Sunday, 4 November 2018

Living on the Edge


While we were at Uretiti DOC camp we did a tiki-tour south along the coast stopping at many of the beautiful east coast beaches along the way.

First up was Waipu Cove...

...which was also where I received a few strange looks as I walked slowly around the toilet block photographing the very detailed artwork on the building, which included the history of Waipu and pointed out local attractions including the Hen & Chicken Islands which seemed to be at their closest to coast here at Waipu Cove.

Next up and just over the hill from Waipu Cove was Langs Beach, a small seaside holiday settlement that looks to be filling up fast with permanent houses and larger holiday homes.

We stopped for lunch on the edge of the estuary and harbour at Mangawhai...

...and then drove around to the beautiful surf beach at Mangawhai Heads, the promontory you can see in the centre of the photo above.

It was a beautiful sunny day but with a chilly breeze blowing there weren't too many brave people in swimming. Taranga Island (the Hen) sits on the horizon with tiny Sail Rock silhouetted at the right hand end.

Out in front of the surf club and below the lookout is Sentinel Rock and the breakwater that forms the northern entrance to the Mangawhai Harbour.

I walked along in front of the surf club to a spot where I was able to see across the harbour entrance to the beautiful white sand dunes that form Mangawhai Spit.

At another lookout point near the carpark we were able to watch several boats fight their way home over the swift waters of an out-going tide.

From Mangawhai we drove inland a short distance before heading back towards the coast where there were some magnificent views out over the farmland to Bream Bay.

 Next stop is Te Arai Point and another stunning sparkling white sand surf beach...

...with the added benefit of a camping area. Te Arai Point is the most northerly of the Auckland Regional Parks and camping here is under the same terms & similar conditions to all of their parks. Book and pay and you'll then receive the gate padlock combination to gain access.

There's also the bonus of a dump station beside the park, although it would take a bit of careful manoeuvring to access it during wet weather and, with a bank on one side, bigger rigs may struggle depending on what side their outlet is located.

From the carpark a short track leads walkers to a tiny cove tucked in between two rocky points. This would be an ideal and safe swimming pool on a calm day at high tide.

David walked to one side of the cove...

...while I walked to the other. From my position I was also able to scan the beach to the south. There were several groups of fishermen trying their luck out on the rocky reef.

With one last look at this stunning beach we headed off back up the road and back to the main highway, crossing the Brynderwyns once again and forming a loop back to Uretiti.

We did stop in Kaiwaka so I could photograph St Pauls Church again. This was one of the first churches I photographed when we came north to see the family not long after we hit the road.

I was hoping for a better shot than my previous one; the church is in an awkward spot sitting up on a small plateau, surrounded by houses and with wires crisscrossing the air space around it.

But wait I have more! A very special sighting.

We stopped several times along the coast, checking estuaries and tidal streams for birdlife.  We saw the usual suspects; quite a number of New Zealand Dotterels/Tuturiwhatu in their rusty breasted breeding colours; including this one finding a tasty morsel to snack on.

A few dozen Bar-tailed Godwits/Kuaka, just home from an epic 13,000km journey from their breeding grounds in the Arctic tundra.

'It was a long flight, I'd just like to rest awhile...'
And in amongst the godwits, far out across the mudflats and in the middle of a channel there were three smaller waders. It wasn't until I processed my photos that I identified another long distance flyer and another first sighting to add to our virtual bird list; the Ruddy Turnstone.

This stocky little bird also flies to the Arctic tundra to breed before returning to the Southern Hemisphere in the summer. Most birds stop in Australia with only 1000-3000 continuing on to New Zealand. But, while this was a special sighting, it wasn't the special, SPECIAL sighting.

It was then that we had an OMG 'is it/isn't it, maybe, yes it is' moment. There, not too far ahead of us resting on the mudflats, were two tiny birds.

Two tiny birds living on the edge. These are Fairy Terns/Tara iti and with a population of around 45 individuals and just 12 breeding pairs, these are our most critically endangered endemic bird. Fairy terns are around 250mm long and weigh in at a mere 70gms, hence their name. In 1983 there were only 3-4 breeding pairs and the birds were headed for extinction. There are just 4 breeding sites in the upper North Island and the population has increased slowly with pest control, nest site monitoring and full time volunteer wardens looking out for the birds while they're nesting. 

We are thrilled to be able to say we saw Fairy Terns, and the best bit? We weren't even looking for them.

Nailed! Another one off the virtual list, and a very special little bird at that.

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