Myself and Mike Ashbee headed down to the MacKenzie basin yesterday (7th August 2018) with the intention of getting photos of Chukor and anything else at Mount John, and then carrying on to Glentanner to view the black stilt juveniles that were released on monday (6/08/18). Originally they had planned on releasing the birds on tuesday so we were intending to be down there for that! However weather decided to change plans.
We left bleary eyed at 6:15 from Christchurch, in the dark misty and frankly rather dreary looking morning; hoping that the weather would improve as we headed south. And boy did it ever. It was beautiful and clear by the time we arrived in Tekapo. We stopped briefly to check the small wetland on the edge of the Lake just as you come down the hill into the Tekapo township and were rewarded with distant views of our first pair of Kaki, along with 5 banded dotterels, some spur-winged plover and large numbers of skylarks. Unfortunately the ponds were frozen solid so the kaki were hanging out on the lake shore, over 300m away. Steve Attwood has reported 5 birds here previously, and apparently Bandies have bred here in the past, so worth checking as the spring arrives.
We carried onto Mount John, hoping to avoid paying the toll and walking up the road on foot. Unfortunately they arent able to let you do that, due to health and safety reasons i assume? So we got in (thanks student card) and drove up the hill towards the cafe, pulling off to the side shortly after it flattens out and you can get properly off the road. We heard the chukor well before we saw them, with atleast three males calling across the rocky and scrub covered slopes that face towards Mount Cook and the southern alps. We were treated to views within 10m of a single male, who was confiding enough for a few photos. Mine pale in comparison to Mikes obviously but i was happy enough as Chukor is my 200th Bird species in New Zealand! (I apologise for purists for not getting a endemic for my 200th! i had aimed for Rowi or great spotted kiwi but this was just how it worked out, not being a fan of being alone in the wop wops in the dark certainly contributes!) We managed to get relatively close to another individual but he just refused to stand on a rock and call like we both wished he would! We had a lovely flyby of a Male New Zealand Falcon twice, who posed beautifully on a rocky outcrop with mountains in the background, but proved too elusive for photos.
Bouyed by our fantastic success thus far we carried on to Glentanner and the 71 Juvenile Kaki. The weather had gotten deciedly moody by this point, with dark clouds, and heavy fog at the base of Lake Pukaki, but it opened up nicely when we arrived at the Glentanner airport. We had a long chat with the friendly DoC staff member and two Volunteers charged with feeding the ravenous freshly released Juveniles who ran around our feet like gorgeous critically endangered chickens. Lighting was tough, especially for a photography novice such as myself and most photos were decidedly soft in the dim cloud. I managed a couple of relatively nice photos over the two odd hours we spent with the birds. We were lucky enough to have in close proximity 48 Kaki, of which 8 were the beautiful black adults previously released and now resident in this gorgeous part of the country. Along with these gorgeous waders, were atleast 4 SIPO, 6 Parries, 50+ Banded Dotterel, and probably over 100 pipits feeding in the exposed mud where the lake once reached.
Thanks to Mike Ashbee for the kind lend of his Camera gear! I feel like ive gotten an expensive habit...
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- Oscar Thomas
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- Joined: Sat Aug 27, 2011 7:15 pm
- Location: Auckland
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- Joined: Mon Feb 12, 2018 8:09 pm
Most impressive shots David. Thanks for sharing.