Tuesday 16 November 2010

Hunting for Hector

Well we had a leisurely breakfast after the late night and then headed up to check out Franz Josef glacier.  Any rain we had had the previous day had well and truly gone with a nice blue sky with some puffy clouds around the tops of the mountains.  Great views up the valley towards the glacier, with a lot of tomtit singing, and fly over kea.  Also a lot of greenhood orchids (Pterstylis sp.) in flower along the sides of the track.

We then headed slowly south through beautiful podocarp forest and along a spectacular coastline.  We made several stops along the way, including one to see Hector’s dolphins.  Having missed them in both the Marlborough Sounds and near Kaikoura, Barbara was beginning to think they were a myth, and upon approaching every body of water (including lakes) has been jokingly asking me if there were any Hector’s dolphins around...ha!  Well, there they were in all their glory finally in front of us.  They were obviously very actively feeding, and were also surfing in the waves and jumping clear out of the water.  So we had really nice views of probably almost 10 of these little guys.

We then headed to Jackson Bay to have lunch.  On the way a road-kill Fiordland crested penguin was a sad reminder that these birds nest in this area, so as we headed along the shore we scanned for our next target.  Having lunch overlooking the bay we had a reef egret fly past and a few spotted shags, but no Fiordland crested.  We enjoyed a cup of coffee/tea as we ate our lunch, and then headed slowly back along the shore northwards, stopping at a few spots.  I managed to see something and stopped the van and malcolm was first on to the penguin...a single FC penguin was feeding and swimming just out from the shore.  However, he was taking quite long dives and being rather unpredictable so we didn’t get the scope onto it.  There will be more...hopefully.

We carried on towardsHaast Pass, making a stop in some pakihi wetland to search for fernbird, had had some really stunning views of a pair which seemed to think they were invisible when perching on bare branches right up out in the open.  Great extended views of these dinky little birds, showing their bedraggled tail and everything well.  A quick coffee to-go stop at Haast and then a quick stop at the Haast Sewage works (still nothing except a couple of grallards and grey duck) and then up to the Pass where we did a short walk through the beautiful beech (Nothofagus sp.) forest.  Heard a lot of rifleman and glimpsed the odd one, and a few brown creeper heard and tomtit heard and seen.

Then carried on down to Wanaka where we overnighted.  Early night for all including me!

Greenhood orchid (Pterostylis sp) were common on the side of the track

Art 'Hunting for Hector'

Beautiful West Coast pakihi swamp...full of fernbird...and mosquitos!

Beech (Nothofagus sp) forest at Haast Pass

Bird of the day – Fiordland crested penguin x1, South Island tomtit x3, Hector’s dolphin x2

Day total – Seen = 40 + 2 heard (Morepork, brown creepr); new for the trip = 1; total for the trip to date = 149

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