Friday, 11 November 2011

Sunny Stewart

So it was earlyish morning, leaving the accommodation just after seven and heading back to Miles Better Pies for another round of pie this time for breakfast and damn was it good.  It was an absolutely gorgeous clear blue sky day so of course all eyes were on the scenery.  We drove through to Bluff making one quick stop along the way to have a look over a wetland area.  There were a few scaup around, plus shoveler and paradise shelduck, but nothing special so we were on the road again.

We arrived in to Bluff, checked into the ferry terminal and waited for the ferry to depart.  The sun was still shining and the sky was clear blue.  As we cruised out of Bluff and into the first part of the Foveaux Strait we could look back on the Southern end of the Southern Alps...something I have never seen before from here as normally it is overcast, raining, or both, perhaps with a little hail mixed in for good measure!  So we had an awesome crossing with lovely conditions and a bit of wind to keep the birds flying as well.  We encountered good numbers of sooty shearwaters, with a few rafts mid-Strait, and had nice views of them and common diving petrel.  We saw a couple of Stewart Island shags at either end of the trip, plus the odd Northern giant petrel, white-capped albatross, and Cape petrel.  There was one possible white-chinned petrel following a fishing boat into Bluff also.

As we came in to Oban we kept an eye out for penguins, but nothing seen.  We got off the ferry and grabbed our gear making the short walk to the Hotel and checking in.  We had a short break and then headed up and over to Golden Bay and grabbed a water taxi to Ulva Island...still with the sun shining...can’t believe it!  At Ulva our focus was very much on saddleback, having missed them on Motuara (only hearing them anyway), so we walked the first part of the track very slowly and kept listening out for calls.  There was the odd one distantly, but our attention was quickly diverted to the flowering spider orchids along the side of the track.  They were pretty much all over the place, with one of the species being in full flower.  It kind of looks like Singularybas oblongus but seems to be more round in shape and doesn’t have such a prominent floral bract beneath the flower and the leaves weren’t normally veined and flecked.  There were a couple of other species of spider orchid we found just finishing flowering and a heap of greenhood orchids most of which were not yet in full flower, but I managed to find one that was.

Meanwhile we had nice close robin, red-crowned and yellow-crowned parakeet, brown creeper and stonking yellowhead.  Eventually we had fantastic views of a saddleback and then managed to find a few other bits and bobs, plus kaka, so everyone was happy!  Yellowhead were actually surprisingly common, and despite the poison drop it was nice to find saddleback, robin, etc.  We didn’t however see a weka, and apparently they are pretty thin on the ground at the moment.

We did a short loop around to Sydney Cove, and then getting back to the wharf just before 5pm, enjoyed the sunshine, before heading back to Oban for a quick break before dinner.  Fantastic dinner as usual at the South Sea Hotel, and then out with Phillip Smith to search for Southern brown kiwi.

Lots of little blue penguins on the way in beautiful calm conditions, and then we headed over to Ocean Beach.  We took the long-way around and halfway along the trail I heard something behind me and turned to see a female kiwi run up right behind me, pause, then run right up to me and tap my boot with her bill!  Ha, that’s a first!  Most of the group got great views of her, and then a short way on we had another smaller male.  Once on the beach we had stunning views of a bird feeding on the beach in the open.  We watched it in the dim torch beam for a good few minutes, simply awesome!  What a night to remember.  We headed back to the boat and then back for a fast sleep before tomorrows big pelagic.

Bird of the day – Southern (Stewart Island) brown kiwi x6, rest TBA
Day total – Seen = 57; new for the trip = 3; total for the trip to date = 154

Leaving sunny Bluff

Sooty shearwater on the crossing

Common diving-petrel
Ulva Island and Post Office Bay on a sunny day

Spider orchids on Ulva Island, possibly Singularybas oblongus 

Up close

Amongst the moss

Up even closer




A different spider orchid

Same as above, very long stalk and much bigger

Rimu leaves

Greenhood orchid sp.

Up close

Most were not fully open except this one

Ponga covered with spider orchids in flower

Amongst the moss

Tree fern frond

Kelp balls on the beach

Crown fern

Crown fern frond

Moon on the way to kiwi spotting

A beautiful evening on Stewart Island

Big ol' moon

Southern brown kiwi (prob imm female) feeding on the beach

Same bird...fantastic!

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