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NEW ZEALAND

Saturday 19th November - Thursday 8th December 2011

Chris Gaskin

New Zealand is an extremely popular destination, thanks to a combination of factors: a host of endemics, terrific seabirds, fabulous scenery and good accommodations and food. The long drives between key birding locations all seemed worthwhile as we tracked down some of the rarest and most endangered birds on the planet, whilst taking in an extraordinary range of landscapes. A total of 146 species included all four endemic families (Kiwis, New Zealand Wrens, Wattlebirds and the family newly created for the Stitchbird), no fewer than 69 regional endemics and 27 species of tubenoses (including seven species of albatrosses, six shearwaters, four Pterodromas, three Procellaria petrels and two storm petrels). There were many highlights on the tour: all the endemic landbirds bar one (Kakapo is off-limits to tourists); excellent seabird pelagics with sometimes thousands of birds seen en masse, New Zealand lived up its reputation as the ‘Seabird Capital of the World’; four species of kiwi; Wrybill at very close quarters at Miranda; New Zealand Storm Petrels; moving sightings of a family of Blue Duck in a flooded river; a pair of New Zealand Falcons at a forest-ringed lake; a hard-won Orange-fronted Parakeet for two of the group; several pure Black Stilts; delightful and mischievous Keas; the charming Yellowhead and Brown Creeper in beautiful beech forest at close range; excellent views of a Rock Wren despite appalling conditions; and excellent encounters with Yellow-eyed and Fiordland Crested Penguins. Other good species included Chatham Island Albatross, King Shag, Australasian Bittern, Brown Teal, New Zealand Dotterel, Fairy Terns, Long-tailed Cuckoo, Kokako and both forms of Saddleback. One of the notable features of New Zealand’s endemic birds is their tameness and most species were seen extraordinarily well. On the mammal front, we saw three species of dolphin, also New Zealand Fur Seal and New Zealand Sea Lion.