Up early and off towards Queenstown, through some stunning scenery but with a little weather change on its way. We had been very lucky with constant sunshine for the last few days on the West Coast, but it looked like we might be in for a little bit of rain as we headed towards the Homer Tunnel area. We had a fair bit of driving to do, so we made a couple of quick coffee and toilet stops along the way, then grabbed some lunch in Te Anau, and headed on through towards Homer Tunnel. The weather was definitely cooler as we left Te Anua and passed into the beautiful Eglinton Valley, and a good cloud bank had started to form over the mountains. We made a couple of quick stops to search for blue duck, but nothing ducky reared its head, with the river levels being surprisingly low, a testament to how nice the weather had been lately perhaps! As we reached Homer Tunnel however, there was definite drizzle in the air, and the temperature was certainly a lot brisker than we had been used to.
We pulled parkas and warm clothes from our bags and had lunch amongst some absolutely stunning alpine scenery. With rock wren it really is a waiting game, and having finished our lunch some decided to take advantage of a number of very playful kea which were having their usual fun with vehicles, and flying around the mountain valleys calling, play-fighting, etc. Every now and then a dunnock or yellowhammer would catch our eye, but time was ticking and still no sight nor sound of a rock wren. Exercises to keep warm were in order, and we waited and waited, scanning the habitat where we absolutely knew there were rock wren. Finally, a call from a rock wren, after four hours wait. We focussed our attention on the general area after hearing it call several more times. Still it was hidden, and then all of a sudden it popped up onto a rock not far off, doing its characteristic bobbing motion. It bounced around the rock slope not far off, giving relatively good views, disappearing every now and then, but allowed everyone to get onto it and get good views as it slowly came close towards us. After about five minutes or so it gradually moved off, and eventually disappeared back into the rocky area near where it had come from. Phew! It had not been an easy wait, but persistence had paid off and we had all had great views of the bird!
With time ticking we decided to head back towards Te Anau and check several more places for blue duck, but alas nothing still, even if every stretch of the river searched looked like it should have a pair sitting proudly on a rock! We then made a forest stop, doing a walk through some spectacular old growth beech forest, alive with mosses and lichens, and quite a few birds as well. We had good views of more rifleman, several fantails, and some very confiding South Island robins. It really was a case of who was watching who, as one bird came in to peer back through Geoff’s 500mm lens. A very brief view of a yellowhead was had, but it was so brief and the bird so high in the canopy that most missed it, so that would have to wait for another day!
We headed back into Te Anau, checking into our accomodation, before heading to a local resturant for a very nice dinner and a celebratory drink! I think after all that time of standing around looking for rock wren we had earned it!
Day total – Seen = 31 + 2 heard (Grey warbler, yellowhead); new for the trip = 1; total for the trip to date = 147
|Geoff suddenly looses sight of the robin…"Where did it go?"