By: Christopher Cookson
The Marlborough region offers excellent opportunities for birding, with a wide variety of species including indigenous and introduced birds in a diversity of habitats from wetlands to braided river beds to alpine environments.
Many people when asked what to do when visiting Blenheim, will suggest winery tours, but for the keen birder, Blenheim is an excellent central location to be based while exploring the region's diverse bird life. Within the town itself, bellbirds (korimako) can be heard from time to time with their distinctive call, which along with fantails and silvereyes are some of the relatively few native species to be regularly seen in the town. Introduced species including hedge sparrows, goldfinches, greenfinches, chaffinches, starlings, thrushes and blackbirds are all common.
The Wither Hills Farm Park to the south of the town provides opportunities to observe skylarks, cirl bunting, fantail (piwakawaka), Tui, Kahu (Astralasian Harrier) and spur wing plover among other species.
The Taylor Dam to the south west of Blenheim has a variety of waterfowl including black swans, Australian coots, pukeko, mallard ducks, black shags and New Zealand Scaup. Fantails can frequently be seen amongst the trees around the dam, and occasionally harrier hawks can be seen soaring. To the west of the main body of water at the Taylor Dam, behind the toilet block is another smaller body of water where paradise ducks and black backed gulls can be found.
Significant work to reintroduce the endangered NZ falcon have been made on the Wairau Plain by the Marlborough Falcon Trust in an attempt to protect vineyards from marauding flocks of birds.
To the east and north east of Blenheim respectively, the Wairau Lagoons and Wairau Diversion host a diversity of shore birds and waterfowl. Perhaps one of the most spectacular attractions of the Wairau Lagoons are a breeding colony of royal spoonbills. Some of the best viewing of these birds requires access by water. For those without access to their own kayak, guided tours are run by a local operator. The mouth of the Wairau Diversion provides good opportunities to view several shag species, gulls, and terns, as well as oystercatchers from time to time.
To the north of Blenheim, from the Richmond Range to the Marlborough Sounds, wood pigeon (keruru) can be found in native forest. Bush robins and weka can be found in a variety of locations around Marlborough in native forest.
The Marlborough Sounds host a diversity of bird life from common sights such as grey herons, to critically endangered species on several islands. King Shags nest exclusively in the Marlborough Sounds. Blumine Island is home to orange fronted parakeet, saddleback, and rowi, the most endangered kiwi species, while Maud Island plays a critical role in takahe recovery. (Note that landing on Maud Island requires special authorisation from DOC, or travel with an authorised commercial operator.)