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.
New Zealand supports a host of unusual endemic land birds and a rich assemblage of marine birds and mammals, and our new Highlights birding tour is designed to seek most of these endemics in a shorter package than our standard tours. 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, the endangered Stichbird and North Island Saddleback. We finish our time on the North Island at combing the Miranda shoreline for the bizarre Wrybill and numerous migrant waders. Crossing onto the South Island, our first stop is to search for the localised Rough-faced (King) Shag before disembarking on Motuara Island Bird Sanctuary, where the dazzling South Island Saddleback, New Zealand Robin, Orange-fronted Parakeet and friendly Weka 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. Lastly, we catch our ferry to the rugged Stewart Island in search of Southern Brown Kiwi and a variety of other specialities including New Zealand Kaka, Yellowhead and Rifleman prior to another pelagic outing visiting several nearby islands. With excellent lodging and meals, awe-inspiring scenery and fantastically friendly “Kiwis”, this is a tour for both birders and non-birding spouses alike, and comes highly recommended!
Chances for Yellow-eyed, Fiordland and Little (Blue) Penguin, Rough-faced Shag, New Zealand Scaup, Brown Teal, New Zealand Grebe, Takahe, Southern Brown & North Island Brown Kiwi, New Zealand Kaka, Weka, New Zealand Storm Petrel, Fairy Tern, Wrybill, New Zealand Plover, South Island Oystercatcher, New Zealand Pigeon, Red-crowned & Orange-fronted Parakeet, North Island Kokako, Stichbird, Whitehead, Yellowhead, Rifleman, South Island Saddleback, New Zealand Bellbird, New Zealand Robin, Tui, New Zealand Fantail
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 Red-billed 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.
We will then drive northward through Helensville to Waipu on the east coast, where we will walk out onto the Waipu Estuary and specifically search for the elegant Fairy Tern and endemic New Zealand Plover. Thereafter we will 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 bird safari we drive southwards, where we will make several birding stops at a series of wetlands. Possible species to keep our eyes open for 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, Caspian Tern and the north island form of New Zealand Fernbird. 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. There are a wealth of breeding seabirds here, including the endemic Buller’s and Fluttering Shearwaters, as well as Flesh-footed Shearwater. 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 New Zealand Storm Petrel! This species was only rediscovered in 2004 after a fifty-year absence and the first chicks and nesting burrows were just recently 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
Today on our New Zealand bird safari, we depart by water taxi for the fabled Tiritiri Matangi Island. Several highly endangered endemic species can be seen here, including rare birds 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, Silvereye 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 Auckland 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 on the 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 return to Auckland for an overnight stay.
Day 6: Auckland to Picton via Blenheim
This morning on our New Zealand bird safari, we catch a flight to Blenheim, heart of the wine country in the South Island, before driving the short distance to Picton for an overnight stay. This afternoon we will 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, the rare Orange-fronted Parakeet and confiding Weka, 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.
Day 7: Picton to Kaikoura
This morning on our New Zealand bird safari we begin driving south to the lovely seaside village of Kaikoura, passing through Marlborough with its many vineyards and orchards along the way. 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. This afternoon, 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 (Black) 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.
Day 8: Kaikoura to Stewart Island via Christchurch and Invercargill
This morning on our New Zealand bird safari we drive to Christchurch and catch a flight to Invercargill, followed by a bus ride to Bluff and a water taxi to Stewart Island. After dinner this evening, 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 9: AM tour of Ulva Island, PM Stewart Island
This morning on our New Zealand bird safari, we catch a water taxi across to Ulva Island, a predator-free haven for a variety of birds, including the Stewart Island forms of Weka, Tui, New Zealand Bellbird, the south island form of New Zealand Kaka, both Red-crowned and Yellow-crowned Parakeets, South Island Saddleback, 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 all morning looking for the numerous avian delights to be found here. We head back to Stewart Island in the early afternoon to search for various gulls and waders at a nearby lagoon.
Day 10: Full day pelagic from Stewart Island
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 likely 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, 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 11: Stewart Island and Departure
Today, after breakfast, we transfer to the airport at Invercargill where our tour of New Zealand concludes.
What our clients say about tours to New Zealand
- LP, New Zealand 2017
Erik Forsyth is not only extremely knowledgeable but also accommodating and fun.KB, 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
The tour was well-planned and Erik Forsyth was an excellent leader. The accommodation, food and transportation were also excellent.RN, 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