Guided by Cameron Cox. This was a custom tour.
New Zealand isn’t the country to go to for a lengthy birdlist. It has a handful of very unique, signature species starting, of course, with the iconic kiwis, of which there are five species, the plover “misfit” with the side-turned bill, the Wrybill, and the odd but majestic Blue Duck. A few other endemics, scads of seabirds, more nesting tubenoses than any other country, a few species borrowed from Australia, and a few introduced European species fill out the birdlife. New Zealand though is an experience where the birds play almost a supporting role, woven through a matchless landscape of stunning coastlines, rugged mountains, green pastures, gleaming waterfalls, glimmering glowworms, towering Kauri trees, quiet sounds, pancake rocks, and perfect beaches. It is a country so beautiful that what you find around the next corner is a view more stunning than the one you just passed, until beautiful views become almost blasé. It is an easy country to fall in love with, and a difficult country to leave.
Our trip started in Dunedin, on the beautiful Otago Peninsula, which felt like an odd combination of the stunning coasts of northern California set next to green Irish Hills. We then went south to Stewart Island, before going back up into the scenic fiordland region again, pausing to pay homage to the imposing Mount Cook as we did so. Then we went up the west coast of South Island, crossing to Kaikoura, which had been shaken by a recent earthquake but was already rallying, and still the seabird Mecca it is noted for. Next, we crossed to North Island via the Picton-Wellington Interisland ferry, and gradually moved through the middle of the island, and out to northernmost promontory, Cape Rienga. We didn’t just look for birds, but still saw nearly all of New Zealand’s birds as part of a wider trip where the true goal was to experience the country in full.
In terms of the birds themselves, we found three species of kiwi, and heard a fourth. We had fantastic looks at some of the rarest species in the world, which included Black Stilt, King Shag, Stitchbird, and Okarito Brown Kiwi. Almost all of the species seen on the trip were not only seen, but also seen well, and many of the species were seen on numerous occasions. Our total for the trip of 136 species included an incredible 23 species of tubenoses, 14 shorebirds species, 7 species of cormorant, and all 15 of the native passerines that occur in New Zealand. Most of all, we had fun and thoroughly enjoyed a stunningly beautiful country.