Before my 4 week trip to North and South Islands, I had no real idea of what this far away destination could offer from a photographic point of view. We have all seen outstanding landscapes, which have been beautifully photographed, but less so with wildlife. Below I hope to show you what New Zealand can offer, and I have specifically included an overweight of endemic species, that you can see no where else on the planet.
The beautiful endemic New Zealand Pigeon (Hemiphaga novaeseelandiae kereru) is common, but classified as threatened because in many places adult mortality (from illegal hunting and predation) exceeds the breeding productivity.
The common New Zealand Fur Seals (Arctocephalus forsteri) are the best divers of any fur seal because they can dive deeper and longer. Males can dive for about 15 minutes to a depth of about 380 meters when feeding.
Although the look docile, they can move fast and there are many instances where humans have been attacked when they have approached a female with young cubs, or when getting between a seal and the water, but normally this would not happen.
I saw this New Zealand Fur seal on a ‘private’ remote beach on the South-western coast of South Island when staying at the Wilderness Lodge at Lake Moeraki.
The endemic Buller’s Albartoss (Diomedea bulleri bulleri) breeds on islands around New Zealand.
I saw several of this species on the water outside the Kaikoura peninsula, which is really a fantastic place to watch albatrosses! To see these huge majestic birds soaring in the air is one of those wonderful sights that you will not forget!
A Rare Glimpse of the Endemic New Zealand Yellowhead
The endangered Yellowhead (Mohoua ochrocephala) is a small insectivorous bird endemic to the South Island.
It has disappeared from 75% of its former range since the arrival of Europeans and introduced predators, but good efforts are being made to ensure its survival, and populations have been established on several predator-free offshore islands. This individual was seen on Ulva Island is a small island about 3.5 km long lying within Paterson Inlet, which is part of Stewart Island. It has an area of only 270 hectares, the majority of which is part of Rakiura National Park.
IUCN estimate that there is less than 2,500 mature Yellowheads on this planet – all to be found on the South Island.
The endemic Tomtit (Petroica macrocephala) is only 13 cm long, it is locally common especially in beech forests. They maintain their territory all year, and usually keep the same partner year after year. During one year they raises up to three broods, but if their nests fail, they re-lay up to six times in a season. Impressive!
I watched this individual for 10 minutes while it was foraging for insects. Taken with Nikon D4 Nikon 300mm f/2.8 with 1.7 Teleconverter at f/6.3 1/320 ISO 2500 handheld. — at Arthur’s Pass, New Zealand
The endemic Bellbird (Anthornis melanoma) is common in forest and scrub land and it is a protected species in New Zealand. The song is wonderful and can often be heard at dawn and dusk.
The close-up of this singing individual was taken on Tiritiri Mantangi Island, which is highly recommended for bird watching!
The Tui (Prosthemadera novaeseelandiae) is an endemic passerine bird of New Zealand. Male tuis can be extremely aggressive, chasing all other birds (large and small) from their territory. This is especially true of other tui when possession of a favoured feeding tree is threatened. As is the case with other species, tuis will often erect their body feathers in order to appear larger in an attempt to intimidate rivals.
The powered flight of the tui is quite loud as they have developed short wings, giving excellent manoeuvrability in the dense forest habitat they prefer.
Tui are considered to be very intelligent, much like parrots. Songbirds have two voice boxes and this is what enables them to perform such a myriad of vocalizations, which is not generally known.
The Australasian Gannet (Morus serrator)
I had the opportunity to visit Cape Kidnappers having one of the biggest mainland colonies of gannets in the world. Amazing spectacle with birds coming and going all the time and chicks of all ages. At Cape Kidnappers the gannets return yearly in late July, eggs are laid in late September to December, and chicks leave the nest from early February.
A privilege to watch these beautiful birds on a glorious late summer morning with a fantastic blue sea and blue sky!
The endemic Weka (Gallirallus australis) is a flightless bird species of the rail family. In New Zealand it is classified as threatened and protected, and it is about the size of a big chicken.
It has disappeared from most of the North Island, and many attempts to reintroduce them into their former range on the North mainland have been unsuccessful, probably because of introduced predators such as ferrets, cats and dogs; stoats and rats are a threat to the eggs.
They are omnivorous and their diet comprises of around 1/3 animal foods and 2/3 plant foods. Although the weka are flightless, they can swim across a kilometre or more of lake or sea, and they are usually shy or retiring.
I took this image on the South Island at the Marlborough Sounds where it is locally common. It was my only sighting in over four weeks.
The common Silvereyes (Zosterops laterals) were recorded in New Zealand as early as 1832 but it was not until 1856 that they arrived in very large numbers, presumable a storm caught a migrating flock and diverted them here. . Because the silver–eye colonised New Zealand naturally, it is classified as a native species and is therefore protected.
This image was taken in the late afternoon sunlight at the Queen Charlotte Sound on the South Island with the beautiful blue sea as background.
The Largest Brain on the Planet
The vulnerable Sperm Whale (Physeter macrocephalus) is the largest of the toothed whales. Mature males average at 16 metres in length but can reach 20.5 metres (67 ft), with the head representing up to one-third of the animal’s length.
It is interesting that the brain of the sperm whale is the largest known of any modern or extinct animal, weighing on average about 7.8 kilograms (17 lb).
Sadly, it has been estimated that in the 19th century between 180,000 and 230,000 sperm whales were killed by the various whaling nations, while in the modern era, at least 770,000 were taken, the majority between 1946 and 1980, shocking!
Sperm whales are not the easiest of whales to watch, due to their long dive times and ability to travel long distances underwater. However, however, due to their distinctive look and large size, watching is increasingly popular.
I had the privilege to watch 2 different sperm whales off the coast of Kaikoura, South Island; this location is one of the world’s best spots to observe this species. To see these 60 ft. monsters resting on the surface before they deep-dive are really something memorable.
You get in a good mood seeing dolphins jumping about. I like this image of a Dusky Dolphin (Lagenorhynchus obscurus), where there is even a bit of eye-contact.
End of part 2. watch this space for 3rd and last part.