A Travellerspoint blog

New Zealand

Day 34: Last Full Day in New Zealand :-(

overcast 70 °F

Today was a great full day in Queenstown, New Zealand's fifth largest city, I believe. Depending on when my wifi will cut me off while writing this, I don't know how many, if any, photos, I will get to include on this post.

The main activity of the day was biking along the beautiful lakefront along Lake Wakatipu:

I saw these lifer AUSTRALIAN CRESTED GREBES:
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Also this life bird, albeit introduced, DUNNOCK:
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This quirky NEW ZEALAND SCAUP did its courtship display for me:
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Here is a photo of it behaving like a normal duck:
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Bird-of-the-day to the magnificent AUSTRALIAN CRESTED GREBES.

I am very sad to say that today is my final day in New Zealand. That means that I will list my favorite birding excursions from the trip:

Getting introduced to New Zealand birds on our arrival day, January 13, including the rare New Zealand Dotterel.

Seeing many pelagic (sea-dwelling) birds on our boat tour in the Bay of Islands, including Great Skua; Australasian Gannet; Buller's, Flesh-footed, Fluttering, Little, and Wedge-tailed Shearwaters; Cape, Black-winged, and Cook's Petrels; Fairy Prion; White-faced Storm-petrel; and Little Blue Penguin.

Going on a bus tour to Cape Reinga, the northernmost accessible point in New Zealand, and seeing Black-winged Petrel as well as three tern species: White-fronted, Caspian and the endangered Fairy Terns.

Kayaking to an island with my mother and sister and seeing the endangered New Zealand Dotterel.

Hearing the Brown Kiwi sing in a forest near the Bay of Islands.

Two days after picking up my dad, we stopped at the Miranda Shorebird Center and saw some amazing shorebirds. The diversity of shorebirds included Royal Spoonbill, Pied and Variable Oystercatchers, Spur-winged and Pacific Golden Plovers, Pied Stilt, Banded Dotterel, Lesser Knot, Wrybill, Marsh and Sharp-tailed Sandpipers, and Bar-tailed Godwit (this bird has the longest nonstop flight of any living creature).

A stop at Mt. Bruce Wildlife Sanctuary between Hawke's Bay and Martinborough gave me my life bird Kakas, or Forest Parakeets, which are large, maroon-colored parrots.

Going to Zealandia Wildlife Sanctuary near Wellington with my dad. We saw amazing birds such as Little Spotted Kiwi and more Kakas.

While traveling from the North Island to the South Island, I saw Sooty Shearwater and White-faced Storm-petrel, as well as three amazing White-capped Albatross from the ferry.

Going on my "Albatross Encounter" tour in Kaikoura. I saw amazing pelagic birds including Wandering, Royal, White-capped, and Salvin's Albatross; Northern Giant, Westland, White-chinned, and Cape Petrels; Arctic Skua; White-fronted and Black-fronted Terns; Australasian Gannet; Little Blue Penguin; and the endangered Hutton's Shearwater.

Going to Milford Sound and seeing two amazing birds: Kea (Alpine Parakeet), and the endangered New Zealand Robin.

Going on the overnight cruise to Doubtful Sound and seeing Sooty Shearwater as well as White-capped, Salvin's, and Buller's Albatross.

Best bird-of-the-trip to the LITTLE SPOTTED KIWI which allowed for photos. Runners-up to the BROWN KIWI which didn't allow for photos and the five species of albatross I saw: Wandering, Royal, White-capped, Salvin's, and Buller's Albatross. It has been a wonderful first leg of the journey!

Tomorrow we will head to the Great Ocean Road in Australia. Some birds I am hoping to see in Australia include Ferry Penguins, Budgerigars and other parakeets in their natural range, a species or two of birds of paradise, Laughing Kookaburras, and much, much more!

I am SO excited!

Good birding,

Henry
World Life List: 518 Species (2 new life birds today: Australian Crested Grebe and Dunnock)

Posted by skwclar 18:56 Archived in New Zealand Comments (1)

Days 30-33 in New Zealand

all seasons in one day 48 °F

TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 11:

Since wifi lately has been nonexistent, here is the combined post for the latest two full days of our travels. The wifi is still very limited, so you will see some captions that don't have photos to go with them. I will add photos to them later.

Two days ago was our travel day from our "cozy" backpackers lodge to a more spacious motel in Fiordland National Park.

The backpackers' lodge was very tight, and with ourselves and our bags, we didn't have any room to spare. It was also horribly buggy, which didn't make things any better.

I managed to get off the hook packing the car because I went out birding. I saw some reasonably good birds, including the following:

NEW ZEALAND BELLBIRD:
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AUSTRALIAN MAGPIE:
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Then, my family picked me up and we drove to Fiordland National Park. Our only memorable stop (except for our lunch stop) on the way was at the park entrance for a short nature walk at the beautiful Mirror Lake. The New Zealanders must be famous for their boring, overused names of natural features! Even though it was a bit mucky, you can see why it was named that way:
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I saw a few NEW ZEALAND SCAUP there, including this female:
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After we arrived at our spacious motel, my family and I took a short nearby hike to a beautiful waterfall:
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My little sister hugged this big tree on the way back:
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I also saw this SONG THRUSH, an introduced species:
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It was a good day of birding. Birds-of-the-day to the NEW ZEALAND BELLBIRDS and the NEW ZEALAND SCAUP, the only endemic species photographed today.

WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 12:

Yesterday was our only full day at Milford Sound near Fiordland National Park. It was very cloudy and rainy (even snowy while we were crossing the alpine passes in our car), so the famous views of Milford Sound were a bit obstructed to say the least. The one upside to this, however, is that there were countless waterfalls that wouldn't be present if it wasn't a wet day.

We took a boat tour of Milford Sound during the late morning and early afternoon (it is actually a fjord, not a sound, since it was carved by glaciers during the Ice Age).

Here are some scenery photos I took while on the boat. My dad and I constantly had the Lord of the Rings theme song stuck in our heads!
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The boat stopped twice to admire New Zealand Fur Seals:
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At one point we even stopped under a waterfall! My dad, Pearl, and I ran to the front of the boat and got drenched because they parked the front right under the falls! is a photo of me under the waterfall:
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A few minutes later after we set sail again, he let us all drink water (with our own cups) from the pan which was set out when we were under the waterfall! It was the BEST water I have ever tasted. The skipper said that it was glacial meltwater that cascaded over thousands of feet of rock before ending up in the pot. Here is a photo of my sister sipping the water:
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The last and final highlight of the trip was seeing a huge pod of about twenty dolphins play alongside and in front of our boat. Here is a bad photo of them (I couldn't get good quality photos because it was very rainy and I was worried about my camera):
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After the boat tour, we took a short walk to see a section of cascades on a fast-moving mountain stream. I saw this lovely NEW ZEALAND PIGEON along the way:
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Below are a few photos of the cascades. The cascades looked basically like modern art, except a whole lot better:
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On the drive back to our motel we took an unexpected stop when we saw people feeding KEAS (Mountain Parakeets) at a car-park along the highway. They are very outgoing, mischievous birds, and some were even landing on cars and pecking on the metal, as you can see in the photos:
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A productive birding walk near our motel before retiring for the night yielded the following species and more:

Female TOMTIT (South Island Subspecies):
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NEW ZEALAND BROWN CREEPER. They look very different from the Brown Creepers found in North America.
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AUSTRALIAN SILVEREYES:
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NEW ZEALAND BELLBIRD:
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While I was counting a number of RIFLEMEN in front of me, a larger, gray bird hopped onto a branch barely an arm's length in front of me. To my astonishment, it was a wonderful adult male NEW ZEALAND ROBIN, an avian species I have been searching for this entire trip so far. It was amazing I saw it when I did, because yesterday was really the last time I was in its proper range and habitat this year. Here is its photo:
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What a wonderful bird, and so friendly also! I later found out that the reason the robin came so close to me was because it wanted to eat the little insects I stirred up when I moved around.

The bird-of-the-day award will again be shared, this time by the numerous and outgoing KEA (Mountain Parakeets) and the friendly life bird NEW ZEALAND ROBIN.

THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 12 and FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 13:

On these days my family and I took a gorgeous night cruise of Doubtful Sound.

The night cruise was very lovely. We had a spacious, four-level vessel with a very friendly, attentive crew. The scenery was definitely the highlight of both days on the ship.

Here is a photo of my mom with the magnificent scenery in the background:
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Before dinner on the first day, we vacated the Doubtful Sound and headed into the open, choppy waters of the Tasman Sea for a brief while. At the mouth of the sound I saw this WHITE-FRONTED TERN:
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Out in the open waters, I saw some amazing pelagic species, including AUSTRALASIAN GANNET, SOOTY SHEARWATER, and even BULLER'S, DARWIN'S, and WHITE-CAPPED ALBATROSS! Here are the photos:

Australasian Gannet:
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White-capped Albatross:
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Before we headed back into Doubtful Sound, the ship stopped at a colony of New Zealand Fur Seals:
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I also saw this beautiful rainbow:
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And this gorgeous waterfall:
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It was such a magnificent area. Here is the last scenery photo of the voyage:
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Tomorrow is our last full day in New Zealand, and then it is off to Australia!

Good birding and stay tuned!

?--Atlantic Puffin

Henry
World Life List: 516 Species (3 new life birds)

Posted by skwclar 21:11 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Day 29: Lake Hawea to Glenorchy

sunny 80 °F

Today my family and I traveled from our wonderful hotel on the shore of Lake Hawea to our...um...cozy (to say the least) backpacker's lodge near Glenorchy. It is fairly clean, at least, which makes it a couple notches better than our abode in Christchurch.

Our first stop of the drive was at an old mining town nestled in the mountains. Just before the California gold rush set in, this town experienced a huge gold rush in the nearby mountains, temporarily boosting the economy. Chinese people flocked to this town, seeking a fortune, but sadly the other settlers treated them extremely condescendingly and were very racist as prejudiced towards them. We saw many small shacks (including the one in the picture below) in which the Chinese were forced to live:
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Before a quick lunch in town, I spotted this lovely, albeit nonnative COMMON CHAFFINCH:
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Our last stop of the day was at a lookout beside the highway. I love the mountains in New Zealand.
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After we arrived at our "cozy" backpackers' lodge, I birded a little and found the species pictured below as well as introduced finches from Europe like YELLOWHAMMER and EUROPEAN GOLDFINCH.

AUSTRALASIAN HARRIER:
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NEW ZEALAND FANTAIL:
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NEW ZEALAND BELLBIRD:
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The last birds of the night were a nice pair of very outgoing PARADISE SHELDUCKS:
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Wifi will be very spotty for the next three days, so I don't know how frequently I will be able to post in the near future.

Whatever the case may be, keep watching the blog for further updates, and as always, good birding!

Henry
World Life List: 513 Species (no new life birds today)

Posted by skwclar 16:05 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Day 28: Driving Tour Near Lake Hawea

semi-overcast 65 °F

Today my family and I took a driving tour of the beautiful mountainous area near out comfortable hotel beside Lake Hawea.

Our first stop was for a small walk to some beautifully colored ponds called the Blue Pools (what an inventive name :-). Before we arrived at them, however, I found a few TOMTITS (South Island Subspecies):

This one is beside its nest:
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A pair of them:
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You can clearly see why these where named the Blue Pools:
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A pretty river near there. Going along with the theme of obvious names, they should call it the Blue River:
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Our second stop was at the majestic Thunder Falls. Only a slightly better name.
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Our third stop was to a pretty waterfall of which I forgot its name, and on the trail to it I saw these odd mushrooms:
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Since I forgot this waterfall's name, I will come up with another obvious, boring name for it. How about Pretty Falls? Falling Falls? :-) Whatever the name may be, I have now seen seven major waterfalls in New Zealand.
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On the trail coming back from that waterfall, I saw yet another TOMTIT (South Island Subspecies). On this specimen you can clearly see the yellow breast which differentiates the South Island Subspecies from the North Island Subspecies, which has a white breast.
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Since I didn't get any life birds today, the bird-of-the-day award will go to the TOMTITS which where the only birds to allow for photo ops today. Hopefully I will see more birds tomorrow when we travel to Glenorchy, another cure town nestled in the highlands of the Southern Alps (New Zealand's only true mountain range).

Stay tuned and good birding as always,

Henry
World Life List: 513 Species (no new life birds today)

Posted by skwclar 23:43 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Day 27: Butt-kicker!

sunny 70 °F

In this case, the title of this post describes an immensely challenging but an immensely rewarding hike my family and I did today in Mt. Cook National Park.

But before I get too ahead of myself, let me tell the events of the day in a chronological photo story.

After our continental breakfast, I squeezed in some birding before the hike. I saw RIFLEMEN (wrens), including the two which have their hindquarters pictured below:
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I also got my life bird ALPINE PARAKEETS (or Keas), but sadly despite their friendly reputation, they were quite shy and only one allowed for this cruddy far-off photograph:
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Finally, I photographed this male COMMON BLACKBIRD (an introduced species from Europe):
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Then, my family and I went on our very strenuous hike. My sister Pearl, who is six years old, was quite the trooper today because this hike was quite challenging for even me, and she completed the hike without complaining. The hike was about two thousand vertical feet of elevation gain, and we counted 1,947 stairs.

Here is a photo of my mom and Pearl on the way up:
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The goal for my family was a small alpine lake called Sealy Tarn, but I decided to continue on the trail by myself and go to the snowline. Once I arrived at the snowline, I was so hot and sweaty that I slid down a snowfield in summer clothing. It was so fun!
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Pearl posing on the way down the trail:
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As we were leaving the national park later that day I snapped one last photo of Mt. Cook (tallest mountain) and the surrounding snow-covered peaks:
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Our only stop on the drive to Lake Hawea was to get some ice cream as a reward for completing a strenuous hike. Our hotel at Lake Hawea is clean and spacious which is nice.

Bird-of-the-day to my life bird ALPINE PARAKEET, even though it was annoyingly a bit reclusive. Tomorrow I will take a hike to Rob Roy Glacier near Lake Hawea. Hopefully I will be able to touch a glacier for the first time in my life!

Stay tuned and good birding as always,

Henry
World Life List: 513 Species (1 new life bird today: Alpine Parakeet)

Posted by skwclar 22:47 Archived in New Zealand Comments (1)

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