Birding South Island

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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Joined: Thu Dec 15, 2011 12:46 am
Location: Nerang, QLD

Birding South Island

Postby michaelm » Thu Dec 15, 2011 1:00 am

Hi there,
I am a Brit that now lives in Nerang SEQ. I have booked flights to Christchurch in February 2012. I arrive early on the 3rd and depart on the 16th. As i don't drive i have looked into doing what i can via public transport which is easier than i thought using Intercity Coachlines.
Does anyone have any suggestions/advice for my trip, or a way i can maximise my chances of seeing more birds? A pelagic from Kaikoura and a trip to Stewart Island are possible but getting for birds like Black Stilt, Kea (a bird i have wanted to see for a while) and Rockwren etc.
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Michael Szabo
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Joined: Sun May 08, 2011 12:30 pm

Re: Birding South Island

Postby Michael Szabo » Fri Dec 16, 2011 3:27 pm

Hi Michael,
Yes, you're right. You can see a lot of good birds using public transport in NZ. Kaikoura is a must for seabirds. Stewart Island is also very good for forest birds and you'll see plenty of seabirds on the ferry trip over. If you get the train to Arthurs Pass you'll be able to see Kea in the village there and can walk various local tracks which are good for forest species like Rifleman and NZ Tomtit. I've seen NZ Falcon there and the local DOC office will be able to give you up to date tips on other species, including Rock Wren.
Good luck,
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Nick Allen
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Re: Birding South Island

Postby Nick Allen » Sat Dec 17, 2011 12:26 pm

Stewart Island is a must – everything is within 1 hour’s walking distance of Halfmoon Bay township:
Sooty Shearwaters, Little Penguins at dusk at Ackers Point with a chance of Weka on the walk to/from and S Tokoeka on way back. Is an ok place for seawatching in the daytime if you can put up with the sandflies – better though to actually get on the water and as far south as possible. Check what trips are going to Port Pegasus/S Cape if any – many spp of alberts plus reasonable chance of things like Mottled Petrel and Antarctic Tern.
Ulva I is just a short boat trip away for SI Saddleback, 2 spp of parakeet, Weka, Stewart I Robin, Yellowhead
Kaka are easiest at the township itself.

I’d guess there must be a coach operator going along the Milford Road that would drop you off at the Homer Tunnel and pick you up on the way back. Given the few hours you’d have there you would almost certainly see Rock Wren and Kea, and maybe Falcon. It’d be a pretty dire place to spend a few hours if it was raining though. Yellowheads have been seen in the Knobs Flat area recently – it’s the usual loo stop on the Milford Road – also reasonable chance of Kaka, and maybe Long-tailed Cuckoo (getting a bit late in the year for them in Feb tho)

Kea are a good bet around the café at Arthur’s Pass village at lunchtime. Outside chance of Falcon and SI Robin in the forest nearby. Also in the forest Rifleman is common and Brown Creeper fairly so – suggest you walk the Bridle Veil Track. There is track transport to the pass itself, or it’s within reasonable walking distance. There is a small chance of Rock Wren up past the footbridge on the Otira Track, plus reasonable chance of Kea and maybe Falcon.

Black Stilt can be seen with reasonable success from SH80 near to Glentanner Visitor Centre in the wetland/delta where the Tasman River enters into Lake Pukaki. Unfortunately there is no public access to the river until Bush Stream about 6 km up river. If you stay at Glentanner you can walk their tracks to the lake edge and round to the wetland. They are definitely not keen on people walking past the end of the airfield. The other place to try would be at Lake Poaka, a few kms N of Twizel, but more hit-and-miss there, or see captive birds on the tour that DoC organise to look aver the breeding cages – sometimes the species can be seen in the ponds outside the cages. Kea and Falcon are quite commonly seen in the vicinity of Mount Cook township, and Tomtits and Riflemen are in the scrub. There were reports a few years ago of Rock Wren on the scree slopes just before the second bridge over the Hooker River on the Hooker Glacier track.

If you don’t go to Stewart I Rotoiti is a good place to catch up with Kaka, and Falcon is also a possibility. The Kaka are easiest as they fly over morning and evening. The walks in the Rotoiti Mainland Island are best (Loop or Honeydew tracks). Unfortunately poor control of rats until recently has left the forest a bit on the quiet side and spp like Robin and Yellow-crowned Parakeet can be difficult to see now.

You could probably use track transport from Queenstown to walk the lower section of the Routeburn Track as a day-walker. This track is through great-looking beech forest and has Yellowhead, SI Robin, Brown Creeper, Rifleman with a chance of Kaka, Yellow-crowned Parakeet and Falcon. Strangely Falcon can be seen sometimes in Queenstown itself, or around the gondola. I’ve also seen the species more than once from central Hanmer Springs flying over calling. Another species to look out for in Queenstown in Earnslaw Bay is Southern Crested Grebe – and NZ Scaup and Black-billed Gull are also usually present.

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