Mud on the volcanic shore

Last year, in June, after the North Island tour that ended in Northland, Vivien flew back to Europe and I settled down in Auckland. My plan was to work for RELEX while preparing the future… indeed, in about two months it would be time to leave New Zealand! How quick that year went!

South Island oystercatcher (Haematopus finschi)

I was very lucky to find an apartment in Mangere Bridge (thanks Carol!), a quiet residential neighbourhood south of the central district, on the shores of Manukau Harbour, a huge and shallow body of water that shelters tons of shorebirds in all seasons. I lived with a small family; they occupied the top floor while I had the ground floor, but we shared the kitchen. This wonderful arrangement offered me some much welcome social interaction, and I feel very grateful for those moments (thanks Nicola, Hugo and Maren!).

Down the road was the harbour and its perpetual tidal cycles. It was winter, which means it was summer in the Northern Hemisphere. As a result, the Arctic waders (godwits, knots…) were gone, but the South Island oystercatchers (Haematopus finschi) were in force. Those birds nest exclusively on the South Island, mostly inland, but when comes winter, they move away to coastal areas all around the country. Therefore, I had hundreds if not thousands of them to play with, and I regularly paid them a visit. They seemed to fly away as the tide retreated, presumably to feed on the exposed mudflats further in the harbour, but noisily came back when water was on the rise, to roost on the rocks and lawn of the shorefront.

South Island oystercatcher

Variable oystercatcher (Haematopus unicolor)

House sparrow (Passer domesticus)

South Island oystercatcher

South Island oystercatcher

South Island oystercatcher spooked by selfish, careless humans

South Island oystercatcher with the selfish, careless humans

South Island oystercatcher

Speaking of the shore, did you know that Auckland, the largest city of New Zealand, lies on a volcanic field? Yup, there are about 50 volcanoes in the area! The field is dormant, but it could become active again at any time… scary, I know. Many of the hills that dot the landscape are obviously volcano-shaped, but what I found interesting in Mangere Bridge is that the shore is also very obviously volcano-born: the rocks are very dark, and full of holes that once contained gases now long gone.

In the mud, mangrove saplings tried to survive.

Variable oystercatcher

One Tree Hill, an old volcano cone

The usual suspects along the shore, apart from the South Island oystercatchers, were the bulkier and shorter billed (and often pitch-black) Variable oystercatcher (Haematopus unicolor), the Sacred kingfisher (Todiramphus sanctus) and the White-faced heron (Egretta novahollandiae), and I’m presenting here a collection of images I made there, mostly at sunrise as I worked in the evening. Oh, the esplanade was lined with splendid Pohutukawa (Metrosideros excelsa), endemic and beloved trees. I loved them ❤

I had trouble with the kingfishers. Unlike the time with Jonathan in Christchurch, I didn’t have a hide, and they didn’t seem very comfortable with my presence.

Sacred kingfisher (Todiramphus sanctus)

Sacred kingfisher

Sacred kingfisher

Sacred kingfisher

Pohutukawa and South Island oystercatchers

White-faced heron (Egretta novahollandiae)

White-faced heron and South Island oystercatchers

South Island oystercatcher and Variable oystercatcher

White-faced heron

White-faced heron

White-faced heron

White-faced heron

One evening, I found a “public bath”: it was low tide, and oystercatchers, starlings and gulls used puddles formed by freshwater streams flowing to the sea to clean thenselves. Facing the sun, I tried to show the photogenic spray they created!

Variable oystercatcher

South Island oystercatcher

Variable oystercatcher

Variable oystercatcher

Variable oystercatcher

Variable oystercatcher

South Island oystercatcher

Another time, I played with ripples that reflected sunset colours.

I hope this gallery could give you a sense of the place I worked with for quite a while. It’s hardly a quiet and pristine wilderness, with the highway and industrial buildings nearby, but wildlife somehow thrived nonetheless.

It was a good time for me.

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BIRD INVENTORY

16 thoughts on “Mud on the volcanic shore

  1. Wow. What an amazing collection of images. I am in awe of your ability, Samuel, to capture such wonderful images of the birds and the landscape. I know in particular how challenging it is to get a good shot of a kingfisher, though I have never seen a Sacred Kingfisher. As a French speaker as well as an English speaker, I really enjoyed seeing the multi-language bird inventory at the end of your posting.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bonjour Mike, merci !
      I’m glad you enjoyed my bird inventory, I like languages so it’s fun for me to make it, but few have commented on it so far.

      Like

  2. I was just thinking, it’s time to wander through Samuel’s blog and here you are! Your photos are beautiful and it does indeed look like you had a wonderful sojourn there…I recently spotted and heard a rare kingfisher on one of my solo walks down by the lagoon.

    Liked by 1 person

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