Danny Yee >> Travelogues >> New Zealand: Coromandel, Central Plateau, Waikato

Miranda Shorebird Centre

Friday 11th February

We left Sydney at an ungodly hour in the morning but had an uneventful flight to Auckland. As usual, New Zealand biosecurity fumigated my tent and cleaned Camilla's boots for her. We picked up our hire car, went to a supermarket over the road and bought $110 worth of food, and we were away by about 2.30pm.

Black-backed Gull at Kawakawa Bay
Our destination for the evening, booked in advance, was the Miranda Shorebird Centre, on the southwest corner of the Firth of Thames. This is probably only an hour's drive from Auckland airport, but we took the scenic route via Kawakawa Bay and didn't get there till after 5pm.

Taking advantage of the remaining light, we went out nearly immediately, following a track out to the closest point of the shoreline. There were lots of little crabs scuttling around behind the mangroves and on the tidal flats there were wrybill, plump little birds that have beaks skewed to the right. They didn't come close enough for me to take decent photographs in the fading light.

Our room at the Miranda Shorebird Centre was comfortable and had a bathroom and cooking facilities. The setup is pleasantly informal - it's not a motel! - and at $50 for the night, it isn't expensive either. I would definitely consider staying here again, even if I were just passing by.

Anyone interested in birds could easily spend a couple of nights here: as well as the birdwatching opportunities along the shoreline, the centre has a good range of scientific exhibits.

The Shorebird Centre has its own website.

Saturday 12th February

200mm, f/5.6, 1/320s, ISO 200
We drove down to the southern end of the reserve and walked across fields where white-faced herons and pied stilts were feeding, out to where there's a big sandspit. The tide was still out at 8am - high tide wasn't till 10 - so the hide wasn't very useful (and it was rather dank looking anyway), but there was plenty to see just sitting on the beach: thousands of bar-tailed godwit and red knot, as well as wrybill, black-backed seagulls, and variable oystercatchers.
"the most impressive of all over-water migrations by an land bird is undertaken by the Bar-tailed Godwits which breed in eastern Siberia and Alaska, and each autumn accomplish an astonishing flight to New Zealand over a minimum distance of 10,400km." (Ian Newton, Bird Migration)
the sandspit
Pied Stilts, Bar-tailed Godwit, Red Knot, Wrybill

It was intermittently sunny with scattered clouds, but windy.

We were heading east, but first we drove back to Kaiau looking for more birds -- we only saw variable oystercatchers -- before we turned around and drove to Thames, skipping the Miranda hot springs.

In Thames we had lunch and I booked the Pinnacles hut for the following night. I thought about having Camilla drop me off in the Kauaeranga valley and then walking all the way across the peninsula to Whitianga, but decided the logistics were too complicated.

On the way out of Thames we stopped at the Tropical Butterfly House in Tararu. This was the first such place I'd visited and was a lot of fun -- I got the flash out and photographed some butterflies -- but it was also hot and steamy.

We then took the winding road up the west coast of the Coromandel, turning off just before Coromandel Town on the 309 Road to Whitianga.

Next: the 309 Road: Castle Rock, Kauri grove, Whitianga
Up: Coromandel, Tongariro, Waikato, Auckland

New Zealand: Coromandel, Central Plateau, Waikato << Travelogues << Danny Yee