Saturday 8 December 2018

Day twenty - reflecting

We were up early, and could still see the tops of Mount Tasman and Mount Cook (Aoraki) as the sun started to colour the sky.  We headed across to a site where we hoped a still night might have rendered a small lake perfect for reflections.  And indeed it had.  Walking through the forest on the way, we could see the crystal clear surface of the lake reflecting the surrounding forest.  From a viewpoint we had stunning views of the mountains, and their reflections, with just enough time before the sun peaked over the mountains.  Stunning.
We wandered back through the forest, enjoying a few birds as we went, with tomtit, fantail and a few other bits and bobs.  We headed back to the Motel, finished breakfast and packing our bags and then got on the road to head further north.  The sun was shining and it was another stunning day on the West Coast.  We drove through to Franz Josef and went for a little walk through more beautiful forest.  Lots of green-hood orchids in flower, and nice views from the top of a viewpoint area.  The Glacier really looks like it is receding fast, I wonder how long before it won’t even be visible through the valley?
We carried on up the coast after a quick coffee stop, and drove the beautiful road surrounded by huge trees and spectacular forest.  A detour out to a coastal lagoon brought a new bird for the trip – great egret – but not the hoped for fernbird…they were quiet today. Eyes were peeled for falcons, but again they were hiding.  We called in to another area with a short forest walk, and enjoyed more lovely forest and some great views of brown creeper and fantail, plus a weka came in to say hello.
We decided it was time for lunch, so we stopped in at a café and had a sit-down lunch, a rare occurrence on trips like this.  But we had a great lunch and a chance to relax before getting back on the road.  Now the road was more coastal, giving us in many places views up or down the coast, and so we made a couple of short stops to scan the sea.  Nothing much happening out there, but beautiful none the less.
We arrived at out Motel in Punakaiki, checked in and then relaxed for a little bit, before heading out to walk the Pancake Rocks walkway.  This beautiful piece of the coast was popular with other people, but the weka family (mum, dad and four small fluffy chicks) didn’t even seem to notice!  We had great views of them before heading on around the walkway…I wonder how many tourists thought they were kiwi?!  The white-fronted terns and red-billed gulls were nesting out on the rocks, and there were a lot of fluffy chicks of both species scampering around the place.  We enjoyed the coastal views, scanning for Hector’s dolphins, but nothing spotted.
After a bit more time at the Motel enjoying the scenery, we had a lovely last dinner together at a local café, and finished it off with local ice-cream.  An excellent last dinner and a great time to reflect on what an amazing trip we have had.  A real mix of weather, but some excellent photographic opportunities with many of the 143 species encountered on this tour!

Mount Tasman as the sun rises

Male paradise shelduck looking out for his flock

Reflections of the mountains and forest

Steam rising off the water, Mount Tasman on the left and Mount Cook (Aoraki) on the right

A little closer

A great egret takes flight 

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