The northernmost point of New Zealand that is easily accessible, Cape Reinga is an epic place. We were there on a windy day, strong enough to knock you off your footing and make it hard to hold your camera. You can just barely see the ancient Pohutukawa tree, 800 years or older, hanging on to the farthest rock.
Travelling in New Zealand it is impossible to be more than 80 miles from the nearest stretch of coastline, and in Northland especially the coast is prominent, from three hundred foot cliffs to vast stretches of pure white or very dark grey (or black as the locals say) sand. You can find pairs of the endemic Variable Oystercatcher on almost any beach in Northland and in some places they are incredibly trusting making it easy to calmly walk within ten feet of them. Variable Oystercatchers are the only polymorphic species of oystercatcher in the world and range from all black plumage to having large amounts of white on their undersides. Below is a pair from Mangawhai Heads beach, the first being all black and the second having as much white as possible. Between the two extremes there are birds with very mottled undersides.
Variable Oystercatchers, Mangawhai Heads, Auckland, New Zealand
Barracuda washed ashore in Henderson Bay, Northland, New Zealand
There are two common species of gulls along the north shores, the Red-billed Gull and the Kelp Gull. The Red-billed is quite a small gull and the Kelp Gull is quite large. The Red-billed Gulls are quite social and often form small packs where human food is readily available. Just like the Ring-billed Gull in the US, the Red-billed is the typical parking lot gull, though in my opinion is quite a bit more charming.
Red-billed Gull at Mangawhai Heads, Auckland, New Zealand
Kelp Gulls at Mangawhai Heads, Auckland, New Zealand
Kayaking among Grey Mangroves on the Oruru River in Taipa, Northland, New Zealand (copyright Rae Lipton)
Since that is quite enough pictures for one blog post I guess you'll just have to wait for the next one to see more. Send us hitchhiking luck. Tomorrow we are hopefully bound for a shorebird count at Parengarenga Harbor on the north cape. A tidbit I though was quite funny was the meaning of the Maori name. "Parenga" means sandbank while "Parengarenga" means lots of sandbanks. Repetition like this seems quite common in many of the local names.
Header image (above):
Wilson's Snipe in Boston
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" I once had a sparrow alight upon my shoulder for a moment, while I was hoeing in a village garden, and I felt that I was more distinguished by that circumstance that I should have been by any epaulet I could have worn."
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The birder behind the birds
I am a "young" birder and photographer. I'm interested in all things avian (and many things not), and I strongly believe that there is no such thing as an ugly species (Vultures in particular... they get discriminated upon way too often.. the phrase "a face only a mother could love" is getting a bit old.)
Weird things I've seen squirrels eating in my backyard:
• whole donut
• whole bagel
• snickers bar out of the wrapper
• whole potato
• Mass Audubon
• Friends of the Blue Hills
• Massachusetts Birding Listserv
• Maine Birding Listserv
• Rhode Island Birding Listserv
• Audubon Society of Rhode Island
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