Sav and his group finished in Christchurch yesterday and writes…
After the wholly wonderful Okarito Kiwi experience, we set off further down the West Coast, stopping first to walk through (another) lovely forest to look for Fiordland Crested Penguin. No joy!! Maybe an extremely high tide was to blame, or maybe we were just a few days too late for these birds – ??
At Haast we finally found a NZ Falcon, as a male chased a Blackbird before returning for a more leisurely fly-past pretty much over our heads. This would turn out to be the only falcon of the tour. I can only put that fact down to the challenging weather that accompanied our entire trip.
Yellowheads were next on the list, with a pair giving rather good views in another excellent bit of forest. And so down to Wanaka.
Next day is a big one, with a big (but actually small!) bird. Rock Wren, always a delight to see, but a stressful time too. I should not have worried, as a male sat up on a rock as we arrived on site. Some Kea, another Rock Wren which flew across the road in front of our van (!!??), and several good bush birds today, but all those upstaged by a pair of Blue Ducks with 5 ducklings.
Off then to Stewart Island. Not much from the ferry, great stuff on Ulva with lots of Yellowheads, South Is Saddlebacks, Kaka, parakeets of both colour,
SI Robins at our feet. Out for Southern Brown Kiwi that night, with Ange and Matt –4 birds seen well (including a grapefruit-sized juvenile) and back home within the hour!!
Stewart Is pelagic next day. A full day on the water with Aurora Charters. None of the ridiculous rarities of the past 2 weeks, but some great views of very cool birds like Fiordland Crested and Yellow-eyed Penguin, Grey-backed Storm-petrel, Campbell Island Albatross, and around 200 alberts of 6 species milling about the boat. No Mottled Petrels all day, though plenty of Cook’s.
The penultimate real birding day saw us leave Stewart, and drive up the East coast, past Dunedin to the Oamaru area for Otago Shag, and Yellow-eyed Penguin – both species giving terrific views.
And so there was only one bird to go: Black Stilt. I quite like the drama of having this iconic species as the final target, but wasn’t that stoked when the first 2 stake-out spots failed to produce any!! All was well in the end though with a total of 11 Black Stilts at 3 locations, including a couple at point blank range.
And so the tour came to a close with a trip list of 155. A great bunch of birders made for a really enjoyable tour, and even though the rain and wind played their part, we didn’t miss any endemics because of that (except for Pycroft’s Petrel).