Trip Report

South Island trip – January 2003

Well just got back from a great trip around the South Island, mostly the West Coast, over the last 10 days or so. Fantastic weather in most places, and some great birds along the way. Some of the highlights were –

Several flocks of black-fronted terns over paddocks and rivers between Blenheim and Murchison.

Very friendly weka at the Cape Foulwind seal colony.

22 grey duck – probably the most authentic grey’s I have ever seen in NZ (and the biggest group!) at a small estuary just north of Karamea. I’m afraid that might not last long however as a pair of mallard were amongst them!

The fantastic scenery and bush around the Oparara arch just north of Karamea – unfortunately no blue duck on the rivers, but a family of weka were very friendly, and heard or saw robin, tomtit and parakeet in the area.

!!!KEA!!! (yes they aren’t extinct I have finally seen one!) at the Viaduct lookout in Arthur’s Pass!! Fourth trip to this exact same spot and finally a pair turned up. Subsequently heard at both Franz Joseph and Fox glaciers, and Haast Pass!

Searched the Hawdon valley for yellowhead and orange-fronted parakeets. No luck on either front, although I’m sure I heard yellowhead, and certainly heard parakeets several times, but never got onto them. A beautiful area though and amazed at the numbers of rifleman (in small family groups), robins, brown creeper, etc.

Neil’s Beach, just north of Jackson’s Bay – watching a Fiordland-crested penguin swim along the beach, and then watching Hector’s dolphins surfing in the waves! About 30+ dolphins were moving up and down the beach playing and surfing in the waves – just fantastic!

Yellowheads at Haast Pass!! Walked the Bridle trail which starts at the top of the Pass and heads down parallel with the road, and found one group and watched them entering a nest hole! The following morning saw the same group still around the nest, and then located another group and then a single. Managed to get a couple of cracking shots as the single bird came within 5m of me! All this was within the first 15 minutes of the track, before crossing the first decent bridge. Also saw Kaka and yellow-crowned parakeets, the later also seemed to have a nest nearby.

Red-necked phalarope at Lake Grassmere still in the same area as last seen. Quite a strong wind and the only other birds were a few pied stilts, 2 turnstones, 2 banded dots and a Caspian tern. No sandpipers seen, but the wind may have driven them elsewhere.

Unfortunately, also saw one stoat and another dead on the road, and then near Blenheim three (!) ferrets on the road together.

Didn’t manage to do an Oceanwings due to time constraints, and both ferry crossings were relatively quiet. Going across (Fri 3/01) saw 2 Westland pets and 200+ fairy prions, with a few fluttering shearwatersin the Sounds. On the return trip (Mon 13/01) saw a royal and a white-capped alb, with one other probable ‘shy’, several sooty and fluttering shearwaters and lots of fairy prions.

So a great trip, with some excellent birds, including three new ones for me. Hope this year continues as it has started.