Trip Report

Hokitika and West Coast (SI) – 30 May – 3 June 2002

Well it must now be officially recognised that kea are extinct!! Don’t panic, just kidding. But seriously this was one bird that I thought almost a certainty for the trip, and one which have so far failed to see in the wild. However, we couldn’t find one anywhere….

Five of us (David Lawrie, Murray Jeffries, Sav Saville, Rebecca Boulton and myself) left Feilding at approximately 1500 on Thursday (30 May) afternoon to catch the ferry across the Cook Strait in the dark (unfortunately). We got as far as Springfield, west of Christchurch. The next morning we headed across towards Arthur’s Pass in brilliant sunshine, although the air was very crisp. Just before Lake Lyndon we managed to get reasonable views of an NZ falcon chasing a passerine up the valley, before it disappeared around the corner. At Lake Lyndon a great-crested grebe was spotted through the scope (a new bird for me in NZ), before carrying on down the road to Lake Pearson. At least one immature grebe and a group of scaup were present here. We tried for marsh crake (Baillon’s) at a very cold and partially iced Lake Sarah, but suspect that any birds present were actually frozen to the spot, and even if they had wanted to, couldn’t have seen off the very loud and obnoxious ‘bird’ calling from the roadside.

We carried on through to Arthur’s Pass village, making a brief stop, and then stopped at Death’s corner and the Otira gorge lookout – both dead certs for kea – yeah right! Not a bird to be seen or heard. Through the other side we made a few stops for photos and a chance to take in the absolutely fantastic scenery. Tomtit were heard or seen at several spots, and a weka was heard at one spot halfway between Arthur’s Pass and Kumara junction.

On Saturday we made a brief trip down the coast (again in brilliant sunshine – where is all the rain the West Coast is renowned for?) to Franz Joseph glacier. Again this was supposed to be a dead cert for kea, and despite the cars in the carpark having all sorts of wonderful plastic attachments, there wasn’t a kea to be seen. A brief walk up to the lookout gave spectacular views of the valley with the glacier at its head, and from here we managed to see grey warbler, tui, bellbird, silvereye, and fantail – one of which was a black phase.

On Sunday, Paul Scofield had organised (at very short notice) a pelagic out of Westport with Kina Scollay (Ocean Answers – 0800 OCEAN ANSWERS). See separate trip report.

We left Hokitika early on Monday morning, with light rain and cloudy conditions. We saw several weka inland from Kumara junction. Again we stopped at the Otira gorge lookout and Death’s corner – again there were no kea to be seen. We even stopped in Arthur’s Pass village for a pie and coffee, but no damn kea!! We carried on down out of Arthur’s Pass, coming into brilliant sunshine and a beaut sunny day as we left the Pass. We got great views of an immature falcon chasing a harrier just up the valley from Lake Pearson.

We arrived in Kaikoura just before 1400 and jumped on the Oceanwings boat to do a pelagic. See separate trip report.

We left Kaikoura just around 1730 and headed up to Picton, catching the 2130 ferry, and got back into Palmy in a very tired state around 0300 – Murray even completed the trip back to Napier! All in all a very enjoyable and fun trip…..just don’t mention the kea!