13,000 images on New Zealand Birds Online – and one funky hairdo

13,000 images on New Zealand Birds Online – and one funky hairdo

The 13,000th image loaded on New Zealand Birds Online was of an unusually dramatic looking royal spoonbill. Bird expert Colin Miskelly explains how this image ended up on the website.

The New Zealand Birds Online website was launched in June 2013, and even then contained an impressive image archive of 6,592 bird photographs taken by 256 photographers. These numbers have more than doubled seven years later, and this blog celebrates submission of the 13,000th image.

Three white birds with black bills on the top of a tree
Royal spoonbills at Western Springs, Auckland. Photo by Jonathan Mower, New Zealand Birds Online

This milestone image was taken by Jonathan Mower in August last year, and shows three royal spoonbills at Western Springs, Auckland. The birds are in full breeding regalia, with bright yellow eyelids and red forehead patches. One of the birds has its crest raised, to full dramatic effect.

Jonathan first learnt of the New Zealand Birds Online website at the monthly Birds New Zealand Auckland branch meetings that he had started to attend. He then realised that it was the same website that his online searches were consistently referring him to, and that provided answers in a way that he could understand.

“The thing I have come to realise is the more you learn about birds, the more expansive the questions you begin to ask about them and NZ Birds Online includes weblinks and book extracts which can let you delve quite deeply into subjects when you wish to. Which is usually all the time for me…”

A man in a hat kneeling on the sand holding a camera and monopod
Jonathan Mower at Big Sand Island, Kaipara Harbour. Photo courtesy of Jonathan Mower

For the birds

Here, Jonathan explains more about his passion for bird photography:

“I have spent most of my life with my nose in books of other people’s exploration of wildlife and wandering wild spaces but I have myself come to wildlife photography relatively late compared to others. I started being interested in my own photography perhaps six years ago but it was only three or so years ago that I was introduced to the birding world by someone who has since become a great friend. I often tell people birding is like The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe; where you walk through a door into a wardrobe and suddenly find there is a whole world and very close community there that you had no idea about.”

A closeup photo of a small green bird with yellow and white on it's wings sitting on a tree branch
Female hihi – stitchbird, Tiritiri Matangi Island. Photo by Jonathan Mower

“While volunteering on Tiritiri Matangi I have fallen in love with the hihi – stitchbird especially the inquisitive females. The birds I find myself going for long walks to find though, must be the tūturuatu – shore plover and tara iti – New Zealand fairy tern. They were the birds that really taught me the truth about how close many of our endemic species are to extinction and how precious they are.”

A closeup photo of a white-fronted bird with brown feathers and an orange beak.
Male shore plover, Motutapu Island. Photo by Jonathan Mower

“Exploring Okarito and Whataroa during the kōtuku breeding season, exploring in and around Akaroa and following Hector’s Dolphins were superb times. Wandering the dunes and great sand flats of the mighty Kaipara including being put there one wild, wild stormy day; were wonderful experiences as has been exploring islands of the Hauraki Gulf. Joining the awesome community of Tiritiri Matangi – well that was the icing on the cake.”

Three white birds in a tree, one has its feathers spread out, and a chick in a nest
Breeding kōtuku – white herons, Waitangiroto River, South Westland. Photo by Jonathan Mower

“All have been immensely fulfilling experiences for me.

“I share my photographs to some focused Facebook and Conservation groups so we can all help ourselves out. It is a way to raise the profile of our taonga and those that work very hard to protect them – more often than not as volunteers.”

A closeup of a grey and blue feathered bird with a black face and bright blue wattles
North Island kōkako, Tiritiri Matangi Island. Photo by Jonathan Mower

“Like guiding on Tiritiri Matangi, I see photography as a way to explore and advocate for our endemic and native flora and fauna. That is my thing; I always try to learn more about my subject and include that in my posts along with my image so the people who look can also learn if they want to. Hopefully others join in and contribute to discussions and so teach me in turn.

“I am not precious about my images and share whenever I can as I know many people can’t go to the places we go to and see the things we are privileged to see. It is a pretty cool thing when a complete stranger thanks you, sometimes very sincerely, for showing them something they would otherwise never be able to get to see or appreciate.”

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