A Mad Dash to Texas and Florida

It never fails rare birds always show up just as I start my shift and disappear when I approach my days off.

In early January a Rose-throated Becard was being seen at Estero Grande Park, Texas, in Florida there was a Western Spindalis and a Bananaquit.  So in mid January I booked a flight to Texas for 4 days and then on to Florida for another 4 days.

I asked Sue if she wanted to go with me but because of a conflict at work she could only join me for the Florida leg of the trip.

On February 4th I left for on a milk run, crazy 4 stop, flight to San Antonio.  Arriving at 2:30pm I figure I had enough time to go to Refugio and hopefully get the Gold-crowned Warbler (not a life bird but wanted it for my year list).   Arriving at 5:15pm I got a partial look before it got too dark and then followed a 3 hour drive to McAllen. I did find a very obliging Barred Owl in the park.

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I was up early, had breakfast,  then headed over to Estaro Llano Grande State Park and began  my morning looking for the Becard.  There were many great birds but the Becard was a no show for 3 days.

Cinnamon Teal

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Least Grebe

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Grapefruits didn’t only attract Birds

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Altamira Oriole

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Common Pauraque

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I met up with a friend Huck Hutchens and He was going to search for sparrows, that afternoon.  Since there wasn’t much happening at the park, I decide to join him.  Was a fun but slow afternoon (the general theme for my 4 days in Texas, SLOW)

Loggerhead Shrike

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The next morning I planned to go to the NBA (National Butterfly Centre) and Bentsen Rio State Park, to see what butterflies and birds were in the area.  It also was close enough to Estero that if the Becard was spotted I could get over there quickly.

There were plenty of butterflies at the NBA but birds again were slow.

Cardinal

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Lyside Sulphur

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Brown Longtail

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Fatal Metalmark

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Large Orange Sulphur

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American Snout

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Laviana White Skipper

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Texas Crescent

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Lyside Sulphur

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Black Swallowtail

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Crimson Patch

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White-striped Longtail

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Not sure?

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Eastern Screech Owl

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Mating Queen Butterflies

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Sharp-shinned Hawk

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Red Eared Slider

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I spent 5 hours there, spending at least two hours up on the levee scanning for Hook-billed Kites, then I  headed over to Bentsen Rio’s hawk watch tower and spent another hour on the tower scanning for anything without luck.  On the way out I stopped at a few of the feeding stations.

Javalina

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Green Jay

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Golden-fronted Woodpecker

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Kiskadee

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Next morning I went to Anzalduas Park for a quick hour and then it was time to head back up north back to Refugio and on to San Antonio.  While none of my target birds were very obliging, a few of the locals did appear for the camera.

Turkey Vulture

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Crested Caracara

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Redhead Duck

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Reddish Egret

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Willet

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Black Skimmer

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Caspian Tern

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Monk Parakeet

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Quite an disappointing trip to Texas but was great meeting up with Huck Hutchens for a afternoon of sparrow hunting.

It was time to meet up with Sue in Florida but the weather had other plans, an ice storm cancelled flights from Ottawa.  I arrived at 11am and found out that Sue wouldn’t arrive until 6pm.  You gotta love Air Canada.

Since I had some time to kill, I drove to nearby Bass Pro Shop and bought a pair of knee high boots I’d need for my next days trek through the Everglades in search of the Cape Sable Sparrow.

I left the next morning at 5, meeting up with Larry Manfredi in Homestead at 6:30.  After a quick coffee off we went.

The Cape Sable Seaside Sparrow (Ammodramus maritimus mirabilis) is a subspecies og the Seaside Sparrow a bird endemic to southern Florida.  In my Golden Guide 1966 edition it was considered a species and therefore I needed this bird for my book.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried for the Cape Sable Sparrow without success so I decided I needed help on this bird.  I contacted Larry Manfredi one of the best Florida Guides out there, fun to be with and he knows his birds.

Check out his website:  http://www.southfloridabirding.com/

I knew the spot well where you could find the birds but snakes and alligators will put a damper on going off road, alone.  Larry led the way saying that he could hear the birds ahead. I couldn’t hear a damn thing but I had faith.  Within minutes we were watching 3 sparrows in the grasses.

Cape Sable Sparrow  (#682 of 706)

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My photos would have been a lot better but that morning there was a heavy fog and I upped my ISO when getting out of the car and forgot about it when the birds showed up in front of me.

We had a good but long day, with many good birds.

Bannanaquit – ABA Life bird #721

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The Western Spindalis was a no show at Crandon Park but while waiting a few good birds were found.

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Spot-breasted Oriole

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Black Racer a 1st for me..

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Great Crested Flycatcher

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Prairie Warbler

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Palm Warbler

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Egyptian Goose

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Sue and I returned to Crandon Park a few more times over the next few days, seeing lots of good birds but the Spindalis was nowhere to be seen.

Laughing Gull

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Least Sandpiper

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Semi-palmated Plover

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Piping Plover

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Tri-colored Heron

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Common Gallinule

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Royal Tern

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Ruddy Turnstone

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Lesser Black-backed Gull

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It was a great 4 days with Sue, good food and a few drinks…just good getting away.

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Ciao for now…

 

 

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Smith’s Longspur – Crazy Day in the Life of a Birder

Time to start catching up with my posts.

I heard about the Smith’s Longspur being seen, near Long Point, Ontario on December 17th, a few weeks before the January 1st 2017,  date I planned to get going again after a few months break, from birding.

This was a great bird and I just couldn’t pass it up but the 7 hour drive through Toronto, wasn’t that appealing.  I checked for flights and the prices were out of this world so my only choice was to drive.

So I decided to go on the 19th of December if it was still there…I waited at home, until I saw Rex Bartlett’s post that the bird had been seen at 8:10am.

I jumped in the car and off I went.   611 km from my door, through Toronto traffic, after being stuck for an hour in Oshawa and then again in Pickering, I arrived at the area at 3:33pm.   Most of the people were packing up after having seen the bird, I could see the flock feeding by the side of the road and the Longspur was among them.

Pulling over to the side of the road to have a better look, a car coming the other way spooked all the birds…..I though here they go but to my surprise the birds flew in a circle and landed right beside my car, leading the way was the Smith’s Longspur.

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After 30 minutes the light began to fade and it was time to drive back the 611 km to home.  I stopped for a bit to visit with friends in Toronto and got home at  1am.

Someday I’ll visit Churchill to see this bird in breeding plumage but for now, it will have to do.

Ciao for now

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AutoCentrics – Oiltrell, 106-30 Stafford Rd, Nepean ON K2H 8W1

I just returned from a trip to Europe expecting to sign a contract with the owner of Oiltrell in Bells Corners for a 1991 Mazda Miata, as per our verbal arrangement on the 27th of October.

I was so excited to have Greg start working on this car for me that I ordered $500 dollars worth of parts from California for the car.  Hopefully I can still cancel the order.

Well Today I went and saw him to arrange our meeting for tomorrow and he told me that he sold the car.

I guess his word means nothing.  I will never do business there again.  Words can’t describe how disappointed I am today, I was so looking forward to this.

I guess a verbal agreement means nothing these days.

Paul

 

 

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Rarotonga Cook Islands

We arrived in Rarotonga, Cook Islands after a relatively short flight.

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Petrified Coral could be found anywhere on the beach, huge pieces of coral and shells are everywhere.

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Not many shorebirds but Wandering Tattlers were common

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Lovely Flowers…

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First day Frigatebird

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Our accommodations at http://www.tropicalsands.co.ck/

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Pacific Reef Heron on Beach, they come in two color phases.

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Another Tattler

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Tropical Sands

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My Birding Ride

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Avatiu Harbour

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Shoreline at low tide

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Unlike other ocean destinations, we’ve been the shallows were alive with life

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Lovely blue clam, I found while wading

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Rarotonga Starling

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Most abundant bird Jungle Fowl

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I was lucky enough to spend an afternoon with Ian Karika who is the manager of the Takitumi Conservatin Area searching for a Kakerori or Rarotonga (Flycatcher ) Monarch an endemic species of the island. The totally Grey bird is over 4 years old and the other is under 4. Pretty cool to watch Ian call the birds in, not by pishing but clapping and calling out. He has more than doubled the population of these rare birds since 1996. Thanks Ian

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Rarotonga Flycatcher Adult Above, younger bird below

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Going to the summit

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Not what I signed up for but what a blast..

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For info Contact: Ian Karika – Kakerori@tca.co.ck

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Big surprise at summit was the fly by of two White-tailed Tropicbird’s, I wished I’d been more ready.

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Cucumber Moth

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Second most numerous bird the Myna

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Something seems familiar

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Jungle Fern

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Insects

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Large Bats

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Life in the shallows

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Early morning sighting on beach in front of Tropical Sands

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At night the sand becomes alive with movement

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More photos of Tropical Sands

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Our hosts Kanoe and Rudy, great place, very clean, nice people

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White Tern

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I took a photo of two flying tropicbirds and it was a total surprise to find they were a pair of Red-tailed Tropicbirds

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No Idea

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I wanted this shirt, but they only had mediums

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From the Islander Hotel across from the airport, waiting for flight and watching whales

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A great time…

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Whales were happy too

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Last look at Rarotonga

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Until the next adventure

Ciao for now

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Auckland – Tiri Tiri Metangi Island

We arrive late to Auckland, during rush hour traffic, unlike most of New Zealand, Auckland traffic is quite similar to what we’re use to in North America….driving on the left didn’t help either. We checked into the Crowne Plaza for our two night stay.  Nice central location for everyone.

Next morning I was up early and walked down to the wharf catching the boat to Tiri Tiri Metangi island and the ladies hung out in Auckland.

Auckland  Skyline

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The waters going out to the Island were alive with birds…

Little Blue Penguin

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Fluttering Shearwater

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Australasian Gannet’s were very abundant

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Not sure what type of Jellyfish these are but there were hundreds in the water.

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We docked the boat and were given an orientation speech and off we went in search of birds……

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Variable Oystercatcher greeted us on our arrival.

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Saddleback

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And there were plenty of trails crisscrossing the island

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Blue paper fungus growing on tree

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Wild Takahe can be found raoming, anywhere on the island

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Tui Close Up, this was the most numerous bird

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Spent a few minutes with this bird while it was feeding n grasses

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Bellbird

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Saddleback

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Little Quail

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Kiwi Tracks in Mud

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North Island Robin

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Whitehead

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Whitehead

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Sue had a good day visiting a museum and touring the city…newzealandcookislands2016-478

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New Zealand was fun for us all, there’s something for everyone.

Ciao for now

 

 

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Waitamo – Glow Worms, Caves and Kiwi House

We left Rotorua easily and headed back west to Waitamo.  There are sections of caves that you can visit here.  Sue and I chose the Glowworm Cave and Aranui Cave.  Zoe went to all three Gloworm, Aranui and Ruakuri Caves.

I really thought this would be a money grab but was I wrong, yes the price is a bit steep but the tours are awesome and like nothing we’ve seen before.

The glowworm caves are dark and photos isn’t allowed.  In the other cave I did my best but the images are fairly grainy due to high ISO.

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Cave Wetas – only wildlife in the caves

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Sue and I had a bit of time to kill while we waited for Zoe’s final cave  tour to end and we went to a nearby Kiwi House.

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Pacific Black Duck (Grey Duck)

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Blue Duck

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Cape Barren Goose

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Sacred Kingfisher

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Spur-winged Plover

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Banded Rail

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New Zealand Shoveler

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Grey Teal

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Weka

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Brown Kiwi at 1.6 million ISO, yup near total darkness and I still got an image

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On the way to pick up Zoe I found a few more new birds for the trip.

Song Thrush

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A Wild Sacred Kingfisher

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Another great day had by all….

Ciao for now

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Wellington to Rotorua – Birds, Thermal Parks and Caves

We left Wellington knowing we’d be back there some day.  I could easily see, Sue and I, going there for a winter break.  Friendly people, scenery and climate.

There were more dairy/cattle farms in the north but the variety of pasture birds seemed to be the same as on the South Island.

Pied Stilt

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We did see more Redpolls and Finches near Taupo

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A smoking up close look at a Yellowhammer, the second of this trip.

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Young Black-billed Gull

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Crazy panorama..

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European Import’s

Eurasian Coot

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Black Swan

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Dabchick Grebe

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Love is in the air

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Black-billed Gull

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Spur-winged Plover

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This photo doesn’t really show just how much water is going through this gorge at Huka Falls.

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Next stop was the Orakei Korako Geothermal Park & Cave, another spot that’s worth the price of admission.  An enjoyable afternoon.

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A small boat takes you to the Thermal Park

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The Cave

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Fantail

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Welcome Swallow

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Sue planned to go to the Te Puia, the Maori cultural center and geothermal wonder and I looked around the area for spots to bird.

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I happened on a Waste dump with thousands of gulls and after donning a hard hat and safety jacket they let me wander about taking images of Kelp Gulls.

1st cycle

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Adult

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1st Cycle

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3rd Cycle

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Adult

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1st

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1st

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2nd

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1st

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2nd

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We thought it would be a great to call it a day, early and enjoy dinner in Rotorua.

We chose an Italian restaurant…with interesting wall décor.  first Italian restaurant I’ve ever been in that bread wasn’t included with your meal.  You had to pay for it.

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A great day had by all

Ciao for now

 

 

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