Trip report: New Zealand, Birding “Precious” Middle Earth by Tropical Birding

Guided by Nick Leseberg.

My first trip for the year was to New Zealand, land of the hobbits, and it is one I can’t wait to repeat; for a combination of great birding and incredible scenery, New Zealand is one of the ultimate destinations. This particular trip was designed to be easy going, and focused particularly on the endemic birds of this island nation. With only two weeks it was difficult to fit everything in around these requirements, but we still managed a fine effort, cleaning up on the endemics that we targeted, and enjoying a relaxed pace for the whole two weeks.

We explored both the North and South Islands of New Zealand, also spending a couple of days on Stewart Island off the far southern tip. The trip highlights were many and varied, and didn’t just include birds. We enjoyed Fox Glacier, the impressive drives up to Arthur’s Pass and through the Eglinton Valley, and an amazing cruise around Milford Sound, where hundreds of waterfalls poured off the cliffs above us.

But, the birds still stole the show. A friendly Southern Brown Kiwi foraging on the beach was classic New Zealand, while other highlights included Yellow-eyed Penguins waddling down the beach for their day at sea, and the boisterous antics of the endemic New Zealand Kaka. One of the undoubted highlights of any trip to New Zealand is the seabirds, and nowhere else are pelagic seabirds as accessible as they are here. During two pelagic boat trips and a couple of ferry rides, we racked up an incredible 25 species of seabird, so if seabirding floats your boat (terrible pun intended), put New Zealand on your to do list!

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