Bird Watching at Ohope, Otarawairere Bay and Ohiwa Harbour.
Contributed by Rosemary Tully of Whakatane Bird Rescue.
Photo's by Rosemary Tully, Alex Eagles Tully and Andrew Whyte.
Many birds may be seen (and heard) during your stay at Ohope.
We are so lucky in this area as not only have we the beach and Ohiwa Harbour
but also many bush walks which can take you from the sound of waves to
the magic of the bush.
Please see our recreation catalgory for more information on relaxing things
Click to enlarge photos
A walk along Ohope Beach will invigorate you, whatever the weather.
Many seabirds use the beach as a resting-place. In particular the red-billed
and black-backed gulls.
These may be seen bathing in the streams that enter the sea at various
points along the beach.
You may also see a black-backed gull dropping shellfish from a height
to break it open.
Another bird to be seen in the white-fronted tern, unlike the caspian
tern this bird does not have the heavy orange bill and is smaller.
The white-fronted tern is a swift flier and is one bird that is targeted
by the skua. The
skua chases the tern making it disgorge its last meal of fish, saving
the skua having to find the fish itself.
The variable oystercatcher is also seen probing the
sand for marine worms etc.
During the breeding season the beaks and legs of these birds turn a very
If you are really lucky you may have the chance to see seabirds feeding
in a big work-up of fish.
Gannets dive from a great height and go under the fish and catch it on
the way up after the dive.
Many types of petrels, terns and gulls may also be drawn to the work-up.
Did you know that gannets along with a few other birds like shags and
pelicans do not have external nostrils and breath from the side of the
mouth. (White Island,
which you can see on the horizon, is where the gannets have their nests).
As you reach the area of the Ohope Golf Club (past the Ohope Holiday Park)
you enter the area of no dogs.
Please do not go any further if you have a dog as the next area around
the Ohope Spit and all beach reserve land on Harbour Road is dog free.
through the reserve to get to the beach along Ocean Road are many introduced
birds, different sorts of finches, (green, gold, and chaffinch), yellow
hammer, starling, myna and sparrow, as well as the magpie.
You may disturb a pheasant or Californian quail; there may also be some
brown quail. The
New Zealand bush falcon also quarters this area trying to flush out birds.
The falcon will take live birds whereas the Australasian Harrier Hawk
will take road kills and carrion.
Birds like the New Zealand dotterel, banded dotterel and the variable
oystercatcher lay they eggs above the high tide mark in a nest scraped
in the sand. They
are very hard to see, the eggs being the same colour as the sand, and
many get trampled on, for this reason
it is recommended that people walk on or below the high tide mark when
nearing the Ohope Spit.
Predators of the eggs of these birds are hedgehogs, rats, stoats, black-backed
gulls etc. Four wheel drive vehicles, motor bikes and horses going above
the high tide mark can destroy nests, as they would not see them. Some
birds will pretend they are injured to draw you away from their nest site
or young chicks.
Once the chicks have hatched they can become prey to black-backed gulls,
stoats cats, dogs or birds of prey.
The endangered New Zealand Dotterel only number around 1400 birds.
Hawks are again seen over the Ohope Spit looking for prey, they may
also have nests in this area.
Hawks nest on the ground not in trees.
As well as quail, pheasants and the introduced birds the Ohope Spit is
home to some fernbirds.
These birds are brown in colour and are a little larger than a sparrow
but have a dropping tail and are very poor fliers.
Yellow hammers, skylarks and pipits may also be seen and heard.
the walk around the harbour back to the Ohiwa Wharf you may see some of
the four types of shags that frequent the harbour.
The smallest is the little black shag, followed by the little (or little
pied) shag, the black shag and pied shag.
Very occasionally we may have a visit from the spotted shag.
to be seen are the white-faced and reef heron.
Some of the migratory birds may also be seen on the Ohope side of Ohiwa
After a bad storm often seabirds are washed up on the beaches around New
a bird is found alive and this is then brought into Whakatane Bird Rescue.
Now for the serious bird watching!
You will need a good pair of binoculars, or even a telescope for some
Ohiwa Harbour is home to many birds, not only have you the resident birds
but also migratory ones use the harbour as their feeding grounds during
the northern hemisphere's winter.
It will also pay to have a really good book on migrant birds as many unusual
species are sometimes
to be found in the flocks of bar-tailed godwits feeding on sandbanks or
roosting at high tide around Tern Island and the Ohiwa Spit.
Some birds are so secretive that it is very hard to spot them, but if
you spend time just sitting and watching the edges of the harbour you
may be rewarded by seeing some of the following birds. The
bittern may be found in the tall reeds.
It will freeze with its beak pointing skywards.
The Banded Rail is found around the harbour and may be seen on the edge
of the saltmarsh or mangroves.
Also the spotless crake which is a tiny bird slightly smaller than a blackbird.
Pukeko inhabit some of the harbour edges, and the fernbirds may be found
in areas of shrubbery around the harbour.
Some of the migratory birds may also use this area to fossick for food
in the harbour margins.
At low tide many birds can be seen on the sandbars and mud flats, ranging
from pied stilts, the variable and South Island pied oystercatcher.
(The difference between the two is the South Island or pied, as it is
sometimes known, has white going up from the chest to high on the shoulders
whereas the variable is either all black or black and white without the
The South Island pied oystercatcher spends the winter here and non-breeders
may stay the whole year.
White-faced herons, kingfishers, and another visitor that are sometimes
seen is the Royal spoonbill.
A few years ago five or six were seen resting on Tern Island.
Tern Island is a wildlife refuge (Dogs are not allowed in wildlife refuges)
and has the New Zealand dotterel, white-fronted tern, variable oystercatcher,
white-faced heron, fernbird, caspian tern, and red-billed and black-backed
The following birds have been seen on Tern Island: - Reef heron, bar-tailed
godwit, Asiatic whimbrel, eastern curlew, little tern, spur-winged plover,
pied stilt, black, pied, little black and little pied shags have all been
seen at different times and I believe one spotted shag was sighted.
On the sand spit on the Opotiki side of Ohiwa Harbour the bar-tailed
godwits roost at high tide, while some of these birds overstay during
the northern summer many return each year from the Artic Tundra where
they have spent the Northern Hemisphere breeding. From September to April
some of these birds return to New Zealand and may be viewed feeding or
resting. In amongst them other migrant birds may be found like the sandpipers,
plovers, stints, turnstone etc.
You do need time to just sit and watch from a distance.
danger with walking on the spit is at nesting time - spring through to
the end of Summer - birds lay their eggs in the sand in a small hollow,
the eggs are the colour of sand and cannot be seen.
Four-wheeled drive vehicles, dogs, and humans have a detrimental effect
on these birds.
The New Zealand dotterel number around 1400 birds and many nests get disturbed
and abandoned. The
other birds nesting here are the variable oystercatcher and white-fronted
tern (some years the terns move over to Tern Island to nest).
Not only do the birds have to put up with human traffic but also because
of the low lie of the spit, in really rough weather, wind and the sea
destroys the nests.
Many other birds may be seen on the harbour that are not listed, I have
seen black swan and many types of ducks, geese etc.
Ohiwa Harbour Tours operate an
excellent experience on the harbour aboard a safe and comfortable pontoon
Please note that dogs are not allowed on the whole of the walkway including
to Otarawairere Beach from West End Ohope, you can find this walkway at
the western end of Ohope.
It is part of the Nga Tapuwae O Toi walkway (footprints of Toi) joining
up the Mokorua and Ohope Scenic Reserves.
Fantails fly around your head getting the insects that you disturb during
your walk. Tui
and bellbird feed on the pohutukawa flowers and flax.
Grey warblers and waxeyes can also be heard and seen, the shining cuckoo,
which arrives in September maybe heard in the bush.
This bird lays its egg in the warbler's nest and leaves the warbler to
hatch and feed its young.
The heavy flap of wings may announce the New Zealand Native Pigeon is
The New Zealand Falcon has been observed from the walkway resting on
a branch of an overhanging tree.
Kaka visit in winter. Birds that nest in burrows along the track are the
grey-faced petrel and little blue penguin.
Kiwi use to be heard in the bush at night and may still be present in
the bush. On arriving in the bay you may see the variable oystercatcher
with its long orange beak looking for food on the rocks nearby,
or a kingfisher watching for a tasty meal.
Other seabirds to visit this bay are the white-fronted tern, red-billed
gull, and black-backed gull.
Nests of pied shags can be seen in pohutukawa overhanging the rocky outcrop
between the two main beaches at Otarawairere.
Gannets may be seen diving just off the bay for fish. Another bird that
may be seen gazing in the large pools looking for fish is the reef heron.
A walk at night coming in from Otarawairere Village track will let you
see glow worms.
These can be found further half way down the track towards the bay.
Also listen for the sound of the morepork calling, or the screech of the
long-tailed cuckoo which arrives back in New Zealand around October. This
bird lays its egg in the whitehead's nest.
you feel really energetic, you can continue your walk to Kohi Point by
taking the steps at the western end of Otarawairere Bay.
This will take you through more bush, past grey-faced petrel and penguin
are a few seats to rest and gaze out to White and Whale Island.
You will go past many pa sites, ending at the top of Kohi Point Road with
a view over Whakatane.
If you walk down the metal road turn right on to Otarawairere Road and
continue you will be back at the Ohope/Whakatane turnoff.
Maori had gardens planted and grew their vegetables and fruit near the
pa sites, and tracks led from Whakatane to Otarawairere Bay for the gathering
of shellfish and catching fish.
Some important dates for Otarawairere Bay.
1769 saw Captain Cook sail past the bay but he did not stop.
In 1954 Otarawairere Bay was the setting for a film called "The
Seekers", this starred Jack Hawkins and Glynis Johns and a track
was put in from the Ohope Road. Many local people helped as extras
in the film.
1959/60 The Tasman Pulp and Paper Mill started building houses in
Otarawairere Village for its employees
Common name followed by Maori name if applicable
Bellbird* Makomako or Korimako
Bittern * Matuku
Black swan *
Crake spotless * Puweto or Putoto
Cuckoo long-tailed * Koekoea
Cuckoo shining * Pipiwharauroa
Dotterel banded Tuturiwhatu
Dotterel New Zealand * Tuturiwhatu
Falcon New Zealand bush* Karearea
Fantail * Piwakawaka
Gannet * Takapu
Godwit bar-tailed * Kuaka
Gull black-backed * Karoro
Gull red-billed * Tarapunga
Hawk Australasian harrier* Kahu
Heron reef * Matuku moana
Heron white * Kotuku
Heron white-faced *
Kingfisher * Kotare
Morepork * Ruru
Oystercatcher variable * Torea
Oystercatcher South Island pied * Torea
Penguin little blue * Korora
Petrel blue *
Petrel diving * Kuaka
Petrel grey *
Petrel grey-faced * Oi
Petrel white-headed *
Pigeon New Zealand native * Kereru
Pipit * New Zealand Pihoihoi
Prion fairy * Titi Wainui
Rail banded * Moho-pereru
Shag black* Kawau
Shag little (or little pied)* Kawaupaka
Shag little black *
Shag pied * Karuhiruhi
Shag spotted* Parekareka
Shearwater fluttering* Pakaha
Spoonbill Royal* Kotuku-ngutupapa
Stilt pied * Poaka
Stint Swallow welcome
Tern Caspian * Taranui
Tern white-fronted* Tara
Warbler grey Riroriro
Waxeye * (Silvereye) Tauhou
77 birds listed
© Ohope Beach.info 2003