Trip Report New Zealand
– Christchurch to Stewart Island
Follow That Bird with Janene Luff as leader and driver and Brice Wells as guide took a group from Christchurch south to Stewart Island, then along the Fiordland coast to Te Anau, before returning to Christchurch with an overnight stop at Twizel. The object as always, was to find as many species of birds as possible, but, also to enjoy the spectacular sights and other attractions of the South Island.
From day one the number of species seen showed a remarkable consistency. Day one was a meeting day although a brief foray into Hagley Park and the Botanical Gardens found 19 species including three endemics, NZ Scaup, Paradise Shelduck and NZ Pigeon. Day two, as we travelled to Oamaru with a stop at the Peel Forest turned up 44 species. Yellow-eyed and Blue Penguin, California Quail, Spotted Shag, Rifleman, Black-fronted Tern and Bellbird the highlights.
Day three we travelled to Owaka via Shag Point and Taiarora Head. The Northern Royal Albatross was the standout species, but we also enjoyed Tui, Stewart Island Shag and Autralasian Gannet. 41 species were noted at the end of the day.
Day four totalled 42 species as we took in Nugget Head, Cannibal and Surat Bays and the Owaka Valley. Tom Tit, Brown Creeper and NZ Pipit headed the list.
On day 5 we headed towards Invercargill and Stewart Island with several stops and recorded 47 species. Bar-tailed Godwit, Caspian Tern, Flesh-footed Shearwater and Kaka stood out. The trip to Stewart Island was extremely rough and left little room to positively identify sea birds.
Day 6 was arguably the best day of the tour with a trip to Ulva Island quite wonderful. We were guided by a local Ms Ulva Amos and anjoyed her knowledge and sense of humour. 39 species were headed by Weka, NZ Robin, Yellowhead and Saddleback. Plus a plethora of botanical information. In the evening 3 of us journeyed to Mason Bay to see the Brown Kiwi and we found 3, returning to our apartments at 0200hrs.
Our return trip across Foveax Strait was mercifully calm and enabled us to see a few pelagic birds most notably Bullers Albaross, Sooty and Fluttering Shearwaters, Common Diving Petrel and Flesh-footed Shearwater. We added these to the list at Riverton and the Eglington Valley to finish with 47 species equal to our previous best day.
We expected big things from Day 8 as we explored the Gunn Lake Walking Trail, Gertrude Saddle track, Homer Tunnel and Milford Sound. In the end we only managed 27 species, but 5 Kea at the Tunnel, nesting Riffleman at Gunn Lake and a breathtaking walk round the trail made the day special for us all. Expecting to get the NZ Falcon but failed.
We left Te Anau on day 9 and travelled to Twizel, via Kingston and Omarama. 43 species was a nice result on a day largely travelling. We added Great Crested Grebe, but the highlights were Black Stilts and Banded Dotterels.
Day ten was largely travelling although we had profitable stops at Lake Alexandrina, Cass River and Opuha Dam. We totalled 42 birds for the day with two new ones for the trip list, Eurasian Coot and Australasian Shoveler. However the highlights were 3 Black Stilts and a number of Banded Dotterels including 3 brand new young. We arrived in Christchursh around 1800, bringing a successful and pleasant trip, blessed by lovely weather, to an end.
During the trip we saw 20 endemic species, 18 introduced species and 43 that could loosely be described as native. We saw only 6 species every day and four of those were introduced. As a general
observation we would have to say that the exotic birds were seen more often than the native and endemic. However since Chaffinch, Redpoll, Yellowhammer and Dunnock were unknown to most participants they were enjoyed at every sighting. Of course the scenery was superb, we saw some beautiful flowers and the few mammals we saw were new to most of us. These were NZ Fur Seal, NZ Sea Lion(formerly Hookers) and Hectors Dolphin.
Written by Brice Wells 12th December 2003
whom we thank for his patience, immense ornothogical knowledge and zany uniquely Western Australian larikin humour – a seemingly dying art in the young – Thank You Brice.
PS We will be returning to New Zealand when the Kakapo is reintroduced to Ulva Island in the next 18 months with more time spent down there to enjoy the wilds of New Zealands natve vegetation and wildlife. Janene. Birds and Camaraderie