North Island NZ

Hi. Sorry for late notice – only just clicked on Birding-Aus this
morning. We have visited the North Island twice, in January 2017 –
mainly the southern half – and in late January–mid February this year,
when we flew into Auckland and centred our activities north and
south-east of there.

We visited Tiri Tiri Matangi Island, which is a quite remarkable example
of island restoration, (re)turning a largely cleared and grazed island,
with a little forest remaining in some of the gullies, to the reverse, a
largely forested island (albeit, largely, in early stages of recovery)
with a few maintained patches of grassland. The island restoration
extends to the avifauna, and it is probably as close as you’ll get to
what a NZ bird fauna once sounded like. The island has an abundant
population of North Island Saddlebacks, Tui and Bellbirds and a number
of other species have been reintroduced or translocated there, including
Kokako, Stitchbird, Little Spotted Kiwi, Brown Teal and Takahe (a couple
of small groups and which is why they keep some areas of open
grassland). It is run as an open sanctuary, with daily ferry trips from
Auckland (via a place called Gulf Harbour, north of Auckland) that
arrive at the island about 10:15 and then take passengers back in the
afternoon, departing at 3:30 (and doesn’t run Mon and Tue). There is
also a small army of volunteers that travel out daily to lead tours of
the island, which can be quite worthwhile. It is also possible to stay
overnight (booking via Department of Conservation), in shared bunkrooms,
which gives you the chance to go out looking for Little Spotted Kiwi and
Moreporks. BUT, as happened to us, you can get stuck out there for more
than a planned stay if the weather deteriorates and the ferry doesn’t
run.  We were warned of this possibility on arrival and had to make a
decision whether to risk it (we had enough spare food to get by over a
few nights), but one family with small kids who were going to stay
decided not to. In the end we did manage to get off after only one extra
unplanned night, but we had fun, and time to enjoy the island and relax.

We also visited the Firth of Thames and stayed in the accommodation at
the Pukorokoro Miranda Shorebird Centre. There is great wader watching
very close to the centre – check out their website for recent sightings
(e.g. 7100 Bar-tailed Godwit, 1870 Red Knot, 1740 Wrybill, 2000 SIPO).
It is possible to see New Zealand Dotterel there as well (I only saw
one) but we had great views of nesting Dotterel on the eastern beaches
of the Coromandel Peninsula.

While probably a bit hard for you to fit into a short trip, we also went
out to Great Barrier Island, flying from Auckland (it is expensive to
get to and from Auckland Airport; Cheap Taxis worked for us). We did the
Aotea Walk on the island and stayed a couple of extra nights. Lots of
Brown Teal out there, and more New Zealand Dotterel. Another place where
we nearly got stuck, and we abandoned our return flight to get on a
3-hour ferry trip to make sure we got back to Auckland and then home
(pressing need to do so). That did provide some good seabirding though.

Hobbiton was quite good fun – our then teenage daughter was very keen to
visit. We had a gloriously hot and sunny day. There are masses of people
visiting, and the place runs like a well-oiled piece of machinery, as it
needs to, but it didn’t feel overcrowded and we didn’t feel pushed along
as it was all done so well.

There was a nice pub we ate at in Auckland too – The Cav, College Hill,
Freemans Bay or Ponsonby – good food and nice views to the city. Hope
you have a good time. Peter

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