Sunday 3 March 2019

Day twenty - Mackenzie

It was cool as we got up and loaded the van, then headed inland.  As we neared Omarama we could see low cloud ahead of us, and then we entered some pretty thick fog.  The fog persisted as we drove, but it was pretty clear that this was going to burn off and turn into a stunning day.  And that is exactly what happened.
We made our first stop in the fog, a place with waterbirds.  Before long we had a number of great-crested grebe chicks of varying ages in the scope, and then a couple of adults.  Two of the adults took a dislike to each other and really set into each other raising up out of the water and trying to attack each other. We also got good close views of New Zealand scaup, Australasian coot, and a few more black-billed gulls.
WE then moved on, grabbing some lunch, and then heading to a site that sometimes has black stilt.  This time just a few pied stilts, but some good views of some of the finches, and spectacular scenery as the fog had cleared.  Mt Cook (Aoraki) was sitting proudly amongst other giant mountains for all to see.  We headed to another spot, this time on the look-out for chukar.  All eyes were scanning, but nothing spotted.  We parked up and went for a bit of a walk, and managed to find a small covey of at least six birds.  They were pretty difficult to see at first, with just a couple of birds visible, feeding in the tops of small shrubs, but then a few of them moved up onto a rocky ridgeline and were much easier to see.  Excellent!  We kept eyes peeled for falcon, and also on the ground for skinks and other critters of interest.  One skink was seen and a few butterflies.
We then headed off and to another lake, where we pulled up and right there was a pair of black stilt!  Lunch out and enjoying the views of black stilt, we also had views of other waterfowl, and a couple of black-fronted terns hawked over the lake nearby also. A pretty stunning spot to enjoy our last lunch together out birding.  We soaked in the sun, enjoyed views of the stilts still further, and the photographers headed in for closer looks and some photos.
We then headed to a scenic stop, where we looked out across Lake Pukaki towards Mt Cook (Aoraki), wow, what a stunning view, and made even more special with the weather we were having!  And the fact we had seen it so well from both sides, both from the west a few days ago, and now from the east.  We took some photos, played tourist, and then carried on.  Our goal this time was Baillon’s crake, which we spent some time searching for, but not a peep.  There was a lot of good looking territory, and there just had to be birds there, but nothing showed.  So, we had to admit defeat and headed on to our accommodation.  We checked in and then headed to dinner.  Our last supper together, time to chat about favourite birds, favourite things during the trip, and to realise what an amazing trip we had had together.

Bird of the day– Black stilt x7, great-crested grebe x1
Stunning day in the Mackenzie

Views abound

Black stilts nailed

There it is!

Mount Cook looking stunning

The gang

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