Friday 19 February 2016

Dodging the rain, straight into the sunshine

Rain, rain, rain…some really heavy stuff during the night.  But as we stirred and got ready for the day the rain miraculously disappeared and the clouds started to open.  Hard to believe!

We packed the van, drove a short way, and then boarded a boat for a trip on the beautiful Queen Charlotte Sound.  And beautiful it was becoming.  There was a light wind, but the sun was gradually breaking up all the clouds and it was looking pretty good.  We headed off through to a small bay on the way along Queen Charlotte and slowed and started to search for the World’s smallest oceanic dolphin – the Hector’s dolphin.  After just a few minutes we spotted three little guys, one a mother with a half grown calf.  They were not all that confiding, but showed reasonably well for us, and as we started to move off they rode a wee way back in our wake.  Then all of a sudden one animal did a massive leap up into the air, clearing the water at least 6-7ft!  What a spectacular jump!

We headed off towards the outer sound, with our target of King shag in mind.  As we approached an island we could see small black and white shapes perched up on a steep face, and as we got closer realised they were not as small as we thought.  We counted 41 of these rather rare shags, the largest of the species that lives in New Zealand.  And we got great views of them from the boat, watching them preen and even observing that several of the birds appeared to be standing on nests.

We then headed off and landed on an island, climbing down a ladder onto the beach.  Our target here was orange-fronted parakeet – a pretty rare, and sometimes difficult to see species.  We spent a lot of time standing around looking, and looking, and listening, and looking!  After almost two hours of this we had seen tomtit, weka, tui, bellbird, NZ pigeon…and had glimpsed a parakeet, and heard them several times.  They just didn’t want to play ball!  Begrudgingly, we walked back down to the landing site and the boat came back in to pick us up.

Back onboard we had home-made date scones, and tea and coffee as we headed back through to Picton.  We spotted an Arctic skua on the way back, as well as a few fluttering shearwaters, spotted shags, and white-fronted terns.

Back at Picton we loaded back up onto the van, grabbed some lunch from a local bakery, and then headed south towards Renwick to look for a black kite that had been resident for a very long time.  Having lunch amongst the vineyards in the sunshine was a pretty pleasant experience, even if the black kite didn’t bother to show itself!  A second stop at some more sewage ponds brought a female cirl bunting and lots of Royal spoonbill, as well as coot, scaup…and a glossy ibis!  Excellent work.

Driving on, we headed south out onto the spectacularly beautiful coastline heading down to Kaikoura.  We made a few scenic stops, including some to look at New Zealand fur seals and enjoy their antics.  Lots of young pups playing in the tide pools, which is always fun to watch.  We also found a few groups of spotted shags roosting in several places and stopped to admire them.

Arriving at the accommodation, we checked in and then had a beautiful fish and chip dinner on the lawn in the sunshine.  And then after dinner went for a drive to find little owl, managing to get one really well as it perched beside the road, and another as it flew off down the road.  Another great day!

Day total – Seen = 51; new for the trip = 6; total for the trip to date = 128

Bird of the day – Hector’s dolphin x3, glossy ibis x2

Leaping Hector's dolphin gives us a great show

King shags preening, with evidence of possible nest sites

A scruffy little male tomtit (South Island subs) checks us out

Beautiful Queen Charlotte Sound on a sunny day (after the rain)!

Checking out the spectacular Kaikoura coastline

The spectacular Kaikoura coastline

New Zealand fur seal pups playing in the tide pools

A New Zealand fur seal pup nurses from its mother on the rocky shore

Bull kelp awash on the shoreline

A spotted shag scratches and balances

Little owl on dusk

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful photos of the dolphin and the Little Owl.- Athene.