29 Nov 2010

Kepler Track in Fiordland National Park - 26-29th

How to summarize a great walk such Kepler Track? Four days through beautiful native beech forests and subalpine mountain ridges in perfect weather conditions. One of the great walks indeed, but also the longest and probably the toughest one. Yes, a great challenge, but also a great experience. For this four-day journey by foot I had four bird species on my wish-to-see-list: Fiordland (Brown) Kiwi, Blue Duck, Kea and Rock Wren. I got all of them, except for the latter one. However, what in fact made me very happy were seeing so many of the native/endemic bird species and in good numbers too! For example I heard at least 70 singing Grey Gerygones, c. 30 Tomtits and 20 Fantails each day! Rifleman (a little cute bird, not a NZ sniper) were seen daily, with up to 60 birds on 27th (between Hanging valley and Iris Burn Hut). Tui and Bellbird were fairly common. In addition I also saw NZ Falcon (1), NZ Robin (three singin and non-ringed birds), Yellow-crowned Parakeet (2 pair), NZ Pigeon (5), Long-tailed Cuckoo, Morepork (1), Kingfisher (3), Kea (7) and NZ Pipit (10). I was very happy to find a pair of Blue Ducks in the evening downstreams of the Big Slip in Iris Burn river! The male were "whistling" for about ten minutes. Later in the evening I was told by the DoC (Department of Conservation) Ranger Pat, that the pair had been present in this part of the river for a couple of weeks. I kept myself awake on Saturday night and I was regarded with 2-3 calling male Fiordland (Brown) Kiwis. Their ringing call echoed in the dark valley of Iris Burn. I think I fell asleep with a cool smile on my face. My God, it's impossible to paint up that perfect picture with words, even with help of photos. So, why do I even try? To cut a long (walk) story short, the Kepler Track were just awesome and memorable. Please enjoy the photos from the walk.

The Kepler Track is a 60 km circular track which travels through some of the spectacular scenery with its highest point at about 1400 m over sea level.
View from the southern shore of Lake Te Anau.
Male New Zealand Scaups in Lake Te Anau.
View from Mount Luxmore towards Lake Manapouri on the first day.
Morning on the second day. View towards Murchison Mountains. Magnificencent and so silent!
The track between Forest Burn Saddle and Hanging Valley.
A cool birding trekker at Hanging Valley. (Photo by a Mexican girl;-)
One of two lovely and playful Keas at the Hanging Valley shelter.
The Kea, New Zealand's cheeky mountain parrot is a bird with "attitude". Raucous and inquisitive, the bird is not afraid of humans and puts on colourful displays for visitors.
View towards Kepler Mountains.
The fabulous native beech forest downhill from Hanging Valley to Iris Burn hut. Dreamlike.
One of many streams in the forest. Cold and refreshing water!
Iris Burn hut embedded in a singing forest and the river almost in front. The original Rivendell?
The waterfall twenty minutes from the Iris Burn hut.
A lovely Fantail, but very difficult to photograph, which is true for the other forest birds too.
At noon on the third day. Happily one walked through the forest all day long on this very hot day with clearblue sky.
I cooled off my feats in the stream while enjoying a can with baked beans and sausages.
Lake Manapouri, which originally is named by the Maoris as Moturau (Motu=islands and rau=many), the lake with many islands.
Dawn at Moturau hut on the fourth day.
From left: Ben and Serina from Australia and Richard and Carol from Tasmania. Richard are a keen birder too. We all meet up in the evening at every hut and departed in each morning throughout the whole walk.
The swingbridge over Waiau river.
Waiau river.
After a long shover I (and some Black-billed Gulls) enjoyed a tasty chicken burger in Te Anau. And a real latte of course!

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