The aftermath of a biting cold southerly can leave the air crystal clear and the outline of our neighbouring South Island much more visible. Today was such a day and so we rugged up very warmly and spent some time back at Karehana Bay where the Shore Plovers were resting on the sandy strip behind the storm- piled seaweed. (There are approximately 200 of these birds left so seeing these 5 again became even more special today)
Then we wandered along the sea front and sat on a seat and gazed at the sea and the views of the sky that was so strongly blue after so many grey days. The horizon seemed to be a meld of blues, the island in the distance yet more blue hues.
And so with all our senses sharpened we returned to the warmth of the house refreshed before the promised icy chills of the evening.
I must have walked past this sign endless numbers of times as I’ve walked along the beachfront at Karehana Bay.
I may have commented on the sign and the endangered birds shown but it was not until I saw these stunning photos taken by Toya Heatley that I set off with some determination (and hope) to see these delightful birds for myself. (Thinornis novaeseelandiae) or native tuturuatu. Such a pretty Maori name.
After I had eaten my frog for the day (that is: done the tough chore of the day) I went for a quiet walk around Aotea Lagoon where I spotted these delights.
I then journeyed the short distance to the Plimmerton Fire Station where these special birds can frequently be seen foraging on the rocky point that forms the southern boundary of Karehana Bay. Rumour has it that this small group of 5 Shore Plovers are to be captured by Dept of Conservation staff and rehomed in a safe environment where they will hopefully breed and boost flagging numbers.
A fairly boisterous wind was blowing, it was cold and the tide was very high with breakers rolling in to the beach. Bracing was the word.
Despite my searching I could not find the birds. Another woman arrived and we discovered that we were both seeking the Shore Plovers. She is a local resident and knew quite a bit about these small, colourful and uniquely marked birds. Their Friar Tuck “hair line” gives the impression of a halo. I imagined a bird about the size of a tern but my companion told me they are bigger than a sparrow, perhaps about the size of a starling.
We went around the back of the Fire Station and along where the Plovers are often seen but no joy. We went further along to another sandy strip of beach but nothing. It was feeling disheartening and we wondered if the birds had already been captured.
Another search near the Fire Station proved fruitless. The other woman had to leave and I decided to try once more along the beach before returning to my car. No joy. Something urged me to go back to the sheltered side of the Fire Station just one last time and perhaps speak to the woman who had been gathering seaweed for her garden to see if she had seen the birds.
As if by magic there were the Shore Plovers foraging in a group of 5.
The woman gathering seaweed was delighted to spot them too and we watched enchanted as the small group moved along the sand or amongst the rocks and rock pools feeding.
I followed the wee flock and took some photos of these shy birds. At one point one of the birds flew into the air singing a pretty squeaking little song as it wheeled about and rejoined the others.
I was thrilled to have seen these special birds and to have some of my own photos of them. Sometimes we think we are paying attention and seeing all that is around us but this experience has reminded me that it is easy to overlook something very special.
One of the most special moments in our visit was spending time in the walk-through Kea aviary. They had been fed 30 minutes earlier which may have accounted for some of the loud calls we heard as we were enjoying other aviaries on the path to their one.
The New Zealand Kea is one of our most colourful birds in terms of behaviour and it is also one of our endangered birds. It is unique because it is the only alpine parrot found in the world.
For a very extensive description of the Kea, plus exceptional photographs of this fascinating bird go here.
One of the Keas in the aviary was very sleepy after its food. The other was very intent upon preening to ensure any evidence of its recent meal was not on its feathers.
Keas have the most beautiful orange/red feathers beneath its wings and I narrowly missed a photo of this as my subject stretched and flapped its wings a little at one point.
Some evidence of this pretty colouration can be seen in this photo.
My subject was very happy to pose for a time but then decided the tree needed further investigation.