Thursday 7 April 2011

Hailing all kiwi

Another brisk but fine morning as we made our way strategically to ‘Miles Better Pies’ to get was only 0800 hrs, but you have to have priorities in life.  The smoked chicken and cranberry sandwiches are also pretty wicked!  So laden with more baked goods we headed south towards Bluff – apparently the start of Highway 1, although most people not from Bluff could actually consider it the end of Highway 1...purely semantics.

We made a stop at a wetland along the way, and although there was a biting wind we managed a brief glimpse of a Baillon’s (marsh) crake, some nice views of grey teal and other waterfowl, and heard fernbird.  Further on we started to encounter squally showers and by the time we reached the coast there was a pretty nasty wind whipping the shores.  At McCracken’s Rest we saw thousands of sooty shearwaters moving along the coast, with a brief sighting of a Hector’s dolphin in rough conditions...a good stop for an apple pie though.
We then carried on through to Riverton, where it was high tide, and had our lunch overlooking the estuary.  Black swan and mallards were the only thing close by, but distant Royal spoonbills could be seen sheltering from the buffeting winds.

Near Invercargill we checked out a few estuarine spots with some nice views of pied stilt, South Island oystercatcher, spotted shag, and a couple of flocks of Royal spoonbill.  The weather was getting worse, with heavy squally showers coming through, so we hit another couple of spots around Awarua Bay, getting a black-fronted tern and a few other bits and bobs, but not a lot else.

We checked in for the ferry, and then boarded on time.  It was going to be a little bumpy, and there was plenty of spray which made birding from the back deck pretty difficult.  There were good numbers of Buller’s and white-capped albatross, and sooty shearwaters, with a few fairy prion and common diving-petrel.  However, the bird of the crossing was a white-headed petrel which gave brief views, but was missed by all except Brent...aaagghhh!!!

We arrived in Oban, quickly moved our bags across to the kiwi boat, and headed out with Zane on the kiwi watching trip.  We spotted a couple of little blue penguins on the way, more Stewart Island shags, and arriving at the jetty near Ocean Beach the weather seemed to be holding.  Ha!  It start to hail shortly after we began the walk, but we were rewarded with outstanding views of at least 5 kiwi (including several young birds and two large females) and we even heard a male calling in the forest nearby.  An unbelievable experience even if it was cold, and we hadn’t even had dinner!

We arrived back into Oban, checked in to our accommodation, had some sandwiches and celebratory drinks and then off to bed.

Southern brown kiwi feeding on the beach

Bird of the day – Southern brown kiwi x2, Buller’s albatross x1

Day total – Seen = 57 + 2H (fernbird, South Island tomtit); two Brent only – white-headed petrel, fairy prion); new for the trip = 22; total for the trip to date = 75

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