We were up and packing the van after a great nights sleep, no doubt induced by our active day on the water yesterday. With van packed we grabbed some lunch and then headed off south, scanning for falcon as we went. The scenic route along the coast gave great views out over the sea, which had dropped away to a pretty flat calm piece of water. I suspect a lot fewer birds flying around out there today, so despite yesterdays swelly conditions, we probably had the better of the days to be on the water to see birds.
We made a quick stop at a small lake to look for Cape Barren geese, but nothing seen. There were good numbers of grey teal, scaup, and paradise shelducks, but no geese to be seen. We headed on south and called in to a small estuary, where we wandered along the river and down towards the sea. It wasn’t long and the first black-fronted terns were spotted, looking like young birds, perhaps first year birds that had come back to near the breeding site. Several of them fed over the river, giving lovely views of them hovering and then dipping down to grab small fish or invertebrates from the water. We carried on, scanning the lower parts of the river and the estuary. There was a large flock of white-fronted terns and we scanned them, but unfortunately they were out in the middle of the river and difficult to get close to, so we made do with scanning from a distance. A small number of godwit were also feeding out over the river, and we continued on scanning further around into the estuary proper. Several wrybill, obviously non-breeders were present, and a very distant red-necked stint fed with them.
We headed to s pot with a more extensive view over another piece of the estuary and could see a really large group of perhaps 100+ spotted shags roosting on a sand flat. There were both pied and little pied, and even a little black shag also on the estuary, and more godwit. We scanned the godwit carefully knowing that a whimbrel had been seen recently. But it was a bird with a longer curved bill that was spotted first – a Far Eastern curlew. It was pretty distant, but such a distinctive bird that we were all happy with the views. Not too long after, the whimbrel was spotted, luckily much closer. Not too bad. We kept scanning for anything else unusual, and then returned to scan the white-fronted terns again. This time a probable common tern showed itself, but then promptly went to sleep tucking its head it. It woke after a few minutes just s the whole flock took off, and was lost amongst the several hundred birds. We decided to carry on back to the van and keep heading up towards Arthur’s Pass.
We made a quick lunch stop on the way, enjoying the warmth, knowing that as we headed inland and higher, things were going to get a little cooler. I had unfortunately made a terrible error in the planning of the day, and had forgotten the World Famous Sheffield Pie Shop when we grabbed our lunch in Kaikoura! So having only just eaten our lunch, we stopped at the pie shop ad bought dessert pies for later that evening…you just can’t stop some pie-eaters!
Carrying on the weather gradually cooled, and the dripping from the sky started. We stopped and looked out over the Hawdon Valley, having checked for falcon as we climbed into the mountain areas. The Hawdon River was pretty low, but the cloud and drizzle looked like it was pretty low through the valleys – not the best for adventures. We headed on through to a spot near Arthur’s Pass and went for a walk in the drizzle. We managed to get great views of South Island tomtit and fantail, a grey warbler flitted around and there were a good number of bellbird. Heading back to the van, we carried on into Arthur’s Pass village and stopped to grab a coffee, where we of course ran into a few kea in their natural habitat – the carpark. It was nice to get some good views of these critters, even if they were wet and bedraggled, and being fed chips by some illiterate person that couldn’t read the tens of signs say ‘Don’t feed the kea’ all around them. We then carried on to another spot where we found a slightly more ‘wild’ looking kea, and then checked a few river spots for blue duck, but the rain was pretty steady, and the wind was damn cold, so we headed back to the accommodation.
We had a great dinner with pretty nice views out of the mountains and rivers, before readying ourselves for an attempt at great spotted kiwi. We headed to a nearby spot, and luckily the rain had eased a little. We spaced ourselves out and listened…and listened…and listened. It was pretty cold and the rain came and went, but not a squeak from a kiwi. So we walked a track, but still nothing, not even any morepork were calling. We decided to move to another spot, where we sat in the van. About three minutes in to the wait a kiwi started calling. Getting out of the van we heard a male calling, then a female respond, the male then called again, and the female again followed. We decided to head towards where we had heard the calling, it was drizzling again, but scanning with the torch we decided the birds must have been on the other side of the river…too bad. On the way back to the van lovely close views of a morepork chuckling away to itself was a small consolation. And it was off home to bed.