Swooping into Muriwai Gannet Colony, New Zealand

If you’re lucky enough to spend time in Auckland, New Zealand, you’ll soon realise that there is a multitude of activities and sights near the city.

Recently we headed to Muriwai Beach on Auckland’s west coast, about an hour’s drive from the city. Muriwai is at the northern end of the Waitakere Ranges Regional Park, a huge forested area that is criss-crossed with hiking tracks and fronted with raw black sand beaches.

muriwai gannet colony

Muriwai has two major drawcards: surf and gannets. We were there for the latter seeing as the water is still a bit cold for surfing!

muriwai gannet colony

Gannets are seabirds that roost in the Muriwai colony from August to March. There is a big car park and a short walking track to the viewpoints overlooking the colony. If you’re lucky you’ll spot baby gannet chicks huddling under their parents’ soft bellies.

muriwai gannet colony

muriwai gannet colony

The views stretch north along Muriwai Beach and south over Maori Bay. The air is filled with swooping birds trying to find a spot to land, and birds taking off to find fish for dinner. There’s got to be a few thousand birds in the colony, at least!

muriwai gannet colony

These striking birds are great photo subjects – some of the nests are quite close to the viewing platform so with a telephoto lens you can really zoom in on their beautiful features. I got a bit carried away!

muriwai gannet colony

muriwai gannet colony

Aren’t they just the most amazing-looking birds? I just couldn’t get enough! It was mesmerising watching them swoop and flutter their way into their nest. I have no idea how they know which nest is theirs – that requires some skill for sure!

The chicks that hatch at Muriwai grow up there and then soar across the Tasman Sea to Australia, where they live for a few years before heading back to Muriwai to have their own chicks.

muriwai gannet colony

See all those white specks in the air above the water? Those are gannets! It’s a pretty spectacular place to live, don’t you think?

muriwai-11

So if you’re visiting Auckland, hop in a car (no public transport to Muriwai unfortunately!) and head west. The Muriwai gannet colony is well worth a visit, and you can combine it with a beach day at Muriwai and lunch in Kumeu – we visited Provenance Cafe and had a delicious meal.

Are you a #birdnerd? Where are your favourite bird watching sites?

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