4 Dec 2010

An orgy of albatrosses – 4th

Andy served breakfast at 9am. Delicious and wholesome as usual. I got ready for a pelagic trip and walked down to the harbour, with a stop for a latte to go. The old wooden boat Rawhiti left the harbour at 10:30am. The skipper John Leask arranges different excursions and this one were in fact dedicated to traditional fishing with hand lines. While the other participants fishing Blue Cod I enjoyed all the seabirds around the boat. It was indeed an orgy of White-capped Albatrosses, which were the most numerous species throughout the boat tour. Following species were recorded: Blue Penguin (10), White-capped Albatross (c. 150), Wandering Albatross (1), Salvin’s Albatross (1), Buller’s Albatross (1), Giant Petrel (2), Cape Petrel (10), Common Diving Petrel (3), Sooty Shearwater (c. 100), Brown Skua (2), Australian Gannet (2), Red-billed Gull (100), Black-backed Gull (20), White-fronted Tern (10) and four species of shags. A completely great day at sea and John took care of everything and served coffee, cooked blue cod and fried paua on toast. We arrived to the harbour at 4pm. I was very excited, but kind of exhausted too. Almost 500 photos of albatrosses and other seabirds! I took a power nap for an hour then walked the Horseshoe Point track for about three hours. Great views and the usual bird species were seen in the lovely forest.

The old wooden boat "Rawhiti".
On our way out to the open sea.
Kevin from Christchurch looking for albatrosses.

Part of Stewart Island and Paterson Inlet.
White-capped Albatrosses. No, the photo is not arranged.
White-capped Albatross!
This island were named The Haystack by Cook.
White-capped Albatross "hanging" in the wind.
A beautiful White-capped Albatross.
White-capped Albatross.
Buller's Albatross, did a quick stop only.
Salvin's Albatross.
White-capped Albatross.
What an awesome good-looking bird!
White-capped Albatrosses, Red-billed Gulls and a single Black-backed Gull.

Ulva island – 3rd

I enjoyed a wonderful breakfast at Jo and Andy. I then headed to Golden Bay via the Fuchsia and Raroa tracks with good margin for birding. I saw the usual birds such as Kaka, Tui, Red-crowned Parakeet, Bellbird and a few Tom tits. I reached Golden Bay just before 9am and people were already boarding the regular watertaxi. I and the Canadian birder, Dave Tannahill, had to wait ten minutes for the next ride to Ulva island. Ulva island is an open sanctuary. The majority of the island (around 260 ha) is part of Rakiura National Park.

I and Dave birded through the islands track all day long (7 hours). We had a good time together and lot of great sightings of all bird species as we birded along very slowly. We recorded at least ten South Island Saddlebacks, of which to were immatures and five were non-ringed birds. Brown creeper were quite common, which goes for Tui, Kaka and Bellbird too. We only saw three Yellowheads and we had to wait long until we noted the first one, which were  close-up one on the ground! Only a few Grey Warblers were seen and heard. Tomtits were seen now and then. In all I think we saw about 20 Stewart Island Robin, all of them were colour-ringed. A very nice bird species and they are totally unafraid and just show up or disappear without a sound. Like the Siberian Jay in Scandinavia. Dave and I just had lovely day on Ulva island.

Back in Oban I had a Fish n´chips at the harbour and then picked up my scope and headed to Ackers Point, which I think is a good spot for seawatching. And Yes, I had two hours of good seawatching at the lookout point. At least 40 White-capped Albatrosses passed by and I was able to photograph several of them! About 600 Sooty Shearwaters, of which 200 were seen in one dense flock. A single Cape Petrel and Giant Petrel were also recorded as well as a total of 30 Blue Penguins. I ended the day birding at 9pm and arranged with a fisherman to join him on a boat trip tomorrow, which I highly look forward too.

View from the landing-stage at Golden Bay while waiting for the watertaxi to Ulva island.
A lovely Stewart Island Robin along the track.
One of the beautiful South Island Saddlebacks. Usually on the ground in shady areas.
A curious Kaka along the track.
The beach at Sydney Cove on Ulva island.
A Stewart Island Weka on the beach.
Boulder Beach on Ulva island.
Dave Tannahill from Canada. He has been travel for three months in Chile, Peru, Argentina, South Africa, Australia and finally in NZ, before he fly home on Monday.
View from the lookout at Ackers Point.
A couple of White-fronted Terns.
White-capped Albatross seen from shore! Several were seen almost in the harbour of the Halfmoon Bay!
White-capped Albatross seen from Ackers Point.

3 Dec 2010

Stewart Island Brown Kiwi – 2nd

I was picked up by Stewart Island Experience at Tuatara lodge for transfer to the ferry terminal in Bluff. The small catamaran ferry left Bluff at 9:30am. The crossing to Halfmoon Bay (Oban) on Stewart Island took about one hour and were quite nice, as the sea was not too rough. Of course I stood on after-deck and scanning the sea for seabirds, of which I record: White-capped Albatross (7), Sooty Shearwater (18), Common Diving Petrel (26), Brown Skua (1), Blue Penguin (6), White-fronted Tern (20), Spotted Shag (3) and Stewart Island Shag (6). Unfortunately, no Pterodroma-petrels were seen.

Landed in the small fishing village Halfmoon Bay. Picked up my baggage and walked some 200 metres to my prebooked accommodation at Jo and Andy B&B. Andy were awaiting me and its sort of homestay accommodation were very cosy with a genuine personal style, which appeal to me. Andy did help me to arrange a nocturnal Kiwi tour with Philip Smith in the evening and booking a watertaxi to Ulva island for the next day. When everything was done I headed to the DoC office across the street to get some information. I bought a few maps and then walked a few tracks for about three hours. I saw hundreds of Tuis (not kidding), Bellbirds, about 30 nice Kaka, Tomtit (30), Rifleman (5), Fantail (5), Yellow-crowned Parakeet (2 pairs), NZ Pigeon (50) and lot of Silvereyes. Lovely forests and good number of birds!

Quarter to nine in the evening I boarded the boat Wildfire for a nocturnal Kiwi tour to a remote beach named Ocean Beach. We were about 10 persons full of expectations. On our way to the site we saw some 20 Blue Penguins, one Giant Petrel, Spotted and Stewart Island Shags. Well at the landing-stage Philip had a little lecture about the Stewart Island Brown Kiwi and some instructions by the guide Greg. We then enter the track through the forest to the beach, which took about 20 minutes. Well at the beach we heard a male Kiwi calling in the forest! It was dark when we started to walk along the Ocean beach, where the Kiwis come to feed at night. The only torchlight used was handled by Greg. Finally, at the end of the beach we saw one Kiwi, but as we came closer it suddenly run away to the forest. Slightly disappointed, we walked the beach over three more times without a slightest glimpse of a Kiwi. We decided to do a very last walk 11:30pm. And almost at the end of the beach there were a Kiwi feeding! We got closer slowly and could watch this strange creature within four metres! As the Kiwis are sensible and afraid of noises we had to wait for the happy celebration. What an experience! Knowing it’s very difficult to get a chance to see a Kiwi in the wild! I got to bed at 1:30am.

Halfmoon Bay where the village Oban is located.
A little part of the beautiful forest that surround Oban and most of the island.
Kaka. A lovely, but very noise parrot. Like Kea, curious and not afraid of humans.
One of about ten Kaka on the Fuchsia track.
View towards Ackers Point from Wohlers monument.
In good light condition the NZ Pigeon is a real beauty!
A male of the South Island Tomtit.
The skipper Philip Smith giving some brief instructions before leaving the harbour.
A quite huge male of Stewart Island Brown Kiwi. No flashes were used when photographing the Kiwi. The only light source was Greg's torchlight.
Another nice photo of the male Kiwi. Note the thick legs on both photos.

1 Dec 2010

Fernbirds at Ian and Jenny’s place – 1st Dec

Woke up quite early. Calm and decreasing cloud. Hard to understand it’s 1st December and about 18 degree below zero at home in Sweden. Had a soft breakfast and then a latte to go and headed towards Otatara by foot. After some 45 minutes I reached New River Estuary and it was lowtide. I scanned the mudflats with my scope and noted Bar-tailed Godwits (33), Pied Stilts (65), White-faced Herons (45), Pied Oystercatcher (7), Australian Shoveler (12), Black Swans, Masked Lapwings, Red-billed Gulls. I continued to Bushy Point Reserve and saw and heard lot of Tuis, many NZ Pigeons and a couple of Swamp Harriers. Finally I had a walk to Ian and Jenny Gamble’s privately owned reserve, which is known for its significant population of Fernbirds. Ian and Jenny welcomed me and invited me for a refreshing lunch and we had a nice chat. A very friendly and kind couple as well as ardent conservationists. They also offer comfortable homestay accommodation, see their website for more information. Ian took me on a guided walk through the beautiful reserve. And of course did we see Fernbirds, lot of sightings of about 6-7 birds. But gosh, they are very difficult to photograph, even though one get close-up views. At two occasions I had two birds in front of me perched at the top of a little bush, but I wasn’t too cool while my camera tried to focus on the birds. However, it were just lovely to see and hear these birds within the peaceful reserve. After a small chat I said goodbye to Ian, Jenny and Raki (their cute dog). On my way back to Tuatara Lodge I had another scan at the Estuary, but nothing new. I was back to my room at 4pm and had a well-earned power nap. Tomorrow morning I will take the ferry from Bluff to Stewart Island for a five-day stay.

Part of New River Estuary in low-tide, with Bluff hill in far background
One of many New Zealand (Wood) Pigeon.

Just follow the signs and I can highly recommend a visit at Jenny and Ian's reserve.

Part of the beautiful reserve and the habitat for Fernbirds. A very peaceful place.

One of about 30 blurry photos of Fernbirds, but please use your imagination:-)

Ian and Jenny Gamble. A kind and happy couple!

30 Nov 2010

From a rainy Te Anau to a sunny Invercargill – 30th

I think I am in the Gods of weather's good books as I have been very lucky with the weather throughout the whole trip. Is like the Gods had have study my itinerary and scheduled the weather to it, as suitable as possible. One may mention the five hours of rain in Kaikoura on 20th, yes, but it was well timed as I had to wash clothes and other boring things. And today as I was about to leave Te Anau it was raining already when I got up at 6am. Could not see the mountains in no direction. I had an easy breakfast and got on the bus to Invercargill at 8am. I put on my headphones and found Cure most suitable for the ride and the rainy grey mist outside. A nostalgic and gloomy affair, so to speak. Coincidentally, a beautiful track on Disintegration is named “Prayers For Rain”. I changed bus in Gore. What a name on a village. Suddenly, when we approached Invercargill there were breaks in the overcast. After an hour in Invercargill meanwhile I checked in at Tuatara Lodge it were sunny and almost clearblue sky. Concerning the Gods of weather…

I had a long walk exploring the centre of the city. I visited The Southland Museum and Art Gallery as well as the lovely Queens Park. Invercargill is somewhat a strange city and I don’t feel comfortable with its so called atmosphere. It’s like a sleeping town and after 7pm almost like a ghost town. However, I am not a party animal, but you know what I mean. It will be early to bed this evening. Tomorrow’s target species is Fernbird!

Picture through the bus window, while listening to Cure. Perfect travelling weather.
The Southland Museum and Art Gallery. I enjoyed Roger Wandless photographic exhibition “Deepest Fiordland” very much. It also has the largest public display of live Tuatara in the world.
Tuatara is the only survivor of an ancient group of reptiles that roamed the earth at the same time as dinosaurs, which is why the tuatara is called a “living fossil”. Tuatara once lived throughout the mainland of New Zealand, but have survived in the wild only on 32 offshore islands. Tuatara is a Maori word meaning "spiny back".
A nice Tuatara baby. Only once every two to five years will the female be ready to mate. The male will sit outside her burrow and wait. If she is interested they will mate and 8 or 9 months later she will lay and bury 6 to10 eggs in a sunny place. 11 to16 months later the baby tuatara will hatch.

 A nice carving in Maori style.

 Tiki, which is one of the most popular Maori symbols. Also known as an emblem of other cultures belonging to the Polynesian culture. According to legends tiki was the first man on earth who originated from the stars.

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!