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NEW ZEALAND

Monday 26th October - Saturday 14th November 2015

MARK VAN BEIRS

A tour highlight - the recently discovered and rare New Zealand Storm Petrel (Mark Van Beirs)

A tour highlight - the recently discovered and rare New Zealand Storm Petrel (Mark Van Beirs)

New Zealand truly is a very special country for international birdwatchers. Although it has lost 58 endemic bird species since it was colonized by the Maori c1000 years ago, it still holds a splendid selection of forest endemics and without a doubt the most astounding variety of seabirds on our globe. We managed to see a very high percentage of these endemics and pride of place must certainly go to the four species of kiwi (out of five) that we managed to see at close range! The experience with the South Island Kiwi on a remote beach on Stewart Island will never be forgotten, and we also savoured to the full the smashing encounters with Little Spotted Kiwi on Tiritiri Matangi island, with the very rarely seen Great Spotted Kiwi at Arthur’s Pass and with the Okarito Kiwi at Okarito. The magnificent seabird spectacle of dozens of albatrosses, petrels, shearwaters and storm petrels at very close range on our different pelagics in the Hauraki Gulf, off Kaikoura and around Stewart Island were truly out of this world. Although some of the endemic landbirds now only occur on offshore islands or in some remote southern beech or podocarpus forests, we very much enjoyed the amazing dawn chorus of singing Tuis, Bellbirds, Saddlebacks and Robins. New Zealand is home to six endemic bird families: the Kiwis (Apterygidae), the New Zealand Parrots (Strigopidae), the New Zealand Wattlebirds (Callaeiidae), the Stitchbird (Notiomystidae), the New Zealand Wrens (Acanthisittidae) and the New Zealand Creepers (Mohuidae). We saw most of the extant species of these special families on our travels through the land that time forgot. The scenery was often out of this world and an amazing flower spectacle was offered by Giant Buttercups in alpine fields, cabbage tree spikes, nectar-rich flax and kowhai flowers next to introduced species like lupins, broom and gorse. All these gave an amazing splash of colour amidst the snow-capped mountains and spectacular coastal vistas. Mammals were not very obvious, but we did admire playful Dusky Dolphins, attractive Hector’s Dolphins, spectacular Humpback Whales and scores of New Zealand Fur Seals. Delicious food, good road conditions and comfortable accommodation added to the enjoyment of this fabulous tour.