Sunday 14 November 2010

Good Will Bunting and Pie-bill Tours!

Well the search for New Zealand’s ultimate pie continued today.  We may have to change our name from Wrybill Birding Tours, NZ, to New Zealand Pie Adventures (or Lynn quickly quipped Piebill Tours)!  Who would have thought that such pastry-cased gastronomic delicacies could shape the face of a birding tour!  All thanks to Ruth.

The morning began with a drive along the Kaikoura Peninsula and a great view from the lookout.  The characteristic song of a male cirl bunting drew my attention, and we briefly had it perched in the top of a pine in the scope – Art was up first being the North American who needed this for his life list.  Luckily Art got the bird before the little devil decided to fly and we lost it, but I managed to find a young male that stayed put for quite some time enabling excellent views, love it when a plan comes together.  We’d spent a bit of time looking for this species, and got it in the end.

We then headed slowly down the coast, a beautiful drive on a perfect sunny morning.  We spotted a small group of dusky dolphins off the coast, but they were a little distant and nothing like we had seen the day before from the boat.  So we carried and probably 10kms before St Anne’s Lagoon spotted a pair of Cape Barren geese in a paddock beside the road.  I turned around and we got a nice view of these birds which seem to be increasing slowly in number and being found further afield each year.  We carried on to St Anne’s and found another five birds, as well as common coot, grey teal, scaup, and shoveler.  No big flocks of Paridise duck yet though.  Along the lake shore we also found a species of dragonfly and red damselfly, and then a little later a yellow admiral butterfly.

Carrying on southwards the tummies were obviously starting to rumble.  Ruth had already been doing her research and realising we were going to be going through Sheffield, started canvassing the others with regards to the famous ‘Sheffield Pie Shop’.  This was despite the fact we had already bought lunch at a bakery in Kaikoura!  Malcolm and Lynn (who are from Sheffield, UK) of course had to have the obligatory photo beside the road sign, and then we rolled up to the pie shop.  I’m sure they must get bus loads of tourists, but the look on the faces of the people serving suggested they hadn’t had ravenous birders descend on them lately.  With the axles of the Ford Transit groaning under the weight of pastry goods, we headed towards Arthur’s Pass.  I don’t think we had even got out of the town limits and all that was left was pastry crumbs.
As we crossed the Waimakariri River a couple of black-fronted terns flew over the bridge in front of us, so we made a quick stop to get a look at them, before headed up to the Otira Viaduct lookout.  We hadn’t even stopped the vehicle and a friendly kea was seen.  So we spent a very enjoyable lunch break watching the antics of this bird, listening to it call, and enjoying the awesome scenery.  The bird eventually flew off and we could hear it and another bird calling to each other up the valley.

We then headed on through to Punakaiki with a quick stop at Rapahoe over looking the sea.  On the way we had a family of weka with about 6 chicks dash across the road in front of us at an intersection, so we got really nice views of them.  At Rapahoe there were a few spotted shags, but nothing out of the ordinary.  However, we were very pleased to see the rain that had been forecast was not in evidence and instead there was quite a bit of blue sky poking through.  Checking into Punakaiki we had a break and then dinner.  Then it was time to head out to give great-spotted kiwi a go – two chances, slim and none.  But we were rewarded with fantastic views of a female morepork that showed evidence of incubation with a worn patch on her belly feathers.  She almost tried to land on my head at one stage!  We did hear a kiwi call about 100m away, but only the once.  Unfortunately, as usual lots of common brush-tailed possums in the area, and we did see a few weka as well.  A big day of driving, but some beaut scenery and nice views of things along the way.

The famous 'Sheffield Pie Shop'...just follow the trail of pie crumbs.

Castle Hill on the road through to Arthur's Pass

Otira Viaduct from the lookout

Lynn getting a good look at a kea

"Cor, look at the bill on that thing!"

A very friendly kea

Time for more food...even though we'd only just gorged on pies an hour before!

Bird of the day – Steak and Mushroom Pie x1 (Ruth oh Ruth...again!), kea x5

Day total – Seen = 52 + 3 heard (great-spotted kiwi, South Island kaka, grey warbler); new for the trip = 4; total for the trip to date = 144

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