Thursday, 22 November 2012

Off to Stewart Island

On the road early this morning, but not before a quick pie run. We grabbed some more pies and sandwiches from Mile’s Better Pies and headed through toward Bluff. We basically headed straight for the Ferry terminal in Bluff, not seeing much of interest on the way.

At the Ferry terminal we checked in, loaded our bags into the bins, and then boarded the ferry. There was a bit of wind and it looked like it would be a good crossing, albeit a little bumpy. There were a few Stewart Island shags in the harbour, and more as we headed out, along with spotted shags. As we headed out into the open water the bumps increased, but quite surprisngly there weren’t a lot of birds. We did pick up the odd sooty shearwater, a few white-capped albatross and some common diving petrels, but that was about it. As we came into Half Moon Bay there were a few more Stewart Island shags and a little penguin or two.

After docking we grabbed our gear and headed up to the South Seas Hotel to checkin, before then getting ready to head to Ulva Island for the afternoon. We walked up and over to Golden Bay where we met our water taxi and headed across. With a pretty stiff breeze blowing, but a fairly clear sky we had a good ride across and were soon heading off down the tracks on the island. Of course having seen almost all the birds present on the island already, our target bird was rather embarassingly yellow-crowned parakeet! We were also after good views of yellowhead and whatever else we could find. A family party of weka were nice, and as we scoured the undergrowth we found some nice spider and greenhood orchids in flower. There was a fair bit of birdsong around, with brown creeper, kaka, and saddleback calling frequently, and we had great views of several rifleman as well. We gradually tracked down good views of kaka, brown creeper, yellow-crowned and red-crowned parakeet (yay!), but were still missing yellowhead, although we had heard a few parties of them off in the distance.

However, we continued on around the tracks and eventually had a pair of yellowhead calling just off the track and they showed themselves pretty well, with an immature saddleback also coming in for a look. A bit further down the track with had another group of yellowhead, this time three birds which fed and sang right in front of us, literally at arms length! Brilliant, they are such stunning birds, and seeing them this close was just fantastic! Even managed some nice photos!

Pretty happy with our views of everything we finished off the loop track and then headed back to the shelter to wait a few minutes for our water taxi, which soon had us back in Half Moon Bay. With no time to lose we hurried over the hill, and then had dinner, before getting ready for our evening excursion…the show wasn’t over yet! We headed down to the wharf and met with our guides Phillip and Greg, and then chugged around to Glory Cove where we learnt a bit about the kiwi as the last rays of sunshine disappeared. We then headed off over the peninsula with Greg to find our Southern brown kiwi…and it was hardly even dark before we encountered our first one on the beach! In the end we had three birds in view for prolonged views, and a fourth that was a little shy. But the views were absolutely awesome – stonking even! Down to just a few metres as the birds ignored as and fed closer to us as we stood quietly. An incredible experience and one that will be hard to forget.

We walked back to the boat, almost floating along the track, and the boat trip back seemed faster with a hot chocolate in hand. It wasn’t long and we were tucked up in bed, another great day over!

Bird of the day – Southern brown kiwi x7, yellowhead x2
Day total – Seen = 54; new for the trip = 2; total for the trip to date = 150

A pair of South Island kaka perch together in a tree.

South Island kaka pausing between tearing branches apart to look for grubs.

South Island kaka preening on a sunny perch.

Beautiful spider orchids flowering amongst the mosses on the forest floor.

Yellowhead up close and personal.

Yellowhead perched right beside the track - what a stunning little bird!

Poised and feeding.

Variable oystercatcher feeding on one of the beaches.

The happy team heading back up the hill from Golden Bay.

Southern brown kiwi feeding on sandhoppers on the beach.

Southern brown kiwi having a bit of a stretch.

Shadow of a kiwi.

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