So, Phil and his group have now finished up their tour, but they had an excellent last run.  After their success with rock wren they spent some more time in the Eglinton Valley the next day, where they had great forest birds, including South Island robin, rifleman, tomtit, etc and then a good pipit.

Can’t get any closer to this South Island robin.


Checking out the wildlife!

Phil and his group then had two great days on Stewart Island, with broad-billed prion from the ferry (!!!!), an excellent time on Ulva Island with yellowhead, SI saddleback, morepork roosting, and bathing red-crowned parakeet.  Excellent extended views of Southern brown kiwi that night, and then a great pelagic with three Fiordland crested penguins, seven grey-backed storm-petrels (some very close), white-faced storm-petrel, and even a couple of short-tailed shearwaters.  Distant mottled petrel seen as well, but most on the trip missed it!!

Next day back to the mainland for a super experience with yellow-eyed penguins. An adult came up out of the water to a juvenile bird, then a second adult came out of the water.  In the end a lot of calling and feeding of the chick – all for the group to see!  Excellent.  But an added bonus was finding a moulting Fiordland crested penguin!  Super cool!

Moulting Fiordland crested penguin on the mainland.

The next day was the end of this slightly customised private tour, but a great effort by Phil and the group managed to see 152 species, including 63 endemic breeding species.

Matt and his group also continue a great run, although have managed to encounter a little weather on the ‘Wet Coast’.  They managed to get on to the white-winged black-terns that have been frequenting the Ahuriri Estuary area, showing really well, and then found four sharp-tailed sandpipers and four black-fronted dotterels.  Always a great little bird to find.  They had a nice time at Manawatu Estuary, but nothing out of the ordinary, and next morning got some wrybill and a shining bronze cuckoo near to the estuary, so headed to the South Island with a tally of 117 species – pretty respectable!  The ferry crossing was a good one, with eight new species, including spotted shag, white-capped and Salvin’s albatross, Northern giant petrel, as well as Cape petrel, a flock of Hutton’s shearwaters powering through, sooty shearwater, and a flying King shag near the end of Tory Channel!

Next day the group headed out on the Marlborough Sounds getting excellent views of Hector’s dolphins and 40 King shags.  They had glimpses of orange-fronted parakeet, and then mega views of a bird bathing!!  Hoary-headed grebe on the way south to Kaikoura, and that evening nice views of little owl.  The next day some good birds on their Kaikoura pelagic, albeit a little quiet.  The usual suspects, but no Royal albatross was a surprise!  They did have a Southern giant petrel fly by though, so a tricky bird under the belt, and a bunch of reef egrets near the coast.

Heading down the coast and across the next day saw the group finding the black stilt at the Ashley Estuary and black-fronted terns, and forest stops along the way had South Island robin, brown creeper, tomtit, etc and kea near Arthur’s Pass.

Can we get any closer?

But with not great weather the following day the Okarito kiwi trip was cancelled – damn it!  It happens but not that often, but a real disappointment for the group.  Heading up and over to Wanaka the next day, they left Franz Josef in the rain, but a consolation was a family of four falcons!  With one of the juveniles sitting on a tree right in front of them!  Awesome!

A slightly different place for great egret to be found!

Small family of yellowhead in beech forest, plus feeding flock of brown creeper, fantails (inc a black morph!), yellow-crowned parakeets and grey warblers (gerygones).  A night in Wanaka and then the Eglinton Valley where a rock wren pair was found and the usual forest birds in the usual foresty places!  Long-tailed cuckoo heard – at least four – but not seen.

So all is all things are going great!  The lads have done us proud again, with Phil leading another excellent tour, and Matt cleaning up along the way.  Neil has even had a stunning day with clients around Te Anau – getting blue duck, rock wren, and kaka, kea and all the usual forest birds.  What a team!