Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Glossy Ibis & the Travis Wetland

This my friends, is a very rare bird, & this my friends, is a very bad photo. But, as they say, a picture is worth a thousand words & it’s my record of a very special bird, a Glossy Ibis.

The Glossy Ibis is a rare vagrant to New Zealand, there have only ever been 50 or so sightings in New Zealand over a long period of time. The Ibis is common throughout much of southern Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, and the Atlantic and Caribbean region of the Americas and occasionally, one or two make it all the way to NZ for the winter.

This particular Ibis has been making it's way to the Travis Wetlands in Christchurch most winters for a number of years. And how do they know it is the same bird each year? It does a peculiar high kick & little shake (see #2 photo) while walking. I thought it had something caught on its leg until one of my fellow bird forum members, who has been following the Ibis for a few years, informed me otherwise. I'm sure it must be a female with a dainty step or she doesn't like getting mud on her toes (it's not known what sex the bird is).

I had heard through the forum that the Ibis had arrived back at the wetlands and as we were in Christchurch it was an ideal opportunity to see if we could find it. I’d been given an idea of where the ibis might be located in the vast expanse of the wetland but no matter how much we scanned the two paddocks and one of the ponds we could not find it, back & forward we walked half a dozen times. In the end every pukeko & male paradise duck with it’s bum in the air ended up looking like the elusive ibis. After two hours of scanning & hoping we had to call it quits and head for home, which was a good 35kms over the other side of the city. I left feeling very dejected but it wasn’t as though we hadn’t tried.

That night I learnt that somebody had spotted it in a large paddock/marshland in another area of the wetland. We hadn’t walked far enough! That was it, we had to return. It was too good an opportunity to miss, to see such a rare bird, and another 70km round trip wasn’t going to deter us. So the next day back we went. And this time we found it. Way, way over the back of the paddock & very hard to spot. It was feeding and moving in amongst the Canada geese, pukekos & paradise ducks. Once it flew a short distance but never close enough for me to get any decent shots. My photos are zoomed & cropped to within an inch of their lives but I have the record & another bird to add to our list.

What a wonderful asset the Travis Nature Heritage Park is to Christchurch, it’s a huge freshwater wetland that was saved from reclamation & subdivision in 1997. There are thousands of birds of many different species located all over the wetland; on ponds, in the swamps, grazing on the open marshlands & hidden in the rushes.

There is a 3.5km walkway, including a boardwalk over sensitive peat areas, around it’s perimeter & through the centre, with bird hides, a viewing tower & an education centre at various points on the track.

Some of the birds from Travis; New Zealand shoveler (kuruwhengi) & grey teal (tētē)
teal &

A female hybrid mallard, female paradise duck (putakitaki) & a pesky harrier hawk (kahu) that kept putting up all the birds each time it flew over.

The comical & cheeky pukeko (swamp hen). The Wetland supports over half the total Christchurch pukeko population and is Canterbury’s largest winter concentration of pukeko at around 700 birds.

After we left Travis, and because we were very near, we drove along the waterfront to the New Brighton Pier. There was a chilly wind blowing so we didn’t walk out to the end although there were quite a few people on the point fishing & braving the elements.

We have been staying at the NZMCA Weedons Park, south of the city, for the last eight days and although we have been busy (me doing blogs, photos & a bit of window shopping, David doing maintenance & cleaning) we haven’t done any tiki-touring other than the wetland visits. The weather has been stunning with lovely sunny warm days although there has been the odd frosty morning and storm clouds rolling in at sunset. Once again we’ve dodged the weather woes, this time flooding in Nelson where we should have been by now.

But, it may just be catching up with us. Today we’ve moved out to Duvauchelle on Banks Peninsula. Tonight the forecast says a polar blast is due over the South Island with a snow warning for Banks Peninsula amongst others. It did nothing for our confidence when we arrived at the camp ground, they put us on the hard stand so we wouldn’t get stuck on the grass/mud when the rain comes. Of course if it snows we may not even be able to haul ourselves up and over the summit to escape the Peninsula anyway! I could think of worse places to be…..

Duvauchelle- centre left


  1. Were the Travis Wetlands damaged in the earthquake? It's one place I want to go to next time I'm in Christchurch

    1. Hi there kiwitales, no it doesn't look like it although the roads surrounding the wetlands were like riding a rollercoaster, perhaps the cracks have filled with water. But there's a crescent of houses near one of the entry points, most of the houses lovely, big & fairly new, every 2nd or third house has been either been totally removed or has protective fencing around it. A few containers on the verges too. And of course Bexley one of the worst hit suburbs is very close by. Now that is a sorry sight, poor, poor people. I don't know how they can recover after some of the destruction we saw.


Thanks for taking the time to comment, it's much appreciated.