Up and off. But this morning was different as we were leaving our good mate Matt behind! Matt was to stay behind in Kaikoura and have a few days off before catching up with Sav and his group and continuing the tour through the South Island with them. Sad to leave him behind, we slowly headed south along the coast, with another beaut blue sky warm day.
We made a stop at St Annes Lagoon, but it would appear that the toxic algae bloom that has occurred there has meant a lof of the waterfowl, including the Cape Barren geese, have either moved on to somewhere else or died. Hopefully not the latter! We searched high and low, but couldn’t find a Cape Barren goose anywhere! So on to Cheviot for a quick coffee break and then continuing on our way.
We then made a stop at an estuary to see what shorebirds we could find. A flock of white-fronted terns had our first little black-fronted tern amongst it, a juvenile bird fledged from this season. There were a number of bar-tailed godwit, lots of pied stilt, and variable and South Island oystercatchers. Scanning further we found a massive flock of spotted shag roosting on the seaward spit at the river mouth, and then scanning through the godwit feeding on the mudflats found a whimbrel off in the distance.
All of a sudden a dark shorebird flew in towards and landed not far away – ‘Black Stilt!’ was yelled and the scope was soon on it, even though it was only a few tens of metres away. The photographers moved into position and snapped a few shots, and everyone got great views. Scanning further we realised there was also a second bird a bit further away.
We headed back to the van and then checked out a couple of sites on the river where Geoff had found some black-fronted terns roosting. Again the photographers had a ball getting some really nice close shots of both adults coming out of breeding plumage, still looking really striking, and some of the juvenile birds that had just fledged this year.
It was then time to head towards Arthur’s Pass, but of course on the way it was a quick stop at the ‘World Famous’ Sheffield Pie shop. The pie crumbs were flying as we ate our lunch on the picnic tables in beautiful sunshine outside the shop! Another gastronomic delight! With full bellies we then continued on our way up into the mountains, with a quick stop at Arthur’s Pass village to spot a kea or two in heir native habitat – beside the cafe in the carpark. But at a slightly more natural setting we found another group of birds, and with sunshine, blue skies, and a beautiful mountain backdrop we had some lovely views of these great birds. They were calling, playing and flying around giving excellent photo opportunities, and it was just watching them check out cars, riding them down the road, and interacting with each other.
We then headed off and across onto the West Coast, where we made our way north to Punakaiki. Some stunning scenery along the coast, especially with large swells rolling in and blue skies and hot conditions. We checked into our accomodation, and then headed down for dinner at the local tavern, before heading out into the forest to listen for great spotted kiwi. After dark we waited in the forest, and heard several distant kiwi calling, and had great views of another morepork. We headed slowly back to the accommodation, seeing a couple of weka and possum, but no kiwi. A good nights sleep was in order!
Day total – Seen = 55 + 2 heard (great-spotted kiwi, fernbird); new for the trip = 4; total for the trip to date = 142
|Photographing black-fronted terns