Sunday 24 February 2019

Day thirteen - stilts

Rain, rain and rain…it hardly stopped all night.  It was still raining as we loaded the van, but as we headed south it seemed to be coming through in waves, perhaps we would push through it!  As we headed down along the coast, some of the roadwork stops gave us the opportunity to spot some dusky dolphins out close to shore. We made a quick stop at a small lake, lots of waterfowl around and also managed to get nice views of redpoll.  Heading on further south we stopped in at an estuary, where the tides was well in.  We searched the shoreline and found a few pied stilts, pied oystercatchers, etc and looking out further there were a few black-fronted terns, gulls, etc.  We relaxed as the tide started to recede and all of a sudden Pierre had a black stilt in the scope!  Excellent.  As the tide was dropping the bird started feeding out from where it must have been roosting, and we all got a good look at this critically endangered bird.  We spent a little more time looking at the stilt and watching godwit accumulate as the tide dropped, obviously coming from a high tide roost further up the estuary.
The weather was holding for us, but as we started to head inland we had more waves of rain come through.  The mountains were certainly not visible as we came to a small place to eat our lunch. The temperature was certainly cooler than we had experienced to date, and with warm layers and wind proof jackets on we munched on our sandwiches.
After lunch we continued inland, keeping a sharp eye for falcon.  We made a few scenic stops in between the showers, and as we got closer to Arthur’s Pass the rain actually eased off, although it was pretty windy in places.  We headed up through the village to a lookout site, where it was really windy.  A scan of the rivers and local hillsides revealed nothing of interest, so we headed back down and went for a short walk in the forest.  A kea did a nice fly-by before we entered the forest.  Beautiful beech forest surrounded us, as we wandered a trail. With the cool condition’s things were a little quiet, but we managed to get looks at South Island robin, tomtit, a glimpse of a rifleman, several fantails and grey gerygones, and bellbird. The forest was full of mosses and was our first introduction into the South Island beech forest, so nice to see some new plants as well.
We then headed back down, through the village and to our accommodation.  We checked in, admiring the spectacular views, and then had an early dinner.  After dinner we headed out in the hope of at least hearing a great-spotted kiwi.  We parked up, waited for it to get a little darker, the rain was holding off.  We headed to a spot, and of course it started to drizzle – and it was cold.  We waited as it grew steadily darker.  After a while the drizzle stopped, and we could see Orion and the Southern Cross.  And then a female started to call, perhaps about 100m away.  She called perhaps 20 times, and we waited, hoping a male would respond.  But after a bit with no response, we decided to head back to the van.  Excellent to have at least heard this very difficult to find bird!

Bird of the day– Kea x4, black stilt x4
The Waimakariri valley

The gang

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