Still bubbling over with excitement after our Rock Wren encounter, we held an executive board meeting and it was decided we would strike out west, then head south down the coast, so we jumped in our covered wagon, pressing the go button we geeeeed up the horseeeees and westward we went.
Eventually, we were faced with a huge puddle of water known as the Tasman Sea. With no way to get around it, we turned left and scooted south with the rain once again hot on our heels.
We wanted to get to Haast that evening so with the rain catching us up and pelting down at times we didn’t stop much on the way, however one place we did stop was at Whataroa, home of the famous kōtuku or White Heron colony for lunch.
I have made it my lifelong mission to search for the best feed of fishinchips in New Zealand I have come close to that perfect meal a few times and the shop at Whataroa is now in the top ten bestser-rist fishinchips in the country. That is according to the Boney Whitefoot scale and that counts.
For the uninitiated, this is a Kiwi feed of “Fishinchips”
With the Rock Wren already in the bag, we were now on the hunt for Yellowheads, Tit Mouses (Brown Creepers) and South Island Tomtits.
The drive down to the estuary and historic boat shed/museum at Okarito is well worth the extra 40-minute detour if you’re heading down the West Coast.
On the drive out to the boat shed, we found a suitable place to pull off the road and try our luck with a few TiT Moose calls.
We saw nothing at first but then a Black Fantail turned up.
This was a serious situation for me as I had never seen one let alone had a worthwhile image.
I stealthy stalked in on the bird using all my ninja skills, ever closer, pressing the shutter button while still on the way in, keeping that bird in the centre of the viewfinder as it flittered around all over God’s creation. I’m sure any special ops soldier would be impressed with my style and If this was a hard paragraph to read, actually doing it was much harder.
However, I was very pleased with the end result of that encounter and now had two lifers for the trip.
My first ever Black Morph Fantail and what a great specimen.
Then Mr Tom Tit turned up to a Bellbird call just as they do in the North Island, in fact, we seem to have more success with Tomtits coming into the Bellbird call than their own. it was not long before Mrs Tomtit came in to see what all the fuss was about.
Mr South Island Tomtit
Mrs South Island Tomtit might not be as colourful as Mr Tomtit but I think she is pretty.
Suprise Suprise a Female Bellbird came into the Bellbird call all covered in rata tree pollen
Followed by a very solid Mr Bellbird
Invasion of the Road Buzzards
Then we had our first, but certainly not last, encounter with Road Buzzards.
Let me explain.
Road Buzzards come in a few different species.
The main and most common species on the west coast this time of the year is the Asian variety, they travel around in mobs. Tightly packed in they travel around in a bewildering array of ‘for hire vehicles’.
Now the last thing you want when photographing birds off the side of the road is a gaggle of excited terrorists crowding in around you chasing the birds away.
They don’t speak English, so yelling at them to ‘GO AWAY’ and shaking your fist at them will not drive this species back into their vehicles, in fact it seems to be a secret signal that activates them, bringing them to a level of excited hysteria causing those still inside their vehicles to spill out joining the others already surrounding us.
They did spent a fortune getting to this country and they ain’t gonna miss out on nothing. When they see a car parked on the side of the road, they are compelled to stop and find out what it’s about and no amount of yelling at them, swearing or shaking a fist at them is going to stand in their way.
Road Buzzards normally only migrate here once in their lifetime for a short period of time but man do they come in numbers and are widespread.
I got my own back once when I had my caller hidden away in the bushes, the sound drew the Buzzards in like honey does to a bear and they crowded around a little bush looking for the bird that was calling its heart out.
Eventually, I tired of watching them and retrieved the call much to their amazement and some strange kind of ritualistic dance commenced, patting each other on backs laughing their heads off, pushing and shoving each other around. Then as fast as they came they jam-packed themselves into those vehicles and roared off down the road leaving us in peace for a few moments before the next mob of buzzards turned up.
Other species of road buzzards spoke English mostly Germans and Americans and understood what I was saying but something must have been lost on them.
They became offended at my thinly veiled threats and wild gesticulating arms and looked upon me as some kind of offensive retard, still didn’t stop them from chasing away our birds though.
At one stage we were left alone so we tried the TiT Mooselet call and what would you know, some came in.
They came in fast and chattering, never still for long . I had never seen these birds before so they were my third lifer (a birding term for a first ever sighting of a species)
These birds came in, buzzed around and never came back but what a thrill.
pīpipi the Brown Creeper or Tit Mouse
By the end of this trip I had come to grips with my emotions and mostly learned to ignore the Buzzards and get on with it, MOSTLY that is.
I WILL do better next time.
We hit the road south heading for Haast with two more birds on our most wanted list ticked off.
It was a long day and we were relieved to find this cute little cabin in Haast to spend the night sheltered from the showers that were still dogging us.
May will bring the start to our Winter Workshops in the greater Wellington area.
For more information clikerty click here
Our local King Fisher is often a willing subject this time of the year, so get in touch with me via the contact page and let’s get out there and learn some things.