Tuesday, 20 November 2012

The sunny West Coast

What a beautiful morning, crisp and cool, but clear blue skies as we made our way up to the glacier at Franz Josef. We took a short walk and had stunning views of the scenery, plus tomtit and other common forest birds, plus some nice greenhood orchids which were just coming to to flower. Not hard to see that this temperate rainforest gets a LOT of rain with all the mosses, filmy ferns and lichens adhering to every surface.

We then headed south, grabbing some lunch on the way, and the making a couple of stops in the beautiful podocarp forest that drapes the coastal zone of this area. Magical scenery in clear blue skies, who could ask for more. A little further south we then stopped, had our lunch and then walked out to the coast through a beautiful walkway, again through stunning podocarp forest. At the carpark a falcon had been glimpsed, but didn’t show itself again, but tomtits, fantails, grey warblers, and silvereyes were common and the walk through the mossy forest was very enjoyable. When we reached the beach we scanned the sea for our target bird, the Fiordland crested penguin. There was a fair bit of wind on the water, so large chop and spray and no penguins were visible, but within a few minutes Phil spotted a penguin that had just come up out of the water. We quickly had the scope on it and enjoyed pretty good views of it walking, then taking back to the water for a brief swim and then hauling out again, before disappearing up into the boulders. Nice!

We watched and scanned some more, enjoying the sunshine, before then retracing our steps through the forest, hearing a shining cuckoo on the way…there have been plenty of them! We then hit the road again, following the coast, making a couple more quick stops for scenery and photos, and then into Haast where we made a bee-line inland. Following the mighty Haast River inland we wound our way higher and higher, again through stunning scenery. As we neared the top we went for a walk, and after a few minutes had great views of rifleman, then a couple of brown creeper, but yellow-crowned parakeet gave chatters but kept hidden. Then we had a brief but good view of a real gem – a yellowhead showed itself well, but briefly, coming in towards us but seemingly vanishing. Strange how a bird so bright and strident can just completely disappear when it wants to! So that wasa fair introduction to them, but we all want more!

We carried on through another couple of spots, hoping to see more, but brown creeper, rifleman, grey warbler and bellbird were all that came forward. Some beautiful Nothofagus beech forest though, and a nice opportunity to again stretch the legs and have a look through this beautiful part of the world. We then piled back into the van and headed on towards Wanaka. On the way passing a seemingly invisible barrier from the wet West Coast with mosses and lichens, to the dry interior that surrounds Wanaka.

Bird of the day – Firodland crested penguin x8, yellowhead x1
Day total – Seen = 42 + 3 heard (kea, yellow-crowned parakeet, shining cuckoo); new for the trip = 2; total for the trip to date = 145

Male chaffinch in the glacier carpark, they really are stunning birds in breeding plumage.

Male chaffinch pauses whilst singing.

Franz Josef glacier…retreating.

Southern rata trees silhouetted.

Greenhood orchids flowering on the side of the track.

Lichens abound.

Mosses with the sun shining through them.

Lichens on tree roots and rocks.

Closeup of the greenhood orchid.

Sunshining through mosses and ferns.

Closeup of mosses.

A penguinless beach, but not for long.

The forest and beach interface.

Searching for Fiordland crested penguins.

Happy with the views of Fiordland crested penguins.

Kidney fern and lichens.

Tree fern fronds in the sunshine.

Treefern fronds up close.



Lichens up close.

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