Dotting down in Tauranga.

Can you come up to Tauranga and do a talk on photography for the local NZDA Tony? We will pay for your flight, accommodation and also supply fishing and other forms of entertainment?
The gentleman on the other end of the phone tempting me was Chris Munro aka Chappie on the fishinhunt forum.
Hmmmmm let me see, I can fly up to Tauranga stay with Jamie (Sika addiction), enjoy a few wines and a chat, go fishing round the Mount, have access to a boat to cruise around the harbour and take photos and to top it all off, the good Lord willing get some images of the endangered New Zealand Dotterel.
I’ll think about it Chris, give me a few days I replied but I already knew what I wanted to be the answer before Chris hung up.
With plans made to do the trip in the heat of the summer an email arrived with my flight details, my presentation was prepared and my research on the Dotterels had gone about as far as I could take it using the great worldwide interwebs, I was locked and loaded and getting excited.
I was however slightly perturbed at the early flight time out of Wellington but nothing to worry about I had checked at the bus station TWICE and was reassured both times that the first bus out of Upper Hutt in the morning would hook me up with my flight no worries.
There I was standing at the bus station when the bus rolled in and I showed the driver my flight details “not a hope” she says “WHAT” says I, “not a hope” she says, “no chance of getting you there on time, too much traffic today”.
Ever had that feeling that your guts has been ripped out?
It did amaze me just how fast the panic and anxiety rose to grip my entire being. With no one from home actually knowing I was going north today, and being very early in the morning what was I supposed to do now?
I rang Brian aka Brian on the forum and Shelly his better half answered, I need your help NOW….pick me up outside Huntech and get me to the plane PLEASE……… seemed like hours before Shelly turned up as Brian had got home only a few hours earlier having shot a deerz the night before, must have been a carry from hell to get home that late.
Gripped with raw panic I stared out of the windscreen at the long line of cars stretching as far as the eye could see, all motionless, caught in the rush hour traffic, miles from the airport out on the highway, my hands were shaking and I couldn’t sit still, Shelly was worried about me, it was simply the most anxiety I had ever experienced.
What a nightmare, slowly we made our way into town We got a break heading round Oriental Bay and it started to look like we might just make it but rounding a corner some big arsed truck was crawling its way around the bays and we were stuck behind it, all the way round to the airport.
Panicking I pushed past the people in the line and shoved my ticket under the nose of some lady who smiled at me and said, you’ve missed your flight by about 7 minutes. *&%%*&^%$@%&*……..)(*^$$^*&()*^ .
Long story short I had to book another flight and a few hours later I disembarked from the plane after a stunning flight north right over the central plateau with my camera out of reach, lesson 2 learnt for the day. It was about 20gazillion degrees out on the tarmac a great welcome to the (BOP) Bay of plenty.
Chris shoved me in the wagon and from this point onwards the trip just got better and more relaxed thanks to the incredible hospitality extended by Chris and Jamie.
That night was to be my talk to the Tauranga NZDA, my very first public presentation, but I had my papers there to help me and about a 6,000 image slideshow to confuse folks into believing I knew what I was talking about. I also knew there would be a beer or two thrown in to calm me down as well.
Yep I had it covered, just follow the carefully prepared notes and point enthusiastically at the slideshow yes sir and all will be fine.

The talk.
It started well, I had a few beers in me to start with and a few on reserve behind the desk in arms reach for should I need to gather my wits without looking like I didn’t know what the next step should be. I held my notes up in front of me and a slideshow was expertly controlled by Chris on the remote, Jamie sat directly in front of me so I could eye contact a friendly face and then disaster struck.
I started strongly, “hands up who uses a DSLR”, I mean surely if these guys wanted me to come all the way up here to talk about landscape and wildlife photography most of them would have DSLRs, five sets of hands out of 2 hundred went skywards including Jammies and there went 9/10ths of my notes down the gurgler, as they all revolved around using a DSLR.
What now? I had an emergency bottle of beer next to me so I grabbed it, took a swing and I winged it. Almost two hours later my stage act was just warming up and I was told we were out of time. I actually enjoyed myself and the crowd seemed to laugh at the jokes so it all came out very well after all.
What really put the icing on the cake was that the Tauranga NZDA paid for the extra flight thanks to the efforts of Chris, cheers for that Chris and a big thanks to the commitee.
Back at Jammies we had a few more beers and hit the sack, tomorrow I was being guided around the place by Chris.

Day2: Target species, New Zealand Dotterels (Charadrius obscurus).

Morning dawned stinkin hot, not a puff of wind and hardly a cloud in the sky, man it was great to be back in one of my old stomping grounds, the BOP is a great place to be, blue skies, half naked girls on the beach, good fishing and tons of bird life.

Chris gunned the motor and off we shot out to a point off Matakana Island where the Dotterels hang out.
On the way across the harbour we saw many Little blue penguin’s so of course we had to take a few shots of them.
As normal double click the images to see a larger image

Kororā, the Little Blue Penguin (Eudyptula minor)

There are only around 1,400 New Zealand Dotterel left in the world today and sneaking around the sand dunes where they nest and rest during the day we were dismayed to see fresh cat prints in the sand on this semi isolated stretch of beach. This is an endangered species we are speaking about come on DOC, get your act together?

The New Zealand Dotterel, Red-breasted Plover,

Soon enough I had stolen the souls of all the local Dots, snatching them away and storing them on my cameras digital memory card to take home with me and now it was time to explore the rest of the harbour.
Skulking around the shore line rewarded me with many photographic opportunities and I had a wonderful time.
Chris expertly guided the boat in close to the birds I wanted to photograph, we even found a Reef Heron, these birds and their habits are not well known, very secretive and even harder to come across but we found one.

Matuku Moana the Reef Heron
The Reef Heron is untidy and plain looking compared to the Heron family but I bet their mums love them.

Just Shagging around

A White faced Heron

a close up

We finished the adventure off with a huge feed of fresh fishinchips right on the harbour front, surely one of the best feeds of greases I’ve had and I’ve had a few.

Day2 target species, more chances at the Dotterels
Today Jamie and I would explore the coast out at Maketu and Little Wahi.
Again it was very hot but a sea breeze kept temperatures at a comfortable level. Both Jamie and myself had been looking forward to taking the cameras out together and it wasn’t long before the shutters were clicking away as we tried the impossible task of trying to make ourselves invisible whilst being totally exposed out on the tidal mudflats of the Maketu estuary. Dots were on the menu and were pleasantly numerous and even spread evenly across the flats, I was surprised to find Bar Tailed Godwits also out there, these annually migrating birds have the longest non-stop flight of all migrating birds in the world, all the way from New Zealand, all the way up to Alaska, that’s around 11,000 kilometres.

Bar-tailed godwits (Limosa lapponica)

Bar tails have bars on their tails ahhahaha

The obligatory White faced herons kept us moving around the flats applying all of our deadly deerzstalking skills but they always fly away just short of giving us that killer shot. We tried ambushes even driving them towards each other and the tactic of confusion in general.
I was impressed with Jamie’s enthusiasm as there aren’t that many guys I know willing to get covered in muddy sand and grit just to photograph Crabs under a log (:
All in all I had a very enjoyable couple of hours with Jamie, I’m not sure if he learnt anything helpful, but both of us returned to the car wet and muddy, which is nearly always a good sign for a wildlife photographer.
The fruits of my labour

The obligatory White faced herons

Dusk found us back at the boat ramp, but this time with Snapper being the target species.
We rounded the Mount and headed out to sea, my sea legs got a wee bit wobbly and had it not been for an good sunset followed by winding in one fish after another I would have preferred to be a land based mammal, but I hung on till the wee hours of the morning and we went home with plenty of good fish and a few sunset shots for the collection. I also caught my first Kingie although not a very big one.

Sunset at sea

Day3: McLaren Falls Park and a tromp up over the Mount.

Again the day dawned clear and hot, I was feeling a bit tired so I welcomed the new day through the window of Jammies lounge where I had shared the night on a comfortable mattress on the floor with his cat, I stayed in bed till mid-morning before Jamie cut his work day short in order to show me the McLaren Falls Park.
I had never been up to the falls for a swim before, Im afraid years of hunting possums in the mountains during the winter months as a young man and having to cross freezing cold rivers sometimes chest high, nearly every day often has healed me from ever wanting to indulge in recreational swimming ever again. Nowadaz if I get wet it’s in the shower or it’s in order to shoot something I can eat.
I did enjoy the scenery

Jamie wanted to impress me with his dive bombing skills.

I had no Idea that he could practically walk on water, must be part of his Sika hunting skill set.

I was also impressed with this young lady’s skills

After a lazy shoot around the falls we headed off to the mount to climb the mountain and have a looksee.
Jamie had been dieting and doing a few work outs in order to look fitter for his upcoming wedding.

You never know what will happen and while we were huffing and puffing our way up the hill we were startled by a loud rushing sound which seemed to come from above our heads, this had us intellectual giants temporarily stumped till the sound appeared again behind us, a glider rushed past us like a giant Southern Albatross and slipped behind the hillside, bugger neither of us had reacted quick enough for a snap but al was not lost the glider re-swooped over our heads and when he saw we had fancy cameras and we were pretty fancy ourselves he could tell we were experts and we would be able to capture his magnificence and he proceeded to put a bit of a show on for us. Swooping and slicing he passed us by till he got bored with us and took off to impress someone else and that’s all I got to say about that.

I have to give Jamie and his lovely partner 5 stars for looking after me, Im such a needy person and I take my hat off for them two putting up with me, Cheers guys I can honestly say I enjoyed every moment and between the two of you I believe Jamie did get the better deal, some guys are just born lucky I guess.
Thank you Chris (Chappie) for providing a fantastic day out on the harbour and I got some of the best White faced heron shots Ive got…………………sooo faar.


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