wharf Rd., however, it was raining heavily, and we quickly abandoned the search for bittern in the extensive reedbeds. Instead we scanned the lake from under umbrellas, spying at least four pairs of New Zealand Grebes among scores of New Zealand Scaup and hundreds of Black Swans. This was the only site at which we saw Eurasian Coots and Little Black Cormorants, about 100 of the latter roosting on the old wharf.
We drove south through more rain then sun then it was back to rain again as we reached the Manawatu Estuary. This was a spontaneous stop, and we were lucky to arrive at the observation deck at the end of Dawick St. in Foxton Beach just as shorebirds that had been roosting on the sand spit during high tide were starting to wake up and disperse. The usual Bar-tailed Godwits, Red Knots and Pied Stilts were accompanied by a Curlew Sandpiper, one Double-banded Plover, and most surprisingly, a Little Egret. A local photographer told us that both the egret and the Curlew Sandpiper had been in the area for some time.
November 25: Wellington to Picton.
All week the weather forecast had had us worrying that the ferry crossing from Wellington to South Island would be rough—or worse, canceled. But it was a beautiful, clear morning and Cook Strait was remarkably calm. That made for smooth sailing, but not very interesting birding, with small groups of Fluttering Shearwaters, a few Fairy Prions, and a lone Flesh-footed Shearwater the only seabirds to be seen.
Upon arrival in Picton we had just enough time for a sit-down lunch before heading back out onto Queen Charlotte Sound, this time on an E-Ko Tours Wildlife Cruise. Although we spent quite a lot of time with Bottlenose Dolphins on the way out, we did get good views of Fluttering Shearwaters, Spotted Shags, and a group of six of the endangered New Zealand King Shags that can only be found in the Marlborough Sounds. We were then dropped off on Blumine Island, which with Motuara Island is one of two predator-free reserves in the Sound. Orange-fronted Parakeets (currently classified as a sub-species of Yellow-crowned) are the specialty on Blumine, and E-Ko Tours advertises that they’ll tell you their “secret method for success” to find them. As it was, we had to ask for the “secret” as we were leaving the boat, but our guide said she didn’t know it and the skipper just told us that the birds often feed quietly in the trees “between the two streams.” Several Wekas came running up the beach to meet us, but there were few other birds around besides the inevitable Tuis, New Zealand Bellbirds and New Zealand Pigeons. As we started up the trail from the beach it became evident that there were a number of rivulets that could be considered “streams,” and it wasn’t clear which two defined the parakeets’ favored area. Bottom line, we spent one-and-a-half hours on the island and didn’t see Orange-fronted Parakeets or much else. The rest of the passengers who had continued on to Motuara had seen South Island Saddleback and South Island Robin, leaving us feeling rather like we’d chosen the wrong island to visit.
November 26: Picton to Kaikoura.
When we had called Kaikoura Albatross Encounters a day in advance to confirm this afternoon’s scheduled pelagic trip, they had warned us that the weather was not looking promising. Sure enough, we awoke to rain in Picton, and drove through intermittent showers on the way to Kaikoura. We arrived at the Encounter Kaikoura office at about 11 a.m., and were told that the 9 a.m. Albatross Encounter trip had gone out, but a decision about whether to run the 1 p.m. trip would not be made until they had returned. We drove out to Point Kean to visit New Zealand’s largest colony of Red-billed Gulls, many of whom were currently sitting on nests or feeding young chicks. Wind and high surf were very evident on this side of the peninsula, bringing Hutton’s Shearwaters and a few Northern Giant-Petrels close to shore. We returned to Encounter Kaikoura to learn that our 1 p.m. trip had indeed been canceled, and a decision about tomorrow’s 6 a.m. trip would not be made until the morning.
We checked into our motel, and then looked for an alternative activity to pass the afternoon. By now it was drizzling steadily and fairly windy, conditions that were not conducive to a walk around the Kaikoura Peninsula. We reasoned that maybe forest birding would be OK, and decided to give the Mt. Fyffe Forest Walk on the outskirts of Kaikoura a try. The first route we took to get there was flooded—a river running across the road—but instead of taking that as a sign that maybe we should not be out, we found another route and made it to the trailhead. In full rain gear and with umbrellas deployed we headed into the very damp and gloomy forest. One hour and five New Zealand Bellbirds later we came to our senses and retreated back to our warm, dry motel room.
November 27: Kaikoura to Oamaru.
A 5:30 a.m. phone call to Encounter Kaikoura confirmed that the 6 a.m. Albatross Encounter trip would not run. No decision had yet been made about the 9 a.m. trip, on which we had also reserved places after yesterday’s cancellation. We drove back out to Point Kean and noted that the weather conditions were looking a bit better (i.e., no shearwaters or petrels to be seen from shore today), but the eventual verdict when we checked back with Encounter Kaikoura was that the 9 a.m. trip was also a no-go. They thought the 1 p.m. trip might run, but we couldn’t afford to stick around to take a chance on that, and instead hit the road for the long drive south to Oamaru.
We arrived at Bushy Beach at 4 p.m., an hour into the 3-8 p.m. window during which Yellow-eyed Penguins come ashore to visit their burrows. A volunteer site monitor confirmed that no penguins had yet arrived, but also told us that none had come ashore for the last few days because of the stormy weather. Access to the beach is prohibited after 3 p.m., and a path runs along the cliff-top with several viewing platforms and a hide from which to watch for penguins. Thankfully, we had driven out of the rain on our way south, and it was now a lovely, sunny afternoon, so we set up our scope (very useful here) and settled in to wait. After several false alarms in the form of surfing Spotted Shags, a lone Yellow-eyed Penguin finally arrived at about 5:30 p.m. and made its way up the beach. A second one followed about 20 minutes later. Species ticked, we left to go check into our B&B and grab some dinner before the start of the evening program at the Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony. On the way we made a quick detour to the old wharf in Oamaru Harbor, which now hosts a large colony of Spotted Shags and Otago Shags, the latter a recent split from Stewart Island Shag.
During the day it’s possible to visit the Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony to see Little (aka Blue) Penguins nesting in artificial burrows. And every evening, penguins that have been feeding offshore during the day return to the colony, running a gauntlet between two grandstands full of tourists who have paid to watch the spectacle. The audience is instructed (in both English and Mandarin) to observe strict etiquette (no photography, stay seated, be quiet), and the lighting is such that the penguins apparently can’t see the audience and pass close by, in some cases right through the stands. Throughout the evening rafts of incoming penguins periodically appeared in the surf, and somehow they managed to get through 2-meter breaking waves to land on a rock jetty. Safely ashore, they would assemble in groups of 10-15 among the boulders, and then dash across the open area in front of the grandstands to shelter under the boardwalk before waddling off to their individual burrows. In the course of about 2 hours, just over a hundred Little Penguins arrived in this manner.
November 28: Oamaru to Stewart Island.
Today was strictly a travel day, as we had to get from Oamaru to Bluff in time to catch the last ferry of the day over to Stewart Island. We detoured down to Nugget Point for lunch, but didn’t hike out to the penguin hide. The only notable bird sighting was a flock of Royal Spoonbills looking very out of place as they roosted in the trees on a small island below the lighthouse. The hour-long ferry crossing to Stewart Island was very rough, and although we saw a number of albatross on the way, between the violently lurching boat and the spray coming up over the rails it was nearly impossible to get the bins on them. We arrived into Oban at about 6:30 p.m., and took a quick pre-dinner walk over the hill to Golden Bay to orient ourselves for the morning. New Zealand Kakas were hard to miss, but they were some of the only native birds to be seen.
November 29: Ulva Island.
The first ferry to Ulva Island (20 NZD/person) leaves Golden Bay at 9 a.m. We left the hotel in Oban about an hour before that to walk there via the Raroa Trail, picking up a pair of Red-crowned Parakeets and our first Tomtit on the way. Once on the island we took the trail to Boulder Beach, and didn’t have far to go before we began to run into birds. First up were South Island Robins and more Red-crowned Parakeets, followed by small groups of South Island Saddlebacks, Yellowheads, Pipipi and New Zealand Kaka. With these continual distractions it was 3 hours before we finally made it to Boulder Beach, where we ate our picnic lunch while being eyed closely by two Weka eager to share our sandwiches. Continuing around the loop to West End Beach, we were delighted to run across a pair of Yellow-crowned Parakeets to make a clean sweep of the day’s target species before finally catching the next-to-last ferry of the day back over to Stewart Is.
We were booked on an evening kiwi excursion with Ulva’s Guided Walks, who have recently started running trips to see kiwis on a private airstrip not far from Oban. The Stewart Island kiwi tours that had been run for many years by Philip Smith were taken over several years ago by Real Journeys with apparently unsatisfactory results, and are no longer being recommended by birders. We were initially skeptical of Ulva’s Guided Walks when we met them at the appointed 10:30 p.m. rendezvous and learned that 15 people (nine of them participants on another Wrybill tour) were signed up. Apparently this was an unusual situation but Ulva’s had come prepared with two guides, and divided us into two separate groups of eight. We were no happier when we heard that the other group had already seen a kiwi while our group was still getting out of the van at a different location, but we relaxed considerably just a few minutes later when a Southern Brown Kiwi walked out onto the road right in front of us. We ended up getting excellent views and extensive video footage of four different individuals, including a pair who put on a bit of a courtship show. And we were back at the hotel and in bed by midnight. Of the three guided kiwi excursions we went on, this one was by far the most enjoyable and successful. Highly recommended.
November 30: Stewart Island Pelagic Trip.
Aurora Charters runs half-day and occasional full-day pelagic birding trips from Stewart Island. We had specifically booked places on a full-day trip that was also part of a regularly scheduled Wrybill tour because it would be guaranteed to run unless canceled by weather. Fortunately, that wasn’t the case as it was a clear day with relatively little wind but a good swell. Before heading out to Wreck Reef and points south, we first dispensed with some nearshore species, getting good views of nesting Brown Skuas and a pair of Yellow-eyed Penguins standing among New Zealand Fur Seals. After failing to see Fiordland Penguins on the shore, we lucked into a group of three in the water. As we got further offshore and started tossing out chum the albatrosses arrived, accompanied by plenty of Cape Petrels. White-capped and Southern Royal Albatross were the first in, followed by Salvin’s Albatross, and those three species stayed with us pretty much all day. In the course of the day we also saw small numbers or single individuals of Black-browed Albatross, Northern Giant-Petrel, Cook’s Petrel, Fairy Prion, Sooty Shearwater, Gray-backed Storm-Petrel, and a very unexpected Gray Petrel. Mottled Petrels also flew past on several occasions, but they aren’t attracted to chum and kept their distance, making it difficult to get satisfactory views of them. On the way back to the harbor we stopped by an island with a large nesting colony of Foveaux Shag, the other half of the Stewart Island Shag split, and also managed to find a few Fiordland Penguins on shore.
December 01: Stewart Island to Te Anau.
The 8 a.m. ferry departed from Stewart Island in much calmer seas than those we had arrived upon, with the consequence of very few seabirds to be seen—mostly just Common Diving-Petrels scattering out of the path of the ferry. We retrieved our car and continued on to Te Anau, arriving there in time for lunch. After dropping off our luggage at the Lakeside Motel, we drove the hour or so to Fiordland NP, and specifically the parking lot at the eastern end of the Homer Tunnel. Although signs here warn against feeding the Keas, the only one we saw flew high overhead, calling loudly, and didn’t come down to look for handouts. We spent about an hour searching unsuccessfully for South Island Wren, and were about to give up when we heard a high-pitched call and then spotted one bounding down the boulder field close to the parking lot. He came straight to where we stood before abruptly disappearing into a crevice in a low rock wall – a nest? When he didn’t reappear, we headed back to Te Anau, stopping along the way in the Eglinton Valley for our first good looks at Black-fronted Terns along the river there.
December 02: Milford Sound.
After all of the highly variable weather we had been having, we lucked out with a beautiful, clear morning for a cruise on Milford Sound. We gave ourselves enough time on the way to stop once more at Homer Tunnel, hoping it would be quieter there early in the morning. It was, and this time we had to wait only a few minutes before the female South Island Wren came bounding down the boulders, disappeared into the rock wall, and the male popped out. He foraged among the rocks and low shrubs in the area for about 10 minutes, affording us very good looks and photos, before disappearing up the slope.
A number of companies run nature cruises on Milford Sound, and we had chosen one with Real Journeys because we’d read that their boats are smaller than those of other operators. So we were a bit dismayed to discover that we were going to be on their Milford Mariner, by far the largest vessel in the harbor. This faux sailing ship was too large to cruise close to shore, and stayed mostly in the middle of the sound. And although it was billed as a nature cruise, the guide focused almost exclusively on the geology, and showed little interest in pointing out any of the wildlife apart from an obligatory stop for New Zealand Fur Seals. We were very glad we’d seen Fiordland Penguins at Stewart Island because no apparent effort was made to look for them here. A second, smaller Real Journeys boat left the dock at the same time as we did, following the same route but staying much closer to shore. We’re still not sure if we screwed up and booked the wrong tour, or if it’s just the luck of the draw which boat you end up on. Regardless, we wouldn’t recommend this cruise as a birding excursion. The scenery was, however, pretty spectacular, especially with the good weather!
We birded our way back through Fiordland NP, making one more stop at Homer Tunnel, where both male and female South Island Wrens appeared briefly, the latter carrying what looked like nesting material. We looked unsuccessfully at several places for Keas and Long-tailed Cuckoos, and finally ended up late in the afternoon at the Lake Gunn Nature Trail. This loop trail through beautiful forest had plenty of bird activity, with the highlights being several small family groups of Rifleman, South Island Robins and Tomtits. The lovely clear day rapidly deteriorated as a storm blew in, and we drove back to Te Anau through thunderstorms.
December 03: Te Anau to Twizel.
Another day devoted mostly to driving, punctuated by a few stops to admire the scenery as we headed inland and north to the Mackenzie District. By mid-afternoon we had arrived at our destination of Twizel, and considered what to do for the remainder of the day. The weather was “unstable” (i.e., windy with intermittent showers), and Mt. Cook was veiled in low clouds and didn’t look overly inviting. eBird records suggested that Black Stilts had been seen recently at Lake Tekapo, so we headed there. What we didn’t know was that Lake Tekapo in late November is the epicenter for tourists who come to New Zealand to see lupines in bloom. The roadsides and lakeshores were carpeted with lupines in all shades (purple, pink, yellow, white), and although they’re non-native and invasive, with glacier-blue lakes and snowcapped peaks as a backdrop they’re awfully pretty. The shore of Lake Tekapo was lined with tour buses that had disgorged hundreds of Chinese tourists into the lupine patches, including more than one wedding party in formal wear. We started our search for stilts at the southwest corner of the lake, the area furthest from the historic stone church around which most of the activity was taking place. Finding no stilts there, we eventually braved the southeast corner, and discovered a marshy area that held not only a pair of Black Stilts, but also several pairs of nesting Double-banded Plovers, a pair of Australian Shovelers, and Great Crested Grebes on a nest. Driving back across the grassy plains to Twizel (setting for the climactic battle scene in the final Lord of the Rings movie), we marveled at the shear numbers of Swamp Harriers, with five or more often in view at any one time.
December 04: Aoraki/Mount Cook NP.
Finding Black Stilts yesterday meant there were no key target species we had to locate today. We were, however, still missing New Zealand Falcon, and Mt. Cook Village appeared to be as good a place as any to look for them. We awoke early to heavy rain, and lay in bed checking the weather app, which predicted it would be clear and dry from about 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. It was still raining when we finally left Twizel at 9 a.m., but by the time we reached Mt. Cook Village an hour later, the sun had indeed come out and the clouds had lifted off all but the highest peaks. Hiking the Governor’s Bush Walk, a pleasant, forested loop trail, turned up more Rifleman but no falcons. By lunchtime the weather was already starting to deteriorate again. We moved down in elevation to the Tasman Glacier, and hiked a couple of miles up the Ball Hut Track in intermittent light rain. Despite the weather there was a lot of bird activity, although most of it was attributable to Gray Gerygones and Common Chaffinches. On the way back to Twizel we had planned to stop at the Tasman River Delta in Glentanner, another reliable place for Black Stilts. We weren’t sure of the best access point, however, and weren’t eager to explore any of the rutted tracks leading through pastures to the delta in rain that was now coming down heavily. And we didn’t envy any of the soaked and windblown bicyclists who were arriving in for the night as we reached the motel in Twizel!
December 05: Twizel to Okarito.
We broke another long day of driving with a late morning stop at Haast Pass and a very pleasant and productive walk down the Bridle Path. Most of the bird activity was within the first few hundred meters of the road, and included a pair of Yellowheads with two fledglings, Tomtit, Pipipi, a family group of Rifleman, and, briefly, a Yellow-crowned Parakeet. Upon arrival in Okarito late in the afternoon we made a quick trip up the Okarito Trig Track, which had South Island Robins and Tomtit. In the wetland at the start of the track was one of the Great Egrets (known locally as “White Herons”) for which Okarito is famous (they breed nowhere else in New Zealand).
Tonight was our third and final kiwi excursion, this one with Ian Cooper’s Okarito Kiwi Tours to search for Okarito Brown Kiwi. This is the rarest of the kiwis, only recognized as a distinct species in 2003. The Okarito Kiwi Tour was totally unlike any of the others, or any other birding we’ve ever done, frankly. We arrived at their office at the 7:30 p.m. start time to find 15 other people waiting, none of whom appeared to be birders. Fortunately, they divided us into two smaller groups each with a guide, and sent us to different locations. These tours target just two or three known kiwi territories, and all of the birds wear radio transmitters. Our guide, Mike, already knew where the individual we had been sent to find had spent the day, and he would use radiotelemetry to track where it went after it left its burrow. The bush here is very dense, so the key to us seeing a kiwi would be for it to cross the main road where we would be standing. After receiving a detailed set of instructions (so-called “bootcamp”) that mostly amounted to “stand absolutely silently, and move – quickly and quietly – only in response to the appropriate signals,” the six of us positioned ourselves shoulder-to-shoulder along the roadside. For the next 2-1/2 hours we stood mostly motionless and silent in the dark while Mike wandered slowly up and down the road with his radio antenna, occasionally signaling us to follow him a short distance. Finally, we heard rustling, and an Okarito Brown Kiwi stepped into the road and crossed within a few feet of where we stood. Mission accomplished, we headed back to basecamp.
December 06: Okarito to Kaikoura.
Our original itinerary had us traveling the relatively short distance to Arthur’s Pass today, spending the night there, and continuing on to Christchurch the following day. After the earlier cancellation of our Albatross Encounter pelagic trips, however, we had decided to drive back to Kaikoura to try again, and had reserved places on both the 6 a.m. and 9 a.m. tours tomorrow morning. The drive today from Okarito to Kaikoura via Arthur’s Pass would therefore be the longest of the trip. Not spending the night in Arthur’s Pass Village meant giving up the opportunity to look for Great Spotted Kiwi, but we knew that our chances of actually seeing (as opposed to just hearing) one would have been slim. But we still needed better looks at Kea, so drove straight to Death’s Corner, the roadside pullout at Arthur’s Pass where they are allegedly guaranteed to be found. Despite lots of signs offering information about Keas and pleas not to feed them, the birds were nowhere to be seen, and pulling out our picnic lunch didn’t work to attract any. Disappointed, we drove to Arthur’s Pass Village and stopped at the Visitor’s Center to seek advice. Told to try the store in the village, we walked the short distance up the road to find four Keas sitting on the porch of the store/restaurant, keeping a close eye on the plates of lunch customers. Despite our intentions not to feed them, one made a well-timed lunge to snag a marshmallow from the hot chocolate we were enjoying while spending time with them. We looked quickly (and unsuccessfully)for New Zealand Falcons in an area where they were thought to be nesting, then pushed on to reach Kaikoura in time for dinner.
December 07: Kaikoura to Christchurch to Auckland.
When we had checked in with Encounter Kaikoura yesterday they told us they thought the weather would be OK for today’s pelagic trips, and we should be at their office at 5:45 a.m. We were the only two clients booked on the 6 a.m. tour and they normally require a minimum of three to operate, but for a total payment of $300 NZD they’ll go with fewer. We considered the extra $25/person well worth paying for a private trip with skipper Gary Melville. Conditions in the harbor looked to us to be even rougher than they had been when our previous trips had been canceled, but the boat launched successfully through 2-3 meter surf and we headed offshore on a beautiful, clear morning with gorgeous views of the mountains we had been unable to see on our earlier visit. The birding was equally spectacular, with five albatross species (Wandering, Salvin’s, White-capped and both Northern and Southern Royal Albatrosses), numerous Westland and White-chinned Petrels along with the usual Cape Petrels, Northern Giant-Petrels, Short-tailed Shearwater and an unexpected Gray-backed Storm-Petrel. On the way back in we passed through several large rafts of Hutton’s Shearwaters. The surf made the landing a bit tricky, but Gary expertly steered the boat through the breaking waves and straight up onto the waiting trailer.
We had also made reservations on the 9 a.m. Albatross Encounter trip, and now debated whether or not to go back out, although Gary told us we would be unlikely to get another run as good as we’d already had this morning. The decision was taken out of our hands when Encounter Kaikoura canceled the 9 a.m. trip, citing the dangerous surf conditions. Wow, were we lucky to get out when we did! We spent the rest of a lovely morning walking the Kaikoura Peninsula track, photographing the mostly non-native species to be found there. Then it was on to Christchurch, followed by a quick flight to Auckland where we spent the night with a niece before flying home the next day.
We finished the trip with 130 species (counting the three splits that have not yet been formalized by the AOS), 57 of them endemic or near-endemic to New Zealand. We missed New Zealand Falcon, Long-tailed Cuckoo and Great Spotted Kiwi, but found all of the other endemic species we could reasonably have expected to see.
bold: New Zealand endemics
TAW: Tawhranui Regional Park
TMI: Tiritiri Matangi Island
HGP: Hauraki Gulf Pelagic
QCS: Queen Charlotte Sound
BLU: Blumine Island
KKP: Kaikoura Pelagic
STI: Stewart Island
STP: Stewart Island Pelagic
FNP: Fiordland NP
Southern Brown Kiwi (Apteryx australis): Stewart Is., 4
Okarito Brown Kiwi (Apteryx rowi): Okarito, 1
North Island Brown Kiwi (Apteryx mantelli): Kerikeri, 4
Little Spotted Kiwi (Apteryx owenii): TMI, 2
Canada Goose (Branta canadensis): Te Anau, 32; Tekapo, 31
Black Swan (Cygnus atratus): Waiwera, 2; Miranda, 5; Taupo, 400
Paradise Shelduck (Tadorna variegata): commonly seen along roadsides and near freshwater
Blue Duck (Hymenolaimus malacorhynchos): Turangi, 2
Australian Shoveler (Spatula rhynchotis): Waiwera, 2; Tekapo, 2
Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos): Teal Bay, 2; Te Anau, 5; Tekapo, 5
Pacific Black Duck x Mallard: common
Gray Teal (Anas gracilis): Miranda, 55; Tekapo, 7
Brown Teal (Anas chlorotis): Teal Bay, 27; TAW, 15; TMI, 7
New Zealand Scaup (Aythya novaeseelandiae): Waiwera, 5; Taupo, 100; Te Anau, 8; Tekapo, 3
California Quail (Callipepla californica): Teal Bay, 2; TAW, 2; Turangi, 2
Brown Quail (Synoicus ypsilophorus): Waipu, 2; TMI, 5
Ring-necked Pheasant (Phasianus colchicus): seen along roadsides, North Island only
Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo): flocks common along roadsides, North Island only
New Zealand Grebe (Poliocephalus rufopectus): Waiwera, 2; Taupo, 8
Great Crested Grebe (Podiceps cristatus): Tekapo, 3
Rock Pigeon (Columba livia): Manawatu, 2; Oamaru, 3; also in cities
New Zealand Pigeon (Hemiphaga novaeseelandiae): TAW, 5; TMI, 11; BLU, 5; STI, 4; Ulva, 3
Weka (Gallirallus australis): Blumine, 5; STI, 3; Ulva, 8
Eurasian Coot (Fulica atra): Taupo, 4
South Island Takahe (Porphyrio hochstetteri): TMI, 3
Australasian Swamphen (Porphyrio melanotus): TAW, 50; TMI, 12; common along roadsides
Spotless Crake (Zapornia tabuensis): TMI, 1
Pied Stilt (Himantopus leucocephalus): Waipu, 10; Miranda, 350; Manawatu, 35; Tekapo, 5
Black Stilt (Himantopus novaezelandiae): Tekapo, 3
South Island Oystercatcher (Haematopus finschi): Miranda, 200; Manawatu, 25; Tekapo, 4
Variable Oystercatcher (Haematopus unicolor): common along rocky shores and beaches
Pacific Golden-Plover (Pluvialis fulva): Miranda, 4; Manawatu, 2
Masked Lapwing (Vanellus miles): Miranda, 55; common along roadsides, mostly North Island
Red-breasted Dotterel (Charadrius obscurus): Waipu, 8; TAW, 1; TMI, 1
Double-banded Plover (Charadrius bicinctus): Manawatu, 1; Tekapo, 6
Wrybill (Anarhynchus frontalis): Miranda, 80
Bar-tailed Godwit (Limosa lapponica): Waipu, 50; Miranda, 2000; Manawatu, 110
Ruddy Turnstone (Arenaria interpres): Waipu, 3
Red Knot (Calidris canutus): Miranda, 1000; Manawatu, 50
Sharp-tailed Sandpiper (Calidris acuminata): Miranda, 1
Curlew Sandpiper (Calidris ferruginea): Manawatu, 1
Red-necked Stint (Calidris ruficollis): Miranda, 1
Brown Skua (Stercorarius antarcticus): STP, 3
Black-billed Gull (Chroicocephalus bulleri): Miranda, 40; Manawatu, 2; QCS, 3; Te Anau, 15
Red-billed Gull (Chroicocephalus scopulinus): common everywhere
Kelp Gull (Larus dominicanus): small numbers everywhere
Australian Fairy Tern (Sternula nereis): Waipu, 1
Caspian Tern (Hydroprogne caspia): Waipu, 10; Miranda, 10; Manawatu, 8
Black-fronted Tern (Chlidonias albostriatus): Fiordland NP, 3; Tekapo, 2; along rivers
White-fronted Tern (Sterna striata): Miranda, 30; STP, 2; KKP, 3
Yellow-eyed Penguin (Megadyptes antipodes): Oamaru, 2; STP, 2
Little Penguin (Eudyptula minor): HGP, 3; QCS, 2; Oamaru, 112; STP, 5
Fiordland Penguin (Eudyptes pachyrhynchus): STP, 6
White-capped Albatross (Thalassarche cauta): HGP, 1; STP, 25; KKP, 4
Salvin's Albatross (Thalassarche salvini): STP, 20; KKP, 9
Black-browed Albatross (Thalassarche melanophris): STP, 1
(Northern) Royal Albatross (Diomedea e. sanfordi): KKP, 2
(Southern) Royal Albatross (Diomedea e. epomophora): STP, 5; KKP, 5
Wandering Albatross (Diomedea exulans): KKP, 5
Gray-backed Storm-Petrel (Garrodia nereis): STP, 1; KKP, 1
White-faced Storm-Petrel (Pelagodroma marina): HGP, 30
New Zealand Storm-Petrel (Fregetta maoriana): HGP, 3
Northern Giant-Petrel (Macronectes halli): Kaikoura, 1; STP, 3; KKP, 8
Cape Petrel (Daption capense): STP, 15; KKP, 30
Cook's Petrel (Pterodroma cookii): HGP, 30; STP, 2
Fairy Prion (Pachyptila turtur): HGP, 30; QCS, 1; STP, 1; KKP, 3
Gray Petrel (Procellaria cinerea): STP, 1
White-chinned Petrel (Procellaria aequinoctialis): KKP, 6
Parkinson's Petrel (Procellaria parkinsoni): HGP, 2
Westland Petrel (Procellaria westlandica): KKP, 10
Flesh-footed Shearwater (Ardenna carneipes): HGP, 50; Cook Strait, 1
Sooty Shearwater (Ardenna grisea): HGP, 2; STP, 15
Short-tailed Shearwater (Ardenna tenuirostris): KKP, 2
Hutton's Shearwater (Puffinus huttoni): Kaikoura, 50; KKP, 50
Fluttering Shearwater (Puffinus gavia): HGP, 5; Cook Strait, 32; QCS, 200
Common Diving-Petrel (Pelecanoides urinatrix): HGP, 3; STP, 15; Foveaux Strait, 20
Australasian Gannet (Morus serrator): Waipu, 3; HGP, 30; QCS, 15
Little Pied Cormorant (Microcarbo melanoleucos): Waipu, 2; TAW, 1; TMI, 1; Turangi, 2; QCS, 6
Great Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo): Miranda, 2; Taupo, 5; Te Anau, 1
Spotted Shag (Phalacrocorax punctatus): QCS, 16; Kaikoura, 2; Oamaru, 160; STP, 2; Ulva, 4
Little Black Cormorant (Phalacrocorax sulcirostris): Taupo, 100
Pied Cormorant (Phalacrocorax varius): Waipu, 6; HGP, 10; TMI, 21; Miranda, 8; QCS, 11; Ulva, 2
New Zealand King Shag (Phalacrocorax carunculatus): QC, 6
Stewart Island (Otago) Shag (Phalacrocorax c. chalconotus): Oamaru, 1000
Stewart Island (Foveaux) Shag (Phalacrocorax c. stewarti): STP, 200
Great Egret (Ardea alba): Okarito, 1
White-faced Heron (Egretta novaehollandiae): common
Little Egret (Egretta garzetta): Manawatu, 1
Pacific Reef-Heron (Egretta sacra): Waipu, 1; Kaikoura, 1
Royal Spoonbill (Platalea regia): Miranda, 27; Manawatu, 1; Nugget Point, 15
Swamp Harrier (Circus approximans): common along roadsides, esp. Mackenzie District
Southern Boobook (Morepork) (Ninox novaeseelandiae): TMI, 1 (HO elsewhere)
Sacred Kingfisher (Todiramphus sanctus): Waipu, 1; Teal Bay, 1; TAW, 1; TMI, 1; Miranda, 1
Kea (Nestor notabilis): Homer Tunnel, 1; Arthur’s Pass, 4
New Zealand Kaka (Nestor meridionalis): a few seen in most forested areas
Red-crowned Parakeet (Cyanoramphus novaezelandiae): TMI, 3; STI, 2; Ulva, 10
Yellow-crowned Parakeet (Cyanoramphus auriceps): Ulva, 2; Haast, 1
Eastern Rosella (Platycercus eximius): TAW, 1
Rifleman (Acanthisitta chloris): Ulva, 1; FNP, 4; Mt. Cook, 6; Haast, 8
South Island Wren (Xenicus gilviventris): Homer Tunnel, 2
Tui (Prosthemadera novaeseelandiae): common and conspicuous in most forested areas
New Zealand Bellbird (Anthornis melanura): common in most forested areas
Gray Gerygone (Gerygone igata): TAW, 3; Ulva, 1; FNP, 1; Mt. Cook, 12; Haast, 3; Okarito, 3
Whitehead (Mohoua albicilla): TMI, 20
Yellowhead (Mohoua ochrocephala): Ulva, 5; Haast, 4
Pipipi (Mohoua novaeseelandiae): Ulva, 10; Haast, 2
North Island Kokako (Callaeas wilsoni): TMI, 2
North Island Saddleback (Philesturnus rufusater): TAW, 4; TMI, 7
South Island Saddleback (Philesturnus carunculatus): Ulva, 6
Stitchbird (Notiomystis cincta): TMI, 5
Australian Magpie (Gymnorhina tibicen): common along roadsides
New Zealand Fantail (Rhipidura fuliginosa): a few seen in most forested areas
Tomtit (Petroica macrocephala): a few seen in most forested areas, South Island only
New Zealand (North Island) Robin (Petroica a. longipes): TAW, 4; TMI, 5; Pureora, 7
New Zealand (South Island) Robin (Petroica a. australis): Ulva, 8; FNP, 3; Okarito, 1
Eurasian Skylark (Alauda arvensis): Miranda, 8; Tekapo, 1; Kaikoura, 5
Welcome Swallow (Hirundo neoxena): common everywhere
Fernbird (Megalurus punctatus): TMI, 1
Silver-eye (Zosterops lateralis): Miranda, 1; Kaikoura, 9; Oamaru, 2; Te Anau, 2; Mt. Cook, 2
Song Thrush (Turdus philomelos): common everywhere
Eurasian Blackbird (Turdus merula): common everywhere
European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris): common everywhere
Common Myna (Acridotheres tristis): very common, North Is. only
Dunnock (Prunella modularis): one or more at most sites, South Island only
Australasian Pipit (Anthus novaeseelandiae): TAW, 2
Common Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs): common
European Greenfinch (Chloris chloris): BLU, 1; Oamaru, 5; Mt. Cook, 4; Okarito, 1; Kaikoura, 1
Common Redpoll (Acanthis flammea): STI, 5; Mt. Cook NP, 2; Okarito, 1
European Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis): fairly common
Yellowhammer (Emberiza citrinella): fairly common
House Sparrow (Passer domesticus): common everywhere