Well we were up early again…we seem to be making a habit of this! We loaded the van and headed off inland, towards the scenic Mackenzie Country. We drove straight through to Twizel, admiring the beautiful scenery, which was bathed in sunshine. Unfortunately there was a fair old wind as well though, with is gusting probably over 35 knots! Windy!
We grabbed some lunch from a bakery in Twizel and then headed on out to our first spot to look for black stilt – our key target for the day. Our first location looked good, not too windy, and we searched, and searched, and searched, but nothing to show. So we decided to head off to another spot. On the way the wind was incredibly strong and the van was being buffeted about the place. But, the consolation was that Mt Cook was clearly visible between thin clouds and looked absolutely stunning! We made it safely and checked out the likely looking spot. But again – nothing! We headed to another location nearby, and although it was beautifully protected and calm, there was not a single black stilt! Where are they hiding?
So we headed on to another location…and with bellied rumbling we decided to have lunch as we arrived. We scanned as we munched and off in the distance we spotted an adult black stilt, then another, and another…all up it looked like perhaps at least nine birds off in the distance. The only problem was the wind was still howling and it was a fair old walk which involved some rather wet feet! Ah well, nothing else for it! We sorted out footwear, shorts, etc and then mounted the expedition. It was perhaps a kilometre across to the closest bird, a nice adult that was feeding in a stream. We sat on the edge of the stream as it fed slowly working its way up towards us…one step forward, two steps backwards as the wind buffeted the bird. Clearly we weren’t the only ones struggling in the wind! Off in the distance we could see at least another 17-18 birds! We watched as the bird got closer and closer, then a big gust blew it back a fair bit and it seemed to give up, flying off shortly after that. But we had had great views and it was nice to know there were a bunch of others nearby. There were also a lot of banded dotterels around, and other bits and pieces, but we decided to head back to the van and out of the wind.
Back at the van we loaded up, and then headed on to another spot where we hoped to find a Baillon’s crake. We spanned out and searched and searched, but it would seem things were playing tough to get today! After almost an hour we decided they were playing with us, and headed on to our accommodation. We checked in and then went out for our last dinner together – a very nice dinner at Ladybird Hill Winery! We did our bird of the trip together, with New Zealand wandering albatross coming in as the top bird. A great trip, and some excellent birds along the way.
Day total – Seen = 39 + 1 heard (grey warbler); new for the trip = 1; total for the trip to date = 160.
Bird of the day – Black-stilt x5
|Adult Australasian crested grebe and young one cruising in the sunshine
|It doesn't look windy...but it is! Preparing for the mission!
|Stunning views of Mt Cook
|Even the black stilts have to brace themselves agains the wind!
|What a cracker - black stilt up close!