The 12,000th image loaded on New Zealand Birds Online was of a cute fluffy baby goose, taken in Hungary. Bird expert Colin Miskelly explains how this image ended up on a New Zealand website.
A broad church
New Zealand Birds Online provides information on all bird species on the New Zealand list, regardless of whether they are native, introduced, vagrant from other countries, living, extinct, or fossilised. Many of our bird species are shared with, or predominantly found in, other countries. We welcome images of birds taken elsewhere in their ranges, to ensure a diverse portfolio of images on each species’ page.
From Hungary to New Zealand and back
The 12,000th image loaded on the website was contributed by Dr Tamas Zeke, a molecular biologist from Debrecen, Hungary. Tamas’s New Zealand connection began in 2002, when he and his wife Zsuzsanna and their 10-month-old son Gabor visited for a three-week birding holiday.
“[It was] my dream holiday: a birdwatching tour to NZ with my family…I always wanted to see the great albatrosses, seabirds, and discover the Kea, the mountain parrot in the wild, seabirding in Kaikoura and Otago and, being a shorebird enthusiast, Miranda. [These] were really great experiences.”
After returning to work in Scotland, Tamas and Zsuzsanna are now back in Hungary, where they enjoy birding with Gabor and friends. Among their favourite sites is the Hortobágy, which is one of the greatest grassland habitats in Central Europe. Hortobágy is famous for migrating cranes and bird breeding colonies, and is a stronghold for the threatened great bustard.
New Zealand’s birding connections with Europe
It was Tamas’s interest in seabirds that led him to discover NZ Birds Online (which was launched in 2013). “When I searched the net for albatross images, I found the NZ Birds Online website and the displayed images and description very useful and interesting, providing important information on the status of New Zealand bird species, and on the population of the seabird species of the subantarctic islands. The website [provides] the data in a very friendly way … so it is a great thing that this excellent website exists. When I noticed that there was a need [for] photos for some species, I tried to look for them in my collection.”
“I became interested [in] the connections between European and New Zealand avifauna. I did not expect too much, but I finally realised that there are vagrants and introduced species just like greylag goose. So we live on one big globe full of birds!”
“The website displays extinct species as well, raising digital gravestones for them and making us remember what we miss from the present World. It was interesting … using the website to find details on the huge flightless geese of NZ.”
The 12,000th image
The greylag goose is a common, protected breeding species in Hungary. “A large wild population breeds in the moors and fishponds of the Hortobágy… In April, when the photo was taken, it is possible to come across goslings [hiding in] tall grass after they leave the nest. We realised the chick must be hiding, because of the alarm of an adult. Luckily we found him, and took quick photos without moving him, so the parent must have returned soon!”
Among the images that Tamas submitted to the website is one of the secretive little bittern, taken by his son Gabor (now 17) near Debrecen. The little bittern’s presence on the New Zealand list is based on a single live bird captured outside a Westport supermarket in 1987.