New Zealand: Key Bird Guides
Ian 'Sav' Saville, Brent Stephenson, Phil Hammond and Matt Jones
Ian 'Sav' Saville
Sav was born and brought up in London. He started birding in the early '70's and was fairly active in the British twitching/birding scene from then through to the late '80s - building a British list of just on 400 (which was quite a lot in those days!).
Sav moved to New Zealand in 1989 and stayed for nearly 3 years, before having to return to UK in 1991. In late 1993 he went to Saudi Arabia for 2 ½ years (during which time he was a regular contributor to "Birding World"), and then arrived back in New Zealand in 1996.
His birding experience in New Zealand is also extensive, having travelled throughout the country on birding trips, as well as concentrating a lot of time on his 'local patch' - the Manawatu Estuary, where he has found many rarities among the common visitors. Sav has been the Ornithological Society of New Zealand (OSNZ) Regional Recorder (c.f. County Recorder in UK) since 1996, and was the OSNZ Regional Representative for the Manawatu Region from 2000-2011. He was then appointed to the OSNZ Rarities Committee.
He was a contributor to Hadoram Shirahai's "Complete Guide to Antarctic Wildlife" published by Alula/Princeton University Press in 2002, writing the New Zealand portion of the "Gateways to the Antarctic" chapter.
Sav was also a key player in the rediscovery of the supposedly-extinct New Zealand Storm-petrel, being on the trip in January 2003 when the species was initially resighted, and being the first person onboard to see the bird.
Brent was born in Hawke's Bay, New Zealand, in 1974 and was brought up in Hastings. He was interested in the outdoors and nature at an early age, taking his first photos of birds at about the age of 8 and then starting to bird soon after.
Starting a Bachelor Degree in Zoology at Massey University, led to birding taking a little bit of a back stage for a while, but it soon returned and during Brent's Masterate on the 'Ecology of Morepork' - a small owl from the Ninox genus - birding once again became an infatuation. Several trips to Australia soon started off a respectable Australian list, and in 1998 a trip to the UK and South Africa, began to build the foundations of his World List.
On 24 January 2004, Brent left on possibly his biggest adventure to date, sailing with the John Ridgway 'Save the Albatross' Voyage 2003-4. The boat set sail for the Falkland Islands, rounding Cape Horn on the way. During the voyage Brent recorded and photographed the seabirds seen, as well as helping with the sailing of the boat - the English Rose VI.
As with Sav, Brent was also a key player in the rediscovery of the supposedly extinct New Zealand Storm-petrel. The photos taken by Brent on that day were the first ever taken of a live New Zealand storm-petrel and led to the realisation that the bird seen wasn't actually a black-bellied storm-petrel. Since the discovery, Brent has been involved in ongoing research on these birds, having now captured six of these birds at sea. The highlight for 2013 was publishing his first book - Birds of New Zealand: A Photographic Guide.
Phil Hammond was born in Canada, but spent his boyhood in small villages in rural Norfolk, England, where he grew a passion for nature and birds and acquired what Norfolk people in those days called a countryman's eye” [roughly translated as a tendency to notice small details in nature].
Although he has travelled to more than 30 countries, his home base for the last 50 years has been Auckland and he is proud to be a Kiwi. In his 20s, 30s, and 40s sport, career, and young family took most of his time but he always had a pair of binoculars and a bird book or two [he now has over 100!]. He first joined 'Forest and Bird' over 30 years ago.
His interest in birds turned full circle when, in 2003, he dumped his casual NZ bird list and started from scratch listing only birds absolutely positively identified, and a general interest returned to a passionate obsession. Since then his NZ list has passed 250 species. He loves nothing better [except a successful twitch] than watching a big flock of 1000s of shorebirds for 4 or 5 hours hoping to pick out something unusual from the mass, although his favourite ticks on his NZ list, have been as diverse as Black Robin, Bounty Island Shag, Dunlin, Straw-necked Ibis, and Franklins Gull.
He has served on the executive council at Miranda for several years and also on the Bird Roost Advisory Group in the Manukau harbour, and is a regular attendee at OSNZ meetings, censuses etc. He really enjoys showing visitors our birds, especially endemics, and knows where to find them.
Matt was born in Kent in the south east of England and from a young age had an interest in all wildlife but particularly birds. He was a proud member of the Young Ornithologists Club and always had his nose in a bird book.
Overseas birding initially took Matt to Mallorca where most British birders cut their teeth birding away from their home turf. He has since travelled extensively around Europe, North America, Asia, Pacific Islands as well as Australia and New Zealand. Highlights of these trips included seeing Tiger in India, Leopard in Sri Lanka and most recently Kagu in New Caledonia. The Kagu was on Matt’s “most wanted bird” list and is now on his world list!
It was during one of these trips to New Zealand that Stewart Island found its way into his heart and since 2007 is where he calls home. As a freelance bird watching guide, Matt enjoys showing fellow bird watchers the vast variety of seabirds on pelagics, the endemics of Ulva Island, and the iconic kiwi during evening trips. He has led TV and film crews on his trips, and also works on an annual project to monitor forest bird call counts.
He is also a volunteer for the Stewart Island/Rakiura Community & Environment Trust doing Blue Penguin surveys, banding Sooty Shearwaters and Kiwi/Morepork/Weka bird call counts. In 2011 Matt became Chairman of the Ulva Island Charitable Trust, a group that (with DoC) works towards keeping Ulva Island open to the public, remaining predator-free, and aspiring to be one of New Zealand’s premier bird watching locations.
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