A phalanx of shags

I walked to the Waikanae River estuary yesterday to count birds. It was very hot and around mid tide, so the birds were sitting and preening or fishing in the lagoons and river. Not that many humans were about and those that were had their dogs on leash and were enjoying the sun and sand.

My bird counts were done on the north side of the river, first where the (darker, 1 o’clock) Waimanu lagoons empty into the river and second, a little way down the sand spit (10 to 12 o’clock).

At the Waimanu lagoons I witnessed a group of little black shags (Phalacrocorax sulcirostris), diving and fishing cooperatively together.


Yes, I know this isn’t the best of photos, but WordPress won’t let me upload the video, showing them working together across the lagoon. Everyone else was head down too, so there must have been plenty of fish in the lagoons.

At the lagoons I counted:

19 scaup
3 black birds
2 starlings
18 black swans
1 dabchick
4 mallard ducks
3 red billed gulls
14 little black shags

Numerous (and uncounted) house sparrows

At the estuary I counted:

3 red billed gulls
11 pied stilts
12 kawau (Pied shags)
3 Caspian terns
10 Variable oystercatchers
31 black backed gulls
1 Welcome swallow
1 little black shag

That’s fourteen species in two 5-minute counts. The seasonal waders (godwit, turnstone) have gone and the spoonbills were clearly feeding elsewhere, but it was good to see such biodiversity.

From top: red-billed gull, pied shags, male scaup.
Banded Caspian tern, Waikanae River estuary
Dabchick, Waimanu lagoons
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