Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Black swan -25 years old Peter Langlands 120912 Recently I found a dead black swan with a metal band in it while bitterns at Lake Ellesmere. Upon looking down at the bird I noticed that it had a metal band on it’s leg. Immediately I was excited as I remembered finding lots of dead swans at the lake in the 1980’s and sending the banding reports to the then Wildlife Service. I had known of little or any banding that had taken place at the lake in recent years. My suspucions were confirmed when the banding report came back that the bird had been banded in 1988, making it 25 years old. The swan was freshly dead. Banding birds gives a real insight into birds’ movements, longevity and for breeding – productivity studies allows individual birds to be followed. Many birds in New Zealand are long-lived, in comparison to the Northern Hemisphere counterparts, and has time goes by the longevity records increase. Already some albatross marked in New Zealand are over 50 years old. Banding a bird makes that bird individually recognisable. I have been interested in bird watching and ornithology since 1980 when I first started bird watching at Lake Ellesmere. Living in Christchurch the lake is a fantastic bird watching location and is one of the locations, if not the location, with the highest numbers of bird species recorded from it in New Zealand . Ellesmere is particularly notable for its vast waterfowl populations and waterfowl from all around New Zealand will annually pass through the lake. The lake is a national stronghold for black swans, mute swans, Canada geese, grey teal and at time shovellers. Having the lake on my doorstep, as a virtual wilderness, is an asset. A place to relax, especially since the earthquakes, and with each visit to the lake I leave in with an interesting discovery. A black swan at a quarter of a century old certainly rates up there. Photo- Lake Ellesmere- a vast canvas for the inquiring mind of a young birdwatcher

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Pied stilt flock roosting

Up to 10 000 pied stilts occur at Lake Ellesmere - pictured here with the purple flowers of Mimulus - Greenpark Sands.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Bitterns – “kings of the wetland’

Bitterns – “kings of the wetland’
Peter Langlands
29 April 2011

Duck shooters are advised to take care not to accidentally shot a bittern during the upcoming season. These large birds are an endangered species and listed by DOC has “Nationally Threatened” and are fully protected.
Bitterns have evolved a streaked brown and black plumage to camouflage in with reed beds. The birds are about a kilogram in weight, half way in size between a mallard and Canada goose, but have a large pointed bill. Bittern often startle you as these large birds will flush out of the reeds at short range.
Bittern (or as they are known Matuku) have benefited from waterfowl wetland enhancement work done by Fish and Game and private individuals. But with over 90% of our wetlands drained the bittern have over all declined. Bittern are very much a bird of our larger wilderness wetlands, but are often sighted in drains and on farmland from March to June.
Although common at the Whangamarino wetland are bittern are quite scare and spread out though much of the country with a nationwide population of around 750 birds. If any shooters sight bittern or have photographs of bittern I would be keen to hear from you as I am collecting bittern records for a national database to assist with the conservation of the species (email – langlands@xtra.co.nz).

Photograph shows a bittern in flight at Te Waihora (c. Peter Langlands- Bittern researcher).

Tuesday, April 26, 2011


This golden sedge is an endemic species. Kaitorete Spit which separates Te Waihora from the sea has the most significant pingao ecosystem on the mainland of NZ. A special place.


Friday, April 22, 2011

Shovelers now moulting into breeding plumage

Thousands of shovelers seasonally occur at Te waihora. These dfucks have a spoon shaped bill and feed by filter feeding on plankton. The lake offers a bountiful food supply.

Monday, April 18, 2011

A stronghold for royal spoonbills

Flocks of up to 150 Royal spoonbills - around 10% of the NZ population of this graceful bird have recently been sighted at Lake Ellesmere. Juvenile flounders are an important food source for these birds.