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New Zealand has some unique bird species of which the iconic kiwi is the best known. The Wrybill, a plover with a side-turned bill, a medley of seabirds including albatross, petrels, shearwaters and penguins together with endemic parrots, wrens, robins and tomtits were all new to me. I was delighted with sightings of Yellow-eyed and Fiordland-crested penguins and the variety and number of albatross seen on 2 pelagic cruises. 

 

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A few Australian species such as Swamphens and Silvereyes and some introduced European species were also seen.

 

The South Island of New Zealand is a land of dramatic coastlines, roughhewn mountains, green paddocks (mostly dotted with sheep), sandy beaches and foaming waterfalls.

 

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Kaikoura

 

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Knob's Flat

 

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Lake Tekapo

 

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Katiki Historic Reserve

 

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Mountains near Homer Tunnel, Milford Road

 

The island is remarkably scenic and it is hard to believe that around the next corner is a sight even more dazzling than the one disappearing in the rear view mirror. Indeed, the scenic overload makes it easy to become nonchalant about the plethora of memorable vistas.

 

I travelled with Wrybill Safaris, joining the group at Wellington half-way through the trip for the last 12 days of a 21 day trip. The itinerary was:

 

  • Wellington
  • Picton
  • Kaikoura (2 nights)
  • Hokitika
  • Franz Joseph
  • Wanaka
  • Te Anau
  • Stewart Island (2 nights)
  • Omarau
  • Omarama
  • Christchurch

 

I will write more at the end of the report about travelling with Wrybill through the South Island, the New Zealanders (Kiwis) love of the great outdoors and some conservation work that we saw. 

 

 

Day 1
 

I left Melbourne around 6.30 pm arrived in Wellington at midnight (there is a 2 hour time difference) and thanks to efficient immigration and customs made it to the hotel around 1 am. After  good night's sleep I went in search of breakfast, walking as far as Queen's Wharf before returning to the city area and found a cafe called Arabica. After breakfast I wandered back to the hotel, packed up and checked out before returning to Lambton Quay in downtown Wellington (Welly to the locals) to take some photos of this staid port city.

 

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The wharf area reminded me of Cape Town and Hobart.

 

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Made it back to the hotel in time to meet Sav Saville of Wrybill Birding. The rest of the group are at Te Papa (the National Museum) and we meet them there before heading to the Inter-island ferry terminal. 


 

Once on board the ferry Sav bags us good inside seats with ready access to the deck area where we spend most of the trip and are rewarded with distant views of White-capped and Salvin's Albatross, Fairy Prion, Fluttering Shearwater, King and Spotted Shags, Arctic Skua and a solitary Little Blue Penguin. A New Zealand Falcon flew overhead, too high for us to identify the prey in its claws.

 

The crossing was quite calm, although there was a slight swell once we left Wellington Harbour and entered the open waters of Cook Strait.

 

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Closer to the South Island we see a number of yachts and motor cruisers as the locals take to the sea.

 

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Within the sheltered waters of Queen Charlotte Sound there are homes dotted around private coves with sandy beaches and private jetties. 

 

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Many appear to be holiday homes, but all are boat access only as they cling to the edge of the land where no road goes.

 

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Tomorrow we are going on a boat cruise to Blumine Island in search of rare New Zealand endemics. The only mammal seen today was a Dusky Dolphin.

 

 

 

Edited by Treepol
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Looking forward to see what a wildlife-based NZ trip can produce, Denise! I´ve long wanted to travel there but it would need to be about at least four weeks to make sense, so I will probably will have to wait for retirement. :)

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@michael-ibk hmmmm...the wildlife of New Zealand is primarily birdlife and a few marine mammals. I have a 30 year old pamphlet called Wild animals of New Zealand which mentions mammals that include 6 species of deer (surprisingly chamois and tahr are mentioned), goats, wild pigs, wallabies, possums, hares, rabbits, rats, bats, ferrets and stoats and even a cute little hedgehog. I learnt during the trip that stoats, rabbits, and possums are now regarded as pests and the subjects of conservation programs. Best to think of NZ as primarily a birding destination!

 

Day 2 

 

This morning we are booked on the E-Ko cruise out of Picton to Blumine Island in Queen Charlotte Sound.

 

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Picton marina

 

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It's another beautiful morning, warm and no wind. Dusky Dolphins play around the boat on the way out to sea. Our first stop is the day roost of the King Shag (aka cormorant) where these large birds are preening and sunning themselves after an early fish breakfast. Apart from the size, King Shags may be identified by their large pink feet.

 

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Soon we are disembarking at Blumine Island where we walk no further than 20 metres from the boat and see Orange-fronted Parakeet, New Zealand Saddleback and Weka with brief glimpses of Bellbirds, Tui and a Yellowhead.

 

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New Zealand saddle-back

 

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Weka

 

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Orange-fronted Parakeet (aka Malherbe's Parakeet)

 

After a tea and biscuits on-board we set out in search of Spotted Shag (quote of the day, "nice to see a cormorant that isn't black") and also find a couple of New Zealand Fur Seals.

 

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After the cruise we begin the 7 hour trip to Kaikoura, departing Picton and on to Blenheim.  The Kaikoura Earthquake that struck in late 2016 demolished large sections of the coastal road making this lengthy inland detour around the Southern Alps a necessity. We make a short stop for Cirl Bunting and we have OK scope sightings of a male and female. The Blenheim Sewage Ponds are home to a variety of birds that include Royal Spoonbill, Glossy Ibis and Black Swan.

 

Traveling west from Blenheim we pass through vineyards that give way to grazing land which in turn gives way to pine plantations, crossing wide shingle river beds with just a narrow, shallow stream of water at this time of year. Near one of these we stop to watch the critically endangered Black-fronted tern flying low over the water. This is the last stop on the long drive to Kaikoura where we arrive at 7.30 pm. The snowy Kaikoura Range provides an unexpected backdrop to this seaside town where we check in at the Alpine View Motel. 

 

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Edited by Treepol
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I'm so glad you started your report. This is really whetting my appetite. Please finish the report by Saturday ;)

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@Patty Saturday may be a stretch, we're still on the east coast! :)

 

Today starts at 7.30 with cereal, fruit and yoghurt from Sav's pantry and then a quick and successful quest for Cirl Bunting. The Dolphin and Albatross Encounter office is our next stop just before heading around to the launching ramp and out to sea for about 4 miles in search for albatross. We climb aboard and are launched in the boat, no wet feet today! Locals are also heading out to try their luck at a catch on this calm,   sunny morning.

 

 

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Very soon Garry the skipper finds a fishing boat surrounded by albatross and petrels so we bob around nearby and become surrounded ourselves. 

 

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Today we will see 5 albatross species, (Northern Royal, Southern Royal, New Zealand (Gibson's), Salvin's and White-capped), Hutton's Shearwater and Cape, Northern Giant, White-chinned, Grey-faced and Westland Petrels.  All of the albatross are a brilliant snowy white which is relieved by species specific markings. The largest, the New Zealand albatross dominates the bait ball, angrily clacking its beak, squawking and rising up out of the water to keep other hungry birds at bay.

 

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Gibsons Albatross and Northern Giant Petrel

 

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Gibson's albatross

 

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Gibson's albatross

 

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Northern Giant Petrel

 

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Feeding frenzy

 

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White-capped Albatross

 

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Westland Petrel

 

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White-chinned Petrel

 

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Cape Petrel

 

The albatross encounter lasts a couple of hours out in the deep water, although the time flew by and it seemed more like 30 minutes. Returning to Kaikoura, Garry detours for a closer look at a commotion that centres on a New Zealand Fur Seal trying to break up its catch being harassed by an albatross and numerous petrels.

 

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Back at the harbour we are towed onto dry land and return to the Encounter Cafe for lunch. The afternoon is free for catching up with notes, emails, washing. The day finishes with an unsuccessful owling jaunt in search of Little Owl.

 

 

Edited by Treepol
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Thanks for sharing this report @Treepol, it's really interesting to see what is possible in New Zealand in terms of wildlife.  I've been suggesting to my wife that NZ could be a good destination (sometime, maybe 2020?) - we're not twitchers though, more for the landscape and scenery. 

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@Zubbie15 I think you would both enjoy NZ as the landscapes are varied and the scenery is magnificent. Travelling is easy and comfortable - we saw lots of hire cars and motorhomes in the South Island which is the least populated and wildest of the 2 main islands. I'm glad someone else is thinking ahead to 2020, I'm a long range planner myself :)

 

 

We left Kaikoura at 8 am this morning for the cross-island trip from Kaikoura to Hokitika. The early part of the trip was slow due to the roadworks/earthworks required to repair the damage caused by the 2016 Kaikoura earthquake some of which involved removing road tunnels and parts of the the hill through which the cutting was originally made. The sea was very calm and we watched some fur seals playing in the shallows and saw a Reef Egret perched on rocks.

 

 

The first stop was at Ann's Lagoon where I was surprised to see Cape Barren Geese, also present were Paradise Shellducks, Common Chaffinch, Song Thrush and a baby Mallard. The second stop was at the Ashley River mouth where not much was happening due to the low water level. A Royal Spoonbill fished in the distance and this Great Egret was eventually joined by a White-faced Heron.

 

 

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We stopped for lunch at the Sheffield Pie Shop (where it was 30C) before driving into the mountains to the village of Arthur's Pass in search of Kea. We found this young bird hanging around outside the cafe and immediately set off in search of a kea in the wild.

 

 

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Along a short trail we saw a New Zealand Bellbird perched quietly amongst the trees,

 

 

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then a very busy New Zealand Fantail

 

 

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and a Brown Creeper. 

 

 

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Sadly, no Kea. We tried a couple of places down the road with no luck and eventually returned to Arthur's Pass Village where we searched but came up empty-handed - is this the only Kea in town?

 

 

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Reluctantly we decided to leave Keas for the day and try further down the west coast

 

 

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when Sav spotted this single bird in a car park, our search had paid off! These birds are beautifully marked and have a scarlet patch under the wing. This one put on a show for us and looks as though he is about to take a bow.

 

 

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Keas are an endangered species and national conservation bodies encourage responsible behaviour around keas and their habitat.

 

 

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The group overnighted at the Jade Court Motel in Hokitika and enjoyed a delicious dinner at Stumpers Restaurant.

 

Edited by Treepol
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Day 5 
 

This morning began with our usual self-service breakfast at the newly refurbished and very smart Jade Court Motel in Hokitika. Our first stop was the local water treatment plant where there wasn't much around - a rabbit, Pacific Black Ducks, Mallards, Paradise Ducks and an Australian Shoveler. 

 

We drove on to the Pahihi Reserve where a South Island Robin hopped along the path ahead of us. Further along we saw Brown Creepers and Tomtits. A Rata tree with bright red flowers sheltered a Yellow-crowned Parakeet while Brown Creepers flew around us, never settling in one place for long. Whilst we were watching the Tomtits a black morph Fantail fluttered in the branches of an over-hanging tree and a New Zealand Pigeon perched further back in a taller tree.
 

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After this walk we drove into Okarito for a briefing about the kiwi search planned for this evening. There are about 450 Okarito Kiwis remaining in the wild and local guide Ian Cooper has a good success rate in finding one or more of 6 tagged birds on his nightly walks. Silence and patience are key to a successful Okarito Kiwi Adventure. Consequently I will be sitting this one out! 
 

After lunch and checkin at the (almost) Glacier View Motel
 

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View from Glacier View Motel

 

we do a short trail from which it's possible to see Franz Joseph Glacier. I am surprised to see how far the glacier has receded since my 1986 visit and dug out this old photo for a comparison.

 

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1986
 

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2017

 

A Tomtit posed briefly along the trail but disappeared before I could get a good photo.

 

 

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Edited by Treepol
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Day 6


 

The feedback from the previous night's kiwi outing was disappointing - the group waited for 3.5 hours for the briefest glimpse of a kiwi, and not everyone saw that. Seems I didn't miss anything by sitting this one out, but I was sympathetic to those who made the effort.

 

I found this Pied Oystercatcher busy in the garden at the motel.

 

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A Song Thrush was an early visitor to the motel garden which is on the outskirts of Franz Josef township in rural New Zealand.

 

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We left Franz Josef at 8.15, making a brief stop along the Lake Matheson road for views of Mts Cook and Tasman, New Zealand's highest mountains. Mt Cook is the mountain with the most snow, whilst Mt Tasman is further to the right and looks like a ridge-pole tent.

 

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Bruce Bay was the next stop for Hector's Dolphins but they didn't show today, however all 3 gull species (Black-billed, Red-billed and Kelp) were fishing enthusiastically close to shore.

 

 

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A Pied Oyster-catcher waded in the surf.

 

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We dipped on Fiordland Penguins at Munro Bay, some people saw a solitary bird being buffeted in the strong surf.

 

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Today lunch was at Haast Village after which we stopped at Haast Pass for Yellowhead and Rifleman, both of which showed well.

 

 

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The last stop was at Wanaka Marina for nesting Great Crested Grebe, Mallard and New Zealand Scaup.

 

 

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The huddle of Mallard ducklings was too cute to ignore.

 

 

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New Zealand Scaup

 

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Today, Red Poll are easily seen in the car park at the Archway Motel at Wanaka.

 

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Edited by Treepol
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@Treepol Enjoying this trip around the South Island. I used to work on the West Coast and your photos and descriptions bring it all back ?

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@Treepol - great TR! I don’t know much about NZ so I’m really enjoying the comments and wildlife 

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@pomkiwi the west coast of the South Island must have been a magical place to live and work - so scenic and uncrowded.

 

@lmSA84 thanks for reading along.

 

 

Day 7

This morning was an early departure at 7.15 from Wanaka as we have a lot of miles to do today. Sav drove to the Homer Tunnel on the Milford Road via Te Anau.   The mountains around the tunnel are very high, sheer in some places and running with meltwater that cascades down the mountainside in graceful 'horse tail' seasonal waterfalls.

 

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Luckily the Rock Wren which was the target bird of the morning showed quickly and we had good views of a male and female bird that were busy feeding chicks. Sav's instructions were 'anything that moves here will be a Rock Wren, anything that looks like a green table tennis ball will be a Rock Wren and anything that looks like a brown mouse will also be a Rock Wren.'

 

 

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Female

 

 

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Male

 

After about an hour with the wrens, Sav did a quick drive into Milford Sound for a photo stop before returning to the Homer Tunnel for one last look for Keas.

 

 

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Mitre Peak, Milford Sound
 

This was only our second Kea of the trip, doing the usual Kea thing of trying to get into cars in search of food.

 

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The final stop of the day was at Knob's Flats for the black-fronted tern.

 

 

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The wild lupins we saw around the south of the South Island may be an introduced plant pest, but they are a very scenic one!

 

 

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Tonight we are staying at the very comfortable Explorer in Te Anau.

 

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Day 8


 

This morning we are going to have breakfast at Neil's place, which is a Swiss-built log cabin that nestles into a rural setting. Neil will begin guiding for Wrybill Safaris in early 2018 and is on a familiarisation trip with our group. Tuis are frequent visitors to the garden.

 

 

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After breakfast we set out for Bluff where we will catch the ferry to Stewart Island, with a short stop at the Invercargill Estuary Walkway where Australian Shoveller have been seen recently but not today.

 

 

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Arriving at Bluff we head for the ferry bag drop and coffee cart before boarding the high speed ferry to Stewart Island.

 

 

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There is an island vibe here - the ship to shore supermarket, a grassy esplanade and garden tables at the pub that overlook the busy harbour. A family of Paradise Shelduck is on the beach. 

 

 

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and a very Stewart Island Christmas Tree,

 

 

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Ulva Island is our destination this afternoon. It is an actively managed predator free island and a paradise for the local birds. White-capped albatross paddle hopefully around the water taxi during the short trip to the island and a New Zealand fur seal grooms above the waterline. The landing at Sydney Cove is an introduction to the scenic wonders of Ulva Island, and has a friendly reminder of the island's predator free status.

 

 

 

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The island is very busy today with 6 other groups walking the shady trails together with numerous other day trippers. However, the bird life isn't shy, some like this Stewart Island Robin are positively gregarious.
 

 

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However, the Yellowheads are as high in the trees as ever.

 

 

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A gaudy Red-fronted Parrot perched obligingly over the path and a weka wades in the shallows watched by a nearby Variable Oystercatcher.

 

 

 

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After leaving the beach, we find a noisy Kaka feeding on the nectar of wild blossom deep in a flowering Rata tree while further along the path a weka forages in the leaf litter. All too soon it is time to return to Sydney Cove and the water taxi ride back to Oban. The day isn't over yet though as tonight we are going to find a wild kiwi.  The dinner at the waterfront South Sea Hotel was the best meal I have had so far on the trip, after which a ferry takes 16 people to the Kiwi viewing beach to the east of Oban where we are split into 2 groups. Our guide is Ian who works as a part-time guide, however he has been active in conservation work  in the area for many years. Late in the evening he checks his trail cameras and is annoyed to find that a possum has escaped with the bait from a nearby trap. 

 

The kiwi tours are well organised and we walk quietly behind Ian using as little light as possible. We know that when he switches from white to red light that a kiwi is around, sadly we only see the red light twice in the evening as it is nesting season and half of the adult population will be sitting on eggs and not out feeding. We start out about 10 pm and walk a trail to the beach and then walk up and down looking for kiwi with no luck - someone says "this has disaster written all over it" and our spirits fall further. At midnight we begin the walk back to the boat when on a side track the red light goes on and there is a Southern Brown Kiwi foraging right near the track. Ian gets us close for good views of this familiar shaped shuffle, sniffly bird with an impossibly long bill that has the nostrils at the end rather than near the eyes. On the return trip everyone is jubilant but incredibly tired and we finally arrive home at 1.30 am.

 

Edited by Treepol
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Day 9

 

This morning I thought I'd do a short walk around Oban looking for Kaka in the local gardens. However a light shower of rain convinced me to turn back and just as well because a Kaka is feeding outside my room. This largely brown bird is the seaside cousin to the mountain dwelling Kea.

 

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After this auspicious start to the day we are off on an all day pelagic trip around the coast of Stewart Island. A large bin of fish off-cuts at the rear of the boat keeps our albatross escort interested for most of the day - at one time someone counted 60+ White-capped, Salvin's and Southern Royal Albatross around us with numerous Cape Petrels. New birds for the day were Cook's and Mottled Petrels, a Broad-billed Prion, Sooty Shearwater, Grey-backed Storm Petrel and a Brown Skua. 

 

The trip begins with a visit to the Fiordland Crested Penguin colony where the birds are just leaving their night cave and soon swim out past the boat to open waters in search of a fishy breakfast.

 

 

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Little Penguins are also on their way out to sea. Before too long the White-capped Albatross spy the boat and start closing in, with hungry eyes fixed on the grey bin of fish.

 

 

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The Yellow-eyed Penguins rise later than the Fiordland Crested and these guys were still contemplating breakfast when we arrived at the colony. This species are the least numerous of all the Penguins and their numbers are plummeting due to declining food supplies and habitat loss.

 

 

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We drove further into open water where the accompanying flotilla of albatross continued to increase with White-capped far outweighing the Salvin's and Southern Royals.

 

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Some of these we had seen on last week's pelagic trip out of Kaikoura, however the large Gibson's Albatross wasn't present, so the other species had a greater share of the food. A Brown Skua surveys the sea from a high point before taking a turn around the boat.

 

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The rest of the day was spent knee-deep in albatross, with regular battles over the fishy treats thrown from the back of the boat.


 

 

 

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Overall, the White-capped albatross dominated the feeding frenzy, whilst the larger Southern Royal seemed content to take a back seat, although there were exceptions.

 

 

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When most of the fish was gone, the albatross flotilla began cleaning and grooming and the raucous squawks for food were replaced by bill clacking and a strange ducking and diving motion that cleaned wing and back feathers. 

 

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Late in the day White-chinned petrels appeared, we had last seen these a week earlier out of Kaikoura. Throughout the day new (smaller and distant) birds such as a rare Broadbilled Prion appeared and I noticed how quickly the cabin emptied when the cry of new bird went up.  We turned for home about 3.30 in order to arrive at the Foveaux Shag colony while there was still enough light for photos.

 

 

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This rocky outpost is shared with Spotted Shags and New Zealand Fur Seals.

 

 

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Edited by Treepol
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Day 10

 

 


I was sad to leave Stewart Island on the 8 am ferry and have already decided to return to this island paradise sometime in the future. We stopped for lunch at Lake Waihola where a local guy was going fishing and many dog-walkers were out with pets.

 

 

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A Chaffinch fluttered about the stone wall. After lunch we set out on the long drive to Katiki Historic Reserve to see Yellow-eyed Penguins, where just 2 birds were visible. Both were sleeping when we arrived but one was standing later in the afternoon.

 

 

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The penguin site was along an attractive coastline which was home to many New Zealand Fur Seals. This kelp was a popular resting place.

 

 

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A soggy Pied Shag dried out on the rocks below the track, watched by fur seals.

 

 

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After this stop we travelled north to Oamaru, a port town with many gracious sandstone buildings, monuments to the town's heyday in the early 20th century. An abandoned jetty in Oamaru makes a great home for Otago Shags (the dark birds at the end) and Spotted Shags in the foreground.

 

 

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Home tonight is the Thames Court Motel in Oamaru.

 

Edited by Treepol
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Day 11

 

 

 

There were no long distances planned for today as we are on a quest for Black Stilt, Wrybill and White-winged tern. The day began at Oamaru and we are headed to Omarama with a drive through the dry McKenzie Basin which turned on some spectacular scenery.

 

 

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Heidi asked if we could have a photo stop at the turquoise-coloured Lake Tekapo where Sav spotted a pair of Black Stilts so we hot-footed it down to the pool where the birds were feeding, passing a flock of Canada Geese on the way.

 

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The Black Stilts seemed to be oblivious to us, which may explain why they are one of these  most endangered shore birds in the world.  Banded Dotterels fluttered all around the lake shore, whilst a White-faced Heron looked on.

 

 

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The scenery in this area is outstanding and our cameras clicked away.

 

 

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Along a side road a windswept Pied Stilt fished in a shallow lake.

 

 

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We are deep into sheep country now, where large station owners farm the national flock.

 

 

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Our guides look hard for Wrybill and White-fronted Tern when suddenly down a rocky track a breeding pair of the terns is discovered.  Still on the track of Wrybill, we drive down another stony track to the shore of Lake Tekapo where a family of Paradise Shelducks is paddling.

 

 

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Nearby, a young Black Stilt with mottled plumage is fossicking at the water's edge.

 

 

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After a scramble over river rocks a pair of well camouflaged Wrybill is located and we are able to watch their feeding behaviour as they are unperturbed by our presence.

 

 

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After a few more photos of the spectacular McKenzie country and a shot of cloud covered Mt Cook we head towards Omarama.

 

 

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A stop at a salmon farm produced very close-up views of New Zealand Scaup and a pair of nesting Great Crested Grebes.

 

 

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A pair of Eurasian Coots was also floating around.

 

 

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Edited by Treepol
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Day 12

 

The last day dawns and we are allowed a luxurious 9 am start. We re-trace yesterday's drive with a brief stop at the Black Stilts outside Tekapo. The drive back to Christchurch is uneventful. The city was devastated by earthquakes in 2010 and 2011 and we noticed many patches of cleared ground where buildings had once stood and a great deal of construction work as re-building continues.

 

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Conservation in New Zealand

 

 

NZ is working hard to bring severely endangered bird species back from the brink. The government's Predator Free 2050  policy has resulted in a concerted program costing $70 million per year in order to reduce and finally eradicate stoats, rats and possums for conservation and agricultural purposes. Rabbits are also targeted for eradication.

 

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A number of strategies have been successful, chiefly removing predators from islands so that endemic species can thrive and keeping these island environments free of predators. Mostly, the selected islands have remnant populations of the target species already present such as we saw at Blumine Island but in other places birds may have been transported to designated sanctuaries.

 

The use of traps is key to the success of making and keeping environments predator free, such as this one we saw at the Homer Tunnel.

 

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This information board was near Lake Tekapo. 

 

 

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In two examples I saw more extensive intervention in the conservation of endangered birds. Firstly, a series of pens has been built in the Wanaka area in which pairs of Takahes live in a captive breeding program. The pens are large enough for the birds to forage naturally and the area of each pen is based on wild territory ranges. Secondly, the Black Stilt is in dire straits so Dept of Conservation employees remove eggs from wild nests and incubate them and then raise the chicks before releasing them back into the wild. We saw the hatchery and aviary complex on the way to Omarama. Current thinking is that any egg left in the wild has zero chance of hatching or the survival of young chicks.

 

Signage was also good and well placed to remind people of acceptable behaviour around birdlife areas.

 

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Edited by Treepol
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Kiwis at play

 

We were travelling through the South Island on a long weekend when someone in the bus said 'I wonder if anyone in this country goes to work because they all seem to be out in it.' To be fair, it was a long weekend, however this was a keen observation and I began to take photos of the locals enjoying their homeland.

 

The fun started on the first day where this yacht was sailing in sheltered Queen Charlotte Sound.

 

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Picton

 

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Shacks at Arthur's Pass

 

 

 

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This coffee cart at Bluff was advertising local delicacies of venison and whitebait

 

 

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Gardening at Oban, Stewart Island

 

 

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Oban, Stewart Island

 

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Lake Waihola

 

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Lake Tekapo

 

 

Edited by Treepol
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Final thoughts on NZ

 

I was looking for a short break before Christmas that didn't involve long flights and stumbled across the Wrybill Birding website after a Google search. I contacted Sav Saville who sent me the 21 day itinerary which was longer than I wanted to be away, but I noticed in the blurb that it was possible to buy part of the itinerary, so I signed on for 11D/10N. I flew Hobart to Wellington in about 6 hours with a Melbourne stopover and was collected by Sav in Wellington in time for the ferry crossing to the South Island. 

 

This is one of the best trips I have ever done in terms of organisation (no wasted time), value for money, diversity of species from kiwis to penguins and a variety travel. The accommodation was in self-contained motels that were clean and comfortable. There were some long travel days but we also enjoyed 2 pelagic trips, trips to Blumine and Ulva Islands and 2 night time kiwi adventures. Oh, and the company was pretty good too.

 

New Zealand is a pleasant and easy country to visit. The population is approximately 4.5 million of which just 1 million live on the South Island which is uncrowded, wild and scenic. However, density ramps up around established tourist areas such as Queenstown and Franz Josef. New Zealanders are friendly and helpful and provide a good standard of service which was very noticeable in shops, on ferries, in post offices and in hotels and restaurants. 

 

It has more bird species and greater variety of species than I expected. The parrots are a sight, especially the kea and kaka whilst the albatross we saw on 2 pelagic trips were such graceful, whiter than white birds. I was delighted to find that NZ is home to 3 penguin species.

 

The scenery is outstanding and varies from windswept coastlines, quiet coves and long sandy beaches. The forests are green and provide ample opportunities for refreshing walks. Glaciers spill down mountains, snow-covered mountains stretch away into the clouds and impossibly brilliant turquoise coloured lakes are a photographer's delight. 

 

Many people travel independently in hire cars, camper vans and motor homes. The number of motels offering self-catering facilities is popular with budget travellers. The two islands are linked by a reliable and frequent vehicular ferry whilst tiny Stewart Island is serviced by a passenger ferry and outlying Ulva Island by water taxis. The road network is extensive and well maintained. Petrol costs over $2.14 NZ per litre and cafe and restaurant meal charges are on par with Australia with a steak costing between $35-$40 NZ and fish and chips between $22-$30. 

 

New Zealanders are friendly and helpful and provide a good standard of service. We were travelling through the South Island on a long weekend when someone in the bus said 'I wonder if anyone in this country goes to work because they all seem to be out in it.' This was an acute observation and I began to take photos of the locals enjoying their homeland.

 

A day on safari with Sav

 

The day began with a breakfast that Sav provided that we prepared in our self-contained accommodation. There was a choice of fruit, cereal, yoghurt, toast, spreads, ham and cheese. I liked this no rush, no fuss arrangement because breakfast was quick and we could work out for ourselves how much time we needed to get ready to leave - this seemed to vary between 2 hours for some and 45 minutes for others.:)

 

The earliest time we set out was a reasonable 7.15  am. Sometimes we hit the road straight after leaving the overnight accommodation whilst other days we did a walk before getting away. Wherever possible the day's travel was broken by a walk  to see birds or sometimes a coffee stop to break the journey. Some days we made a number of stops en route to search for birds. Lunch was usually purchased (by Sav) from local bakeries and eaten on the road whenever we wanted or sometimes we stopped at a cafe as time permitted. After arriving at our accommodation we usually had about an hour before bird call and dinner at a local restaurant or pub, again purchased by Sav.

 

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  • 2 weeks later...

That was a very well presented travel report on my home Island,well done.Your photo's are great.

Predator trapping- especially for stoats and ferrets is wide spread , as we have all noticed our native bird species in decline.

Sounds like Sav knows how to run a good trip . Thanks for the effort and glad you enjoyed your time.

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Indeed a very informative trip report, specially for whoever is interested to add birding to sightseeing. Unfortunately it is not that easy to reach from Europe. But one day ...

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