Friday 29 November 2019

Day seventeen - last kiwi

Up early again and the weather looked a LOT better than it had been the previous day.  Breakfast and then van packed and on the road.  We were aimed at Bluff for our ferry across to Stewart Island, a pretty special part of New Zealand.  On the way we kept our eyes peeled, making a couple of quick stops along the way.  One was a small lagoon and estuary, where we did a short walk and checked the large numbers of waterfowl that were around.  Lots of black swan, shoveler, grey teal, and paradise shelduck.  Of course this is all nice, but we had a target in mind, and it was spotted almost straight away!  There was a pair of chestnut-breasted shelducks feeding in shallow mud, showing quite nicely.  We walked down to another vantage point, hoping to get the light slightly better, and refound them.  But then found another perched up on a post with a pair of paradise shelducks for comparison.  But then, hang on, there is another pair, sheesh and another.  So, in all we had six chestnut-breasted shelducks, always nice to see.
We looked through the other waterfowl, nice views of everything there, spotted a few bar-tailed godwit on the estuary and several Royal spoonbills, and then headed off.  We carried on our way to Bluff, checking in to the ferry terminal, and scanning for shags out the window.  A few spotted flying past, and then a distant Foveaux shag on the water…more to come.
We boarded the ferry, a light drizzle stopped as we stepped on and positioned ourselves on the back deck.  As we cast our lines and headed out it was looking pretty calm.  And indeed, as we got out further the conditions were pretty light.  We spotted a few more Foveaux shags and then a bunch of common diving petrels.  The numbers of these just increased as we got out further, so a nice chance to see these great little birds flying fast and low to the water with their rapid little wing-beats.  Two sooty shearwaters showed distantly, then a couple of white-capped albatross, and then a single Cook’s petrel whipped past and across the wake.  Was hoping that it was going to be another more exciting Cookilaria petrel, but oh well.
As we got in closer to Halfmoon Bay we scanned the rocks and coastline.  A couple of Fiordland crested penguins showed briefly, again more to come.  The ferry docked, we disembarked, grabbed our bags and up to our accommodation.  A quick lunch and then on a water taxi across to Ulva Island, getting nice views of a perched Foveaux shag on the way.
The weather was certainly better than the day before, with high cloud and a pretty reasonable temperature.  We started our walk, netting weka, red-crowned parakeet, and pigeon pretty quickly, with distant heard saddleback a little tantalising.  We spotted some beaut little spider orchids, greenhood orchids, and a lot of other really lovely forest.  A tip off from Matt Jones had us on to a roosting morepork with really nice views.  Brown creeper, grey gerygone, bell bird, tui, kaka, and then yellow-crowned parakeet and yellowhead.  Really nice views of the yellowhead and lots of calling around the place also.  Then finally we had a South Island robin…yep, it took this long for a robin to come in to view!
We carried on out to a lovely little beach, the tide was right in, but still a couple of variable oystercatchers in attendance, and some weka.  We then wandered back, seeing pretty much the same suite of birds, and then a lovely view of a pair of South Island saddlebacks.  Singing right in front of us, and hopping around and feeding.  Excellent.  We headed back to Post Office Cove, had a look at the sleeping male (!) Hooker’s sea lion on the beach, and then went for a quick jaunt to another beach.  Little penguin off the beach, with a few spotted shags around.  Then back to the wharf, an early water taxi back towards Oban, with a search for Fiordland crested penguin on the way.  We search a few spots, lots of poop, but no birds…good to know where they have been right?!  We then got to a great spot where we had two almost fully grown chicks – looking very blue and with just small smudges of crests.  Probably only a week or so before they will be heading off on their own.  Then we spied a distant adult, and moving the boat we got into a great potion where we had another pair of adults in a cave.  Really nice views of them at pretty close quarters with the diagnostic white striping on the cheeks visible.  Cool!
So, it was beer o’clock, and we headed in, had an hour or so rest, and then dinner.  But that wasn’t it.  After dinner we headed out with Matt Jones who guides for Wrybill Birding Tours, NZ, but also lives on Stewart Island and leads for Ulva’s Guided Walks and does kiwi trips for Beaks and Feathers.  We headed out to a location where they conduct their tours and although it was very windy, the rain was holding off.  We wandered with Matt, looking and listening as we went.  And before long we had our first Southern brown kiwi in view.  Nice close and prolonged views of a female feeding quietly and ignoring us completely.  We had awesome views, as she fed and then raised her bill a number of times to sniff the air.  It was clear with the wind direction the way it was that she was actually smelling something up ahead of us, so we left her be and soon discovered probably what she had smelt, another bird up wind.  We had great views of this also, and then carried on as we could see a black cloud looming ahead and feel the moisture in the air.  In the end we turned and found another bird, and had all three within 50-60m of each other.  Pretty darn nice.  After getting all the views we needed, we decided to head back towards the vehicles.  We got there just as spots of rain started to fall, and as we drove we spotted another bird, bringing the tally to four birds for the evening, and awesome views.  Bed never felt so good!

Day total – Seen = 63 inc 1 heard, (rifleman); new for the trip = 4; total for the trip to date = 155

Glen makes a friend on the ferry

Posing on the beach

The beautiful forest on Ulva with a few hobbits looking on

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