The tour was well-planned and Erik Forsyth was an excellent leader. The accommodation, food and transportation were also excellent.
Our very comprehensive New Zealand birding tour is designed to seek almost every possible endemic bird and take full advantage of the region’s fantastic oceanic diversity. Beginning in Auckland we target North Island Brown Kiwi, amongst a multitude of other species that will no doubt be lifers. The first of our several pelagic excursions then takes place in the Hauraki Gulf in search of the recently rediscovered New Zealand Storm Petrel and a myriad of other species.
Continuing to the fabled Tiritiri Matangi Island, we will bird this predator-free reserve for the prehistoric Takahe, strange North Island Kokako and Stichbird, before combing the Miranda shoreline for the bizarre Wrybill and numerous migrant waders. We finish our time on North Island inside the fern tree forests, searching for the noisy New Zealand Kaka, migrant Long-tailed Cuckoo and tiny Rifleman.
Crossing onto South Island, our first stop is Motuara Island Bird Sanctuary, where the dazzling South Island Saddleback and New Zealand Robin will no doubt entertain us, before we embark on another pelagic adventure into the fantastic upwelling off Kaikoura, searching for an abundance of albatrosses, shearwaters and petrels. Travelling across South Island, we will seek the endemic flightless rail known as the Weka, as well as Great Spotted Kiwi, before hiking through pristine Red Beech forest surrounded by breathtaking glacier-lined mountains, where Pipipi (Brown Creeper) and the massive Kea can be found.
In Fiordland National Park our targets will include Blue Duck, the cute New Zealand Rockwren and New Zealand Falcon, before catching our ferry to the rugged Stewart Island in search of Southern Brown Kiwi and a variety of other specialities prior to another pelagic outing visiting several nearby islands.
Our final destination will be Dunedin, where a visit to a Northern Royal Albatross colony and a Yellow-eyed Penguin breeding site will certainly be amongst the many highlights of this rewarding tour.
Yellow-eyed Penguin, Takahe, Great Spotted, Southern Brown & North Island Brown Kiwi, Kea, New Zealand Kaka, Weka, New Zealand Storm Petrel, New Zealand Falcon, Blue Duck, North Island Kokako, Stichbird, Wrybill, Long-tailed Cuckoo, Rifleman, South Island Saddleback, New Zealand Robin, Pipipi (Brown Creeper), New Zealand Rockwren
New Zealand Fur Seal, Bryde’s Whale, Orca
mostly very relaxed with some longer walks
Day 1: Auckland to Kerikeri
This morning we will depart from Auckland and head straight to the delights of Muriwai Beach, where there is a spectacular Australasian Gannet colony surrounded by craggy rocks and pounding surf. Here we can marvel at this impressive natural display from a scenic viewpoint atop an overlooking cliff, where Silver Gulls and elegant White-fronted Terns attend their nests. Often present and feeding on the flowering Flax bushes are the outrageous Tui (an endemic honeyeater), New Zealand Fantail and gorgeous New Zealand Pigeon. Thereafter we will drive northward through Helensville to Waipu on the east coast. Here we will walk out onto the Waipu Estuary where we will specifically search for the elegant Fairy Tern and endemic New Zealand Plover. We will then continue north to Kerikeri in the beautiful Bay of Islands. In the late evening, we will undertake a nearby night walk for our first opportunity to look for the amazing North Island Brown Kiwi, one of five representatives of this terrestrial bird family that is endemic to New Zealand.
Day 2: Kerikeri to Snells Beach
Today on our New Zealand birding tour, we will drive southwards, where we will make several birding stops at a series of wetlands. Species may include Little Black and Pied Cormorants, White-faced Heron, Masked Lapwing, Paradise Shelduck, Australasian Shoveler, Grey Teal, endemic New Zealand Scaup and New Zealand Grebe, Buff-banded Rail, Swamp Harrier, Pacific Reef Heron, Royal Spoonbill, Australasian Grebe and the north island form of the retiring New Zealand Fernbird being just some of the targets. Further along the drive, we will stop at Helena Bay where we will seek out the endangered Brown Teal. There will also be an opportunity to revisit Waipu Cove if we are still looking for Fairy Tern. From here we travel south to Snells Beach for a three-night stay.
Day 3: Pelagic off Hauraki Gulf
Early this morning we depart for a pelagic seabird tour of the Hauraki Gulf. In the gulf, there are a wealth of breeding seabirds, including the endemic Buller’s and Fluttering as well as Flesh-footed Shearwaters. Endemic Cook’s and the localised Black Petrels are present and may be seen alongside the boat, along with the active White-faced Storm Petrel and Fairy Prions. Little Blue Penguin, Australasian Gannet and White-fronted Tern are often seen at some point throughout the day and if we are very lucky, we might even obtain views of the New Zealand Storm Petrel! This species was only rediscovered in 2004 after a fifty-year absence and the first chicks and nesting burrows were found on Little Barrier Island in January 2013. It is now hoped that a conservation effort can help save this critically endangered species.
In addition to birds, we also have a chance to see Bryde’s Whales, the magnificent Orca, dolphins and other marine life such as sharks, flying fish and marlin.
Day 4: Day trip to Tiritiri Matangi Island
We depart today by water taxi for the fabled Tiritiri Matangi Island. Several highly endangered endemic species can be seen here, including rare species sadly extirpated from the mainland. One of the Jewels of the Hauraki Gulf, Tiri is an amazing example of habitat restoration with over 200,000 native trees meticulously replanted. We will explore this predator-free haven for some of New Zealand’s most endangered wildlife, including the outrageous North Island Saddleback, localised Stitchbird, New Zealand Bellbird, the spectacular North Island Kokako, and the prehistoric looking Takahe. Throughout our time on the island, we will also see New Zealand Pigeon, Red-crowned Parakeet, Tui, Whitehead flitting through the undergrowth, the north island forms of New Zealand Robin and Fernbird, Brown Quail and New Zealand Fantail. In addition, we’ll be on the lookout for Brown Teal and Spotless Crake, which are sometimes seen at a small pond near the jetty.
Day 5: Warkworth to Turangi via Miranda
Early this morning we will drive southwards through the city of Auckland to Miranda. The mud flats and shell banks near the Miranda Trust Wildlife Centre are a fantastic place to find large flocks of shorebirds, and here we will diligently scan while searching especially for Wrybill. This small, bizarre plover is confined to New Zealand and is the only bird species with a laterally asymmetrical bill uniquely curving to the right. Its total population has been estimated at a mere 5,000 individuals. It nests on stony riverbeds in South Island and winters in flocks on wetlands with marsh and expansive tidal flats, Miranda being its favoured area. Other potential species here include Variable and South Island Oystercatchers, Eastern Curlew, Bar-tailed Godwit, Red Knot, Pacific Golden Plover, Sharp-tailed and Curlew Sandpipers, Red-necked Stint, Whimbrel, Ruddy Turnstone and Little Tern. From Miranda, we then head southwards through to the vast Lake Taupo where we will enjoy a short break before continuing to Turangi. If time permits we will visit the nearby Tongariro River to look for the endemic Blue Duck. They enjoy fast-flowing streams and we will search the best areas for this species.
Day 6: Turangi, drive to Paraparaumu and ferry to Kapiti Island
Early this morning, we will scan a reedbed for a resident pair of Australasian Bittern, which can often be heard calling and then seen in flight over this particular reedbed. Spotless Crake and Fernbird also occur, and we hope for sightings of either of these species. Thereafter, we will return to the Tongariro River to scan for the endemic and torrent-loving Blue Duck if still needed. These birds are difficult to spot as they blend into the grey rocky habitats below. By mid-morning, we will leave Turangi and drive south towards Wellington, where we will board a ferry for the nearby Kapiti Island for an overnight stay. Kapiti Island is a predator-free conservation area and has a good population of Little Spotted Kiwi, and we will undertake a guided walk to look for this endangered species. Other great birds that we may find during our stay here include Morepork, the huge New Zealand Kaka, Tomtit, Fernbird (the latter two of the North Island subspecies) Shining Bronze and Long-tailed Cuckoos, and further opportunities to look for Takahe and North Island Kokako, if previously missed.
Day 7: Kapiti Island to Picton
This morning on our New Zealand birding tour, after some early morning birding, we will catch our ferry back to the mainland and then drive south, first stopping at Plimmerton to scan the rocky shoreline for the critically endangered Shore Plover, which visits occasionally, from the nearby Maud Island. We will then drive through to Wellington, the capital city of New Zealand. Here we will board the Cook Strait ferry heading to the South Island. The ferry crossing takes about three hours, during which time we’ll have a chance to look out over the sea for pelagics, which might include any of several possible albatross species plus a variety of shearwaters and prions. We stay overnight near the centre of Picton, a scenic area that overlooks the waterfront.
Day 8: Picton to Kaikoura via Marlborough Sounds
This morning on our New Zealand birding tour, we undertake an exciting boat trip from Picton to Motuara Island Bird Sanctuary. Here we hope to find the dazzling South Island Saddleback, flighty New Zealand Bellbird, South Island form of New Zealand Robin, plus other more widespread bush species. We will also make a concerted effort to locate the difficult Rough-faced (or King) Shag, a localised species found only in the Marlborough Sounds. Along the way, there are opportunities to view marine mammals such as Dusky Dolphins and playful New Zealand Fur Seals. Returning to Picton in the early afternoon, we will then begin driving south to the lovely seaside village of Kaikoura, along the way passing through Marlborough with its many vineyards and orchards. A stop at Lake Eltewater should give us good looks at Great Crested Grebe and possibly Hoary-headed Grebe which have taken up residence here. Kaikoura is located on a most extraordinary peninsula with offshore canyon systems creating an upwelling of nutrients, thereby attracting a wide variety of marine life. Our lodging is located on the foreshore with a direct view of the majestic scenery of the mountainous coastline.
Day 9: Kaikoura Pelagic and drive to Arthur’s Pass
This morning on our New Zealand birding tour, we enjoy the spectacular mix of marine life, seascape and mountains that make Kaikoura so unique. Weather permitting, we will set out on a morning boat trip in search of pelagic species. About forty species of pelagic birds have been recorded in this area over the past two decades and we hope to encounter a wide variety of these ocean denizens during our time at sea.
The continental shelf swings close to the shoreline here, allowing for an upwelling of nutrients from the seafloor that attracts both seabirds and marine mammals. Amongst the many possible bird species, we will be specifically targeting the locally endemic Hutton’s Shearwater and Westland Petrel, both of which nest on the mainland of South Island. Other possibilities include both Southern and Northern Royal Albatross, Wandering Albatross of three varieties, Shy and Black-browed Albatross, Southern Giant and White-chinned Petrels, the quick Common Diving Petrel, and Arctic Skua. After lunch, we will drive to Arthur’s Pass, where we will look for Black-fronted Terns feeding over fast-flowing streams and the large and friendly Kea, an Alpine parrot, around the village. At night we may hear the calls of Great Spotted Kiwi from the surrounding forest.
Day 10: Arthur’s Pass to Omarama
After breakfast today, we will walk a trail near the village, through beautiful Beach Forest to look for the tiny Rifleman, Pipipi (Brown Creeper) and South Island forms of New Zealand Robin and Tomtit, the latter with a yellow-breast. We will also have another search for the Kea if not found from the previous day. Later in the morning, we will begin our drive to Omarama in the MacKenzie Country, so-named after an early pioneer. En route, we will detour slightly to Mount John Observatory to look for Chukor, an attractive partridge of the hill country. If time permits, we will also search for the critically endangered Black Stilt before arriving in Omarama in the late afternoon.
Day 11: Omarama and Mount Cook area
Today on our New Zealand birding tour, we will search in earnest for Black Stilt if not found the previous day. This is one of New Zealand’s most endangered species and thought to be the world’s rarest wader at less than 250 individuals. We also have further chances for the beautiful endemic Double-banded Plover (Banded Dotterel) and Black-fronted Tern, which nest on the braided riverbeds. The scenery is breath-taking and we will see New Zealand’s highest peak, the snow-covered Mount Cook at (3724m). Other species possible in this area may include New Zealand Falcon, Swamp Harrier, Paradise Shelduck, New Zealand Scaup, Grey Teal, Eurasian Coot, Great Crested Grebe, Masked Lapwing, New Zealand (Australasian) Pipit, Australian Magpie, Yellowhammer and Common Redpoll.
Day 12: Omarama to Te Anau
This morning on our New Zealand birding tour, we visit several wetlands, again searching for Black Stilt in case we missed it the previous day, or else simply to secure better views. While searching for this enigmatic species, we will also look for other river-loving species which may include further chances for the endemic Double-banded Plover, Black-fronted Tern, Black-billed Gull and New Zealand Pipit. Small passerines introduced from Europe are another feature of this area, with possibilities for Yellowhammer, European Greenfinch, European Goldfinch, Common Redpoll, Song Thrush and Dunnock. From here we will drive along the southern shores of Lake Wakatipu and then through rolling open country to Te Anau for a two-night stay.
Day 13: Fiordland National Park via Milford Sound
This morning on our New Zealand birding tour, we head through to Fiordland National Park, allowing for breathtaking views of the lofty Mitre Peak. There are many other dramatic peaks in this, New Zealand’s largest national park, also rightfully declared as a World Heritage Area. En route we’ll be on the lookout for the scarce New Zealand Falcon and also for Blue Duck, should we still need this species. At Milford Sound, we will go on a general wildlife boat tour to look for Fiordland (Crested) Penguin and New Zealand Fur Seals. The scenery is similarly splendid and offers fantastic photographic opportunities. Afterwards, we will take various stops in Beech Forest to look for New Zealand Kaka, Yellow-crowned Parakeet, New Zealand Robin, Tomtit, Pipipi (Brown Creeper) and Rifleman, a member of the endemic family of New Zealand Wrens. Here we can also visit a site at the Homer Tunnel for the rare and localised endemic New Zealand Rockwren and the fantastic Kea, a true Alpine parrot. There are also some beautiful forest walks in this area so we will take our time before heading back to our accommodation.
Day 14: Te Anau to Stewart Island
After driving down to Invercargill, we will catch a ferry from Bluff to Stewart Island, New Zealand’s third largest island and newest national park. Stewart Island is wild and rugged, with few roads and high numbers of birds, making it a very exciting place indeed! This afternoon we will catch a water taxi to Ulva Island in Paterson Inlet, a forested jewel, which will put us into some of the best avian bush walking in New Zealand. Ulva Island is a predator-free haven for a variety of birds, including the Stewart Island form of Weka, Tui, New Zealand Bellbird, the south island form of New Zealand Kaka, both Red-crowned and Yellow-crowned Parakeets, South Island Saddleback, the endangered Yellowhead, New Zealand Robin and New Zealand Pigeon (locally known as the Kereru). There is an excellent series of paths around the island and we’ll be out for several hours before taking the water taxi back to Golden Bay on Stewart Island. During one of our two evenings in this area, we will depart by boat to a nearby beach, where we will search for the localised Stewart Island form of Southern Brown Kiwi feeding amongst the kelp washed ashore.
Day 15: Stewart Island Pelagic
A highlight on Stewart Island is the opportunity for a pelagic tour exploring nearby islands and the spectacular coastal scenery. Again, those who require motion sickness medication will want to plan ahead as our trip will take us around the south–eastern side of the island, to South Cape and the Southern Muttonbird Islands. We will encounter a number of new species of albatross, shearwaters and diving petrels today, with possibilities including Wandering, Northern Royal, Campbell’s, Salvin’s and Buller’s Albatross, Southern Giant Petrel, Brown Skua, Sooty Shearwater, Cape and Mottled Petrels, Common Diving Petrel as well as chances for Grey-backed Storm Petrel and three species of penguins – namely Yellow-eyed, Fiordland and Little (Blue). Antarctic Terns also have a small breeding colony south of here and we will be looking for sightings of this rare bird for New Zealand.
Day 16: Stewart Island to Dunedin
After some final birding in this area, we will catch the ferry to Bluff and drive to Dunedin for an overnight stay. Once in the Dunedin area we will visit Taiaroa Head, and spend time at the headland looking for Northern Royal Albatross, here at their only mainland breeding site. Depending on the conditions (the windier the better), we can admire these gigantic and extremely impressive birds (weighing up to 9kg!) as they fly past the headland. Active colonies of Spotted Shags, Red-billed Gulls, White-fronted Terns and a few Royal Spoonbills will vie for our attention as they nest on a nearby cliff face. In the late afternoon, we will visit a breeding colony of Yellow-eyed Penguins, New Zealand’s rarest endemic penguin species, where the adults can be seen returning to their nesting burrows after fishing at sea.
Day 17: Departure day
After breakfast, we transfer to the airport at Dunedin where our tour of New Zealand concludes.
What our clients say about tours to New Zealand
- RN, New Zealand 2017
Erik was a delight to be with, as his sense of humour was a constant. Having him at the helm added an unexpected and pleasurable dimension to the whole trip. The entire trip was terrific: beautiful scenery, nice people, good beer and food, and comfy accommodations.DE & NE, New Zealand
Erik Forsyth is one of the best guides. Extraordinary knowledge of birds as well as New Zealand itself. Personable and cheerful with a wonderful sense of humour. He is attentive birders’ needs and made every effort to meet and exceed any special needs. He knew where to try and find the endemics, and the only one we didn’t see or hear was because of inclement weather. We would definitely travel with Erik again should that opportunity present itself.JM & MW, New Zealand 2017
Erik Forsyth is not only extremely knowledgeable but also accommodating and fun.KB, New Zealand 2017
Erik Forsyth’s depth of knowledge of the birds of New Zealand was astounding. He delivered on all the species possible, and some even became good friends with multiple good sightings before the trip was through. He was good-natured and managed our group well throughout the long hours of driving on several days. The accommodations were good, as were the night walks for kiwis, the pelagic tours, and the visits to islands and refuges to see rare, endemic and endangered species. I loved the trip from the beginning to the end. We had good weather, too! Thanks, from the bottom of my heart, for the wonderful experience exploring New Zealand. I fell in love with the birds and the country. Thanks, Erik, for making it happen. Four stars, two thumbs up, all possible positive accolades.LP, New Zealand 2017
The trip sounded good in the write-up but far exceeded our expectations. The pelagic trips were outstanding. The number of participants was perfect. Erik knew the birds and their calls/sounds and was very effective in getting everyone to see the birds. He called many pelagic IDs well before other people had even spotted the birds. Erik’s skills in managing the participants showed and his sense of humour added to his effectiveness. We thoroughly enjoyed our trip.DM & SM, New Zealand