So, up and at ‘em, after hearing rain during the night, it was another beautiful morning. Wow! Stewart Island you are really turning it on. We headed down to the wharf and again met with our water taxi and headed across to Ulva Island, this time spotting a couple of wary Fiordland crested penguins in the water. They weren’t keen on having a chat, so off we headed.
We arrived at Ulva and decided on our route, and off we went. The forest smelt fresh after the nocturnal rain, and it was so lovely to see all the filmy ferns and mosses plump with liquid rejuvenation. The forest was a little quieter than yesterday, but we soon picked up a singing South Island robin, spotted our morepork pair in the same roosts, probably the same yellowhead group in a similar spot, and then a jack-bird for Jack! Historically known as jack-birds, an immature South Island saddleback fed quietly beside the trail showing really well. We hadn’t seen one the day before, and being one of the major differences between the South Island and North Island saddleback, this unsaddled immature was a great find.
We carried on along the trail, spotting a few things, and then stopped by the rifleman nest again. The bird came in a few times, but we didn’t stay long before moving on and finding a red-crowned parakeet perched nicely, and a couple of adult saddleback. We were just ambling slowly along when it happened! I have been to Ulva probably almost 40+ times, I’ve heard the stories and seen the videos – “Oh it was my first time to Ulva and we saw a kiwi’…blah blah blah! And there it was! A flippin kiwi!! In broad daylight. I know it happens with this species here on Stewart Island, but for me this was a first! Epic! It fed quiet just off the side of the track, snuffling under ferns and investigating rotten logs. Right there in front of us, and we didn’t even need a flashlight!
It fed for about 10 minutes, and we watched intently. Then a couple of other people came along, and it got a little too much, so the bird ambled off into the shrubbery! Amazing…. We continued on…gobsmacked! And it didn’t get any less surreal. We watched a rifleman low to the ground, got some images, and then a weka we had been watching decided some chemical stimulation was needed and as it walked up to the fly agaric I knew exactly what it was going to do! The rain during the night had pooled in the cap, and with an 800mm lens I had to do a few quick paces to get far enough away. I needn’t have bothered though, as in the end the weka drank the water from top of the toadstool for several minutes. Who know what weird dreams that little guy will be having now, but what a cool picture!
We carried on back towards the jetty, seeing a few things long the way, and soon our water taxi arrived to whisk us back to Oban. We cruised back on beautiful seas, seeing a few little penguins on the way. Back at Oban we grabbed our bags and then checked in for the midday ferry back to Bluff. The crossing was very quiet with a few white-capped albatross and a good number of common diving petrels, but not a lot else. Too calm for birds, great for poor sailors, although out group was now unmedicated and ready for anything!
We loaded the van and started to head towards Te Anau. A couple of quick stops to look for waterfowl, and then a beautiful beach with expansive views where we spotted some distant rounded black dorsal fins – Hector’s dolphins. We arrived into Te Anau, checked into our accommodation and had a rest before dinner. Another amazing day!
|A male South Island robin sings his heart out
|An immature South Island saddleback (jack-bird) showing the lack of a saddle at this age
|The jack-bird peering over a log
|An adult South Island saddleback for comparison
|Beautiful red-crowned parakeet perched and looking pretty
|MEGA - diurnal Southern brown kiwi feeding on Ulva Island during the day
|Foraging amongst the ferns and understory
|The one open shot I managed in this tricky situation
|Weka drinking from the cap of a fly agaric - bring on the hallucinations!
|Giving it a peck as well
|Male bellbird in the sunshine