Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Totaranui- Bird Antics


Let's see if I can keep the typing (talking) to a minimum on this one, I still have another Totaranui blog to post and I don't want to get too far behind again. 

As I said previously, Totaranui (Abel Tasman National Park) is a great place to spend some quality birding time but the trouble is, if you're a photographer and a birder, you end up with screeds and screeds of photos to process, and way too many you want to share. I managed to whittle them down to these few; some cute shots, some fun shots, a couple of unusual shots and a sad one too.

I finally found some weka chicks during the second week, in fact after only seeing a couple of chicks during the first week, they were suddenly everywhere, although the parents do keep them hidden in the bush most of the time. 

It's easy to spot a weka who has chicks; if they find food while foraging out in the open they suddenly take off, running very fast (they are comical to watch), making a beeline for the bush, clucking loudly. Not a great strategy if you don't want predators to find your chicks I would have thought.

A few weka head down to the beach very early to check out the overnight tide lines, weaving up and down to the water and round and round in circles along the beach like some drunken sailor. It was cute to find adult footprints with tiny chick prints running alongside one morning. But it was also disappointing to find dog footprints one day. Dogs are not allowed in the Park but obviously someone thought the rules didn't apply to them.

I found this older Weka Chick standing out in the open all by himself. He suddenly decided he was out of there and ran off calling loudly for Mum 'Arrrggghhhh.....she's after me, she's after me, heeelp!!'  (and my settings were not ready for his quick departure).

This has to be one of the most unusual photos I have taken of a bird (and now a favourite). An acrobatic (pole dancing someone suggested) Kereru/NZ Wood Pigeon out to get the tastiest Tree Lucerne shoots at the end of a very thin wispy branch. They are very versatile and agile birds for their size but this is something else.

I was walking back to camp when I thought I saw some paper caught in a bush. It wasn't until I got closer that I realised it was a Kereru hanging upside down. It was so absorbed in hanging on while stripping off the tastiest shoots that it didn't take any notice of me as I crept closer. When it eventually spotted me it let go and hit the ground with a thump, before flying off. 

The pigeons were often the subject of my lens, there were just so many of them about. Here they are; chasing each other, stretching for shoots and flying off in the wrong direction when I was trying for some flight shots.

Even though they are quite slow flyers they tried my patience many times as I attempted to get those flight shots.

And sometimes they just played peek-a-boo...

Here are a couple of comparison shots- one taken in the shade and the other in the sun. While there seemed to be some slight variations in colouring amongst birds, you can still see how iridescent the head and in particular the breast feathers are here. That green is quite spectacular and stands out like a sore thumb when you're scanning the trees for birds.

Spring wouldn't be spring without ducklings and especially our native Paradise Shelduck ducklings. Here's Mum (one of the few native females that are prettier than their male counterparts)

And Dad (who is still quite handsome)...

And their four gorgeous fluffy ducklings... 

It's hard to believe that this isn't a pond they're swimming in, it's a small depression that has filled with water (so much rain over winter) alongside the 'Grand Entrance' trees. They also swam in another couple of large muddy potholes on the edge of a track on the other side of the trees. 

And it's where I headed each time I wanted to check in on the family. Although they spent a lot of time at the pools they would also do a loop each day, waddling all the way up to our campsite bay, cutting through and then heading back along the estuary edge to their pools; quite a feat for 4 tiny ducklings. 

I say 4 but it wasn't long before it became 3 and then 2 ducklings. Anyone who has been following my blog knows I'm a sucker for ducklings and it usually ends in heartache so I try not to become too attached to them.  But how can you not resist these cute bundles of fluff?  

"Please will you just sit down Mum!" says this duckling who reminds me of the 'Joker'. Check out his 'grin' (click to enlarge the photo), it's a dirt line from dabbling in the pool.

I was sitting on the van steps one afternoon when the family came waddling through, now with just the two ducklings. I reached inside to get my camera and went to take a photo just as a weka came racing out from underneath the van and grabbed one of the ducklings. I managed to click off a couple of shots as I raced towards the melee waving and shouting (excuse the photos, once again I wasn't expecting so much action). Here you can see the duckling in the Weka's bill,  Mum was quickly after it, trampling the 2nd duckling as she chased. 

Dad was a bit slow off the mark, the weka still has the duckling but dropped it soon afterwards. Weka are known to predate ducklings and I've also been witness to one stalking a Pukeko chick at Lake Kaniere on the West Coast. 

The family departed at a very fast pace down the estuary track, quacking and cheeping to each other. Later in the evening, when I checked in on them at the pools, there were still two ducklings.

But the next day they were down to one. It's a tough life being a duckling, it's no wonder they usually have so many.


  1. Losing the ducklings made me sad but then it's all part of nature.We waited for quite a large brood of ducklings to cross the road between Nelson and Picton. Hope they're safe for now. Loving the blog Shellie

    1. Thanks Christine and yes, I have had to harden up watching all the different duckling families we've come across this spring.

  2. Keeping photos and talking to a minimum! ....... You failed. Please keep this up,
    Love the upside down, hit the ground Kereru shot.

    1. Haha....trust you! I wondered if anyone was going to pick that up. Well spotted! :)

  3. Haha the kereru is so funny, I can't help laughing imagine the moment it hit the ground with a thump...

    1. It was a lucky sighting and thankfully I was there to shoot it! I bet I'll never see that again.

  4. We met the duck family yesterday, still with their sole remaining duckling. Thanks for a great blog.

    1. Thanks for the update Robyn, I wonder if he's still there now. Glad you enjoy the blog.

  5. As I'm sure you know, pukeko take ducklings too. We saw this happen at the Hamilton Lake. Although it's Nature, it's still quite upsetting to witness.
    Who would imagine a kereru hanging upside down - that's a great shot!

    1. Hi Jenny, yes I've seen pukeko do the same with ducklings too. There was a swamp behind our business in Tauranga where we used to check the birdlife out. Pukeko were definitely #1 in the hierarchy there.

  6. The kereru photos are very cool.

    1. Thanks Karyn, glad you enjoyed them. They were easy targets to capture with so many in camp.


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