The joys of spring

When the weather is sunny, warm and with little wind it is perfect for a day of bird watching. In New Zealand we are spoilt for places to visit. It can be as simple as a walk to the local beach or park or a car trip to the nearest regional park. Combine a picnic, building sand castles and paddling amongst the waves with a spot of quiet observation. It is good to stop and just take time to notice the things around you. Spend a moment to watch crabs scuttling amongst the rock pools or gannets diving after fish. In the park you might see a magpie strutting in the grass, a fantail chasing insects, bees getting nectar from flowers or butterflies fluttering past. Life is all around us, there whether we notice it or not.

Today was just such a perfect day. We headed west to Shelly Beach, which lies below South Head on the Kaipara Harbour. It’s a quiet place but in September the shorebirds are busy pairing up, finding, claiming and building nest sites and laying eggs.

The white fronted terns, called tara in Maori, were busy and we enjoyed watching the males bring gifts of fish to their mate. These birds form pair bonds, which continue from one year to the next. Tara are beautiful, medium sized, black and white birds and are the most common tern seen in New Zealand. They flock together and nest in colonies on the ground, on cliff ledges or on river banks. Their numbers are declining. Their eggs and young are at risk from introduced predators and the birds are easily disturbed by approaching people, dogs and other animals. Their eggs are also sometimes at risk from gull attack.

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