Up early and off towards Queenstown, as the forecast for Milford Sound was not looking the best. We headed through some stunning scenery making a couple of toilet stops along the way, then grabbed some lunch in Te Anau, and headed on through towards Homer Tunnel. The weather was lovely in Wanaka, but as we headed towards Te Anau it was looking a little iffy…
We carried on through the Eglinton Valley, pie crumbs being shed all over the place as everyone ate their ‘Miles Better Pies’ at 10:30am…it was supposed to be lunch, but oh well! The Eglinton has little skiffs os rain up in the tops, with some cloud hanging about, but it wasn’t looking too bad. And the scenery was stunning as usual. We stopped quickly to look for blue duck at one main spot, and being unsuccessful kept going up to Homer Tunnel. As we pulled in to the carpark the kea were there to great us!
We donned our warm gear and rugged up, but actually it wasn’t too bad. And as we headed to the alpine trail from the carpark, there was almost no wind and even a little sun trying to shine through. We gathered and discussed a plan of attack and then spread ourselves out. Within minutes Brent had heard a rock wren, but it failed to show. We peered intently near the spot and scanned over the huge area of rock where wrens could possibly expose themselves…but nothing yet. Then about 25 minutes later a wren suddenly appeared on top of a rock and started bobbing up and down. A female, she flitted from rock to rock, standing and bobbing for a few brief seconds each time. Everyone was on to her and had pretty nice views of her as she gradually moved off and away, and then disappeared. Success!
With the sun shining, and no wind we decided to stick it out for another hour and a half and see if we could get another view. We spread out again and ate our lunch, sat in the sun and scanned the alpine area. What a stunning place, and a great little bird.
As the time approached we all gathered again, and were just about to head to the van, when boom, a male rock wren flew right out in front of us, landing on a nearby rock. It had a small piece of grass in its bill, clearly nest building, and bobbed up and down. We all had stunning views, before it flew past us, and then disappeared the same way that the female had appeared from. Clearly they have a nest nearby, so a great find. Pretty chuffed with ourselves we headed down to the van, and drove through towards Milford Sound. We stopped at ‘The Chasm’ and took in the views of the area, and then headed on down to Milford Sound to see the view across the Fiord. The wind was blowing pretty strong, and little white caps dotted the water.
Heading back up to the Homer Tunnel, we passed through and then headed back towards Te Anau, making a couple of quick stops to look for blue duck again. No success, but as we drove the road, we suddenly spotted a pair on mossy rocks in the stream. Parking quickly we could see the male and female with two small ducklings – fantastic! We watched and photographed them for probably close to an hour. Several times a kea flew overhead and the male and female became very anxious sending the ducklings straight into the water. I am not sure if kea predation has been recorded for this species, but it seems the ducks were worried about this. Otherwise, when no kea were around they were entirely relaxed and swam and fed just literally metres from us – what an awesome experience! Amazing to watch how confident and able the ducklings were in the water, able to dive and stay down feeding for a surprisingly long time before bobbing back to the surface. Another few camera cards filled, we reluctantly left and headed on towards Te Anau, stopping to do a short forest walk. We searched for rifleman, and saw one way up in the tree tops, and had a great confiding South Island robin come in to investigate the forest floor around us.
Back in the van we headed to our accommodation in Te Anau, and then had an excellent dinner in town, a fitting end to another great day!
Day total – Seen = 38 + 3 heard (Grey warbler, fantail, tomtit); new for the trip = 1; total for the trip to date = 152