Ferry crossing was quite smooth (this is a recurring theme for our trips out to sea) and only a few birds seen including a few Westland Petrel, Diving Petrels, one Fairy Prion, one Sooty Shearwater and one possible White-chinned Petrel from a blurry photo that seems to show no dark tip to the bill.
Next morning we went with E-Ko tours to Blumine Island with a few new friends I met on this forum. 14 King Shag were seen and photographed in great light on the way there and we were successful quite quickly in finding our other target here of Malherbe’s Parakeet.
From Picton we had a long drive to Kaikoura for our 4hr pelagic trip but we broke it up with a stop at Maruia Hot Springs resort to rest our weary muscles. While we sat in the hot pools in the evening Dad got his lifer Kea flying over - the ultimate in lazy birding. The Kaikoura pelagic was excellent despite fairly calm conditions. We found a fishing boat and a trawler which of course were surrounded by birds including 7 albatross species - Salvin’s, Gibson’s Wandering, Campbell, Black-browed, White-capped, Northern and Southern Royal. We also got Grey-faced Petrel, and all the other usual suspects.
Arhur’s pass was our next destination with a stop en-route at Ashley River to look for Wrybill which we didn’t see on North Island. We didn’t find Wrybill but did get our first Double-banded Plover (Banded Dotterel) which is nice to see in breeding plumage compared to the dull wintering birds we get in Melbourne. At Arthur’s Pass we got Rifleman quickly near the chapel, they are very commin and confiding in the village. Our trek up Otira Valley in near perfect conditions did not yield any sighting of Rock Wren and other birders we met up there had the same experience. In the night we went up Devil’s Punchbowl track dark hearing 3 or 4 GS Kiwi calling but none close.
The next morning we tried again for Rock Wren but again no success. In the evening we tried again for GS Kiwi, this time on Village track. We heard one male quite close behind the spot we chose to sit and wait but a couple of hours waiting in silence did not yield any more calls or any sounds moving through the undergrowth, I think with a patience and a couple of nights spent sitting, waiting sitting should be possible but luck always needed.
We headed to Okarito the next day. We easily found our first SI Robin in the car park at Pakihi Walk and a Great Egret (sacred in NZ culture) at the lagoon. The reason for our visit, of course, was the Okarito Kiwi (Rowi). We went out with Ian Cooper and were rewarded with a great sighting of the Kiwi crossing the road less than 5m from where we we quietly standing. We also got our first Morepork sighting after hearing several birds previously on the trip. Another highlight was a highly-amusing Kea which joined our tour and followed us at the back of the line as we moved up and down the road.
After the rarest Kiwi in the world we headed off to to look for something even rarer - the Black Stilt (Kaki). We stopped at the Arahuri river bridge took a walk east our alongside the basin where, much to our relief, we found one (and our only for the trip) Wrybill. I made Dad cross a shallow stream which was a great call because a little further on we found a single adult Black Stilt feeding off on the far bank. We had some time to kill so we took a drive up to Glentanner on the road to Mt Cook to look for some more stilts. We had given up and were just leaving when we found 2 juvenile birds sitting in the grass just beside the track! A couple of quick photos and we decided to leave them in peace.
Last day on mainland South Island was a longish drive down to Invercargill. We didn’t find any of the recent rarities at the lagoon but didn’t spend too much time looking for birds we have seen regularly in UK and Australia. Had a nice sighting of YE Penguin at Curio Bay except for one idiot tourist standing atop a big rock taking photos but blocking the path of a returning male bird. Some people are so clueless but a bit of justified verbal abuse from other, more respectful observers hopefully got the message across!
Final stop on the tour was Stewart Island. Ferry was flat seas with only a few WC albatross and some Diving Petrels. Our first night was the “guaranteed sigting” wild kiwi experience. Amazingly we failed to see a Kiwi Next morning we had a pelagic tour but again suffered from good weather and bird action was very limited. We saw 5 Brown Skua and did manage to get lifer Fiordland Penguins for both of us but nothing else exciting. After the pelagic we were dropped on Ulva Island for the afternoon. We found Robin immediately and Yellowhead soon after. Seems like they are doing really well there because we save them all round the walking tracks. We found SI Saddleback near Boulder Beach and a couple more pairs later on the tracks plus some juvenile birds. Yellow-crowned Parakeet requires bit more patience but after seeing several Red-crowned we heard the higher-pitched, faster chattering of Yellow-crowned. We saw and photographed a group of 4 birds.
All that left was our re-booked Kiwi tour and we were fortunate enough to see a single male briefly but well on the North Track.
We had a great trip getting almost our targets with exception of NI Kiwi and Rock Wren plus two we didn’t expect in GS Kiwi and LT Cuckoo.
Thanks to everyone on this forum who helped with information and particularly to Ken and John for responding to my offer of spots on Blumine Island trip which helped to make it affordable.
We had a great trip with awesome weather - too nice for our sea birding..! We take some great memories and nicely-boosted life lists.
General birdwatching discussion, help with bird identification, and all other things relating to wild birds and birding in NZ that don't fit in one of the other forums.
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