May 13th was this year’s Global Big Day and like last year, we took the opportunity to visit Tiritiri Matangi. The weather was beautiful but not too hot since of course it’s autumn in New Zealand. Though many birders around the world were aiming to see the greatest number of species (the top people had over 300!) we wanted to contribute by recording birds that live nowhere else.
We walked along the beach first, but for the first time, we headed towards the far end of the island instead of up through the forest. Our goal was to see or hear a spotless crake, which is a tiny wading bird that lives in dense swamps. We didn’t encounter the crake, but were rewarded for our efforts with views of Wooded Island.
Besides the crake and always-elusive rifleman, we managed to spot all the birds we came to see. The kakariki were surprisingly well-behaved, allowing us to get a decent photo:
One of the highlights was observing a stitchbird/hihi pair. The male was perched on one of the nesting boxes put up for their use, singing to the female who was in the tree above him. We were not sure what he was up to since it’s not spring, but maybe he was getting a head start for next year.
Another high point was coming across a takahe family on the grassy path. One of the parents was patiently feeding the large chick, who was snatching grass out of their beak as soon as they picked it. The chick then started wandering around, coming close to us to see if we had any food too. Then, still faintly calling for food, it crossed the path and headed into the dense bush, pursued by its two guardians. We hope they caught up to it, takahe are notoriously bad parents!
While we expected to see those birds, one we weren’t counting on was the fernbird. This little bird is very shy and is rarely seen, but we spotted one hanging out in a bust alongside the path. It immediately dove into the grass and we could only get one bad picture before it disappeared entirely.
Near the fernbird, we found a few kokako (one of our favorite birds) leaping through the trees and munching on berries. This sighting was apparently quite lucky: the island volunteers were out counting birds that day and the kokako team hadn’t found any at all. The volunteer we encountered tried to look up the leg band combination to identify the kokako, but it bounded away before we could get a good look.
We saw quite a few other, more common birds too, and recorded them all on eBird via the phone app. New Zealand is one of the furthest countries to the east so the Big Day was only beginning in most places. We checked the global list in the evening but knew the final results would come in a few days. When we checked again, the official global count was at 6,619 species and, scrolling down the list, my records of a kakariki and saddleback made the final list!
Though these contributions aren’t much, it feels good to be part of the global birding community. Over 50,000 records were submitted to eBird on the day, which will all help with ongoing research into birds that is only possible with this type of citizen science work. Birding is a hobby with a purpose.