Sunday, 26 January 2020

Black Stilt and braided rivers

Black stilt is one of the rarest birds in the world with just 132 known adults in existence in August 2018. Back in 1981 it was in an even worse position, with only 23 known adults. Today I got lucky and the host from our accommodation took me out early to a spot where he had recently seen a pair.

I'd just about given up to be honest. We got there and there was no sign of the birds, but then just as he started to drive off I had one last scan and miraculously there they were, walking along the river. Black birds against the light never make the best photos, but I'm happy with what I got and happy just to see these cracking birds.

This is typical of the braided rivers which black stilts love. A river fed by snow and glaciers from the mountains with a bed of pebbles and shingle. The river bed might be 200m across and in the drier summer months the river takes several routes along the bed leaving pebble islands on which the birds breed.

A wonderful example of a braided river at Franz Josef Glacier.

This photograph from the aircraft as we flew over the mountains near Franz Josef Glacier illustrates well a braided river.

Unfortunately the black stilt occasionally chooses to hybridise with the much commoner pied or white-headed stilt and this is the result, a hybrid black x pied stilt.

Paradise shelduck, a New Zealand endemic.

Little pied cormorant of the black-bellied form which is unique to New Zealand.

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