Wednesday 24 February 2016

A day of two wrens

We were up early, and in the van almost before the sun was up…mind you 7am is not really that early a start for a birding tour!  We had a big drive this morning from Wanaka to Te Anau to start with.  We made a couple of quick stops along the way, but the weather was holding, although a little cooler than it has been, and we wanted to get through to our location for rock wren whilst it was still holding.  The forecast suggested there might be afternoon rain, so always good to get things early.  As we drove a stretch of Lake Wakatipu we spotted a falcon perched on a power pole, and turning around had great views of the bird perched there, and got some nice pics as well.

We grabbed some lunch at Miles Better Pies in Te Anau – and of course much of the lunch was scoffed over the next while as we drove out towards Milford Sound.  We made a couple of quick scenic stops and then arrived at out location for rock wren.  The sun was still shining, there was almost no wind, and conditions couldn’t have been better.  We had hardly been amongst the alpine terrain for more than two minutes when we heard a characteristic little high pitched call in amongst the boulders and vegetation.  We focussed our attention in the general area, but nothing was moving.  Then a little blur just down the hill and si we moved slightly and could hear a bird possibly two calling much closer.  Then we saw two birds flitting off along end edge and standing up on a couple of rocks.  We had great views of one of the birds, probably a juvenile fledged this season, the other possibly an adult female.  But there was still one calling back where they had come from, and so we headed back to that spot and found a male bird in pretty nice plumage.  It showed really well for several minutes, jumping up onto the top of rocks and feeding in amongst vegetation.  So all up we had at least three birds, with outstanding close views of them – all within about 20 minutes of arriving.  You cannot ask for any better than that!  We spent another 20 minutes or so enjoying the scenery and checking out the rest of the area, and then decided we should make the most of the time in our pockets and head to Milford Sound whilst the weather was holding.

So we headed back to the van, chomped through  the remaining lunch and then drove through to Milford Sound.  It was still pretty nice through in the Sound, with a little high cloud just masking the top of Mitre Peak, but otherwise warm.  We had checked all the rivers for ducks of the blue variety on the way, but nothing.  We spent a little time admiring the scenery and then slowly headed back through to a couple of forest spots.  Of course eyes were on the rivers again as we checked for more ducks, but still nothing.  But the scenery and beautiful weather made up for that.

We stopped at a view point and enjoyed more spectacular views, and then at a forest walk where we admired beautiful big beech trees just festooned with mosses – mosses on branches, on trunks, carpeting the ground – just beautiful.  And there were rifleman everywhere – you could just hear them calling all over the place, and we had some really nice views.  We also had a few South Island robin around and got nice close views of them, and a black morph fantail, our first of the trip.

But, it was soon time to start heading back towards Te Anau.  We enjoyed the scenery as we drove slowly back towards town, checked in to our accommodation, and had a little time before dinner.  As usual dinner was another pretty delicious affair!

Day total – Seen = 38 + 1 heard (yellow-crowned parakeet); new for the trip = 1; total for the trip to date = 147

Bird of the day – Rock wren x5

A falcon sits up on a power pole surveying the land

A young rock wren hunts for food

Same young rock wren sitting...on a rock!

An adult male rock wren about to take flight...or attack

The rock wren searchers

Beautiful alpine country

A young rifleman blends in to the tree festooned in mosses, lichens and epiphytes

A young rifleman, probably a male

A South Island robin perches looking on

Black morph New Zealand fantail

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