In Association with:
NEW ZEALAND - NOV - 2004
131 Bird Species recorded
Leaders: Chris Gaskin
Days 1-2 5th -6th Nov
Everyone met at Heathrow Airport for our evening departure to Los Angeles and then on to New Zealand most of the next day was lost travelling through different time zones, we arrived at our destination on day three.
Day 3 - Sunday 7th Nov
The first day of the tour with everyone flying into Auckland International Airport on NZ1, arriving at 6.30AM and coming through Customs etc. without too much bother. Obviously looking forward to a fairly relaxed day to get the tour underway. First we headed for nearby Mangere and the former oxidation ponds now being returned to something of its former state, an arm of the Manukau Harbour and a superb area for viewing waders. A chance to see Wrybill, NZ Dotterel, Royal Spoonbill, Eastern Bar-tailed Godwit, Lesser (Red) Knot, Pied Stilt and South Island Pied Oystercatcher. We even picked up Spotted Dove nearby. Then up Mount Eden (Maungawhau) for a bit of orientation: the grand view of the city sprawled across the Auckland Isthmus between the Manukau (Tasman Sea) and Waitemata (Pacific Ocean) Harbours, and the cones and craters of Auckland’s volcanic field. Mount Eden is a fine example of a scoria cone. There was also the chance for Pauline, a passionate cricket fan to see the first of several New Zealand cricket grounds (Eden Park). Leaving the city we headed out west to Muriwai with its cliff-top gannet colony overlooking the Tasman Sea. The viewing platforms on the headland offer superb close views of the birds, the surfers catching waves and fishers on the rock platforms below – a lot to take in. Lunch was at the Muriwai Regional Park under the pohutukawa trees with Fantail and Tui. We crossed to the east coast (Hauraki Gulf side of the North Auckland peninsula) stopping at Straka Lake for NZ Dabchick, NZ Scaup, Australasian Shoveller, Paradise Shelduck, Grey (Pacific Black) Duck, and Little Black and Little Shags. Caspian Tern out over the mangroves, then Eastern Rosella, Tui and Banded Rail at Wenderholm Regional Park.
Checking in at Salty Dog Inn and some time to relax a little before heading to Chris and Karen’s place Te Kauri Lodge for a BBQ dinner. We saw Ring-necked Pheasant on the way down the ridge-top road leading to the lodge. From the decks we were able to see Morepork feeding on huhu beetles.
Day 4 - Monday 8th Nov
Today was our Hauraki Gulf pelagic and we left early (7.20AM) from nearby Sandspit Landing. A light southerly 5-10kns at the start increased to 20kns later beyond Little Barrier, before dying away completely mid-afternoon to calm, fine conditions. Species seen: Buller's Shearwater, Fluttering Shearwater, Flesh-footed Shearwater, Sooty Shearwater, Black Petrel, Cook's Petrel, Common Diving Petrel and NZ Storm Petrel with somewhere between 10-25 seen during almost two hour's chumming. The highest count at any one time was four. It took a while for the first bird to show. Also White-faced Storm Petrel, Blue Penguin, Australasian Gannet, Black-backed Gull, Red-billed Gull, White-fronted Tern, Caspian Tern and Pied Shag. Birds seen on the Hauraki Gulf islands included: Kaka, Red-crowned Parakeet, Tui, NZ Pigeon, Australasian Harrier, NZ Dotterel and Variable Oystercatcher. Saddleback and Bellbird were heard. We also saw: Bryde's Whales, Common Dolphins, one dead Short-finned Pilot Whale and a NZ Fur Seal.
We landed on Tiritiri Matangi mid afternoon. Karen, who had joined us to help with the meals, went straight up to the bunkhouse with the gear while the rest of us set out to bird the island. We saw our target species: Kokako, Saddleback, Stitchbird, Red-crowned Parakeet, Bellbird, Whitehead and North Island Robin with Spotless Crake (including one chick) and Brown Teal at the pond near the wharf. The Takahe and Paradise Shelducks were a bit of a pest around the bunkhouse and we had to give the deck a clean before dinner which we had outside. Our night-walk took us along the top of the island to the patch of old forest on Kawerau Track. Unfortunately the trails had been recently upgraded with ‘noisy’ gravel and the kiwi heard us as we approached. Very frustrating as we heard several Little Spotted Kiwi calling and got very close to a couple. Also heard Morepork.
Day 5 - Tuesday 9th Nov
Away early, with a lovely dawn chorus of Bellbirds on the way down to the water taxi. Calm conditions again for the crossing with Fluttering and Buller’s Shearwaters, and also Blue Penguins seen on the way across. We stopped at Beehive Island for Shore Plover, two males which are the remnants of an unsuccessful breeding programme on nearby Motuora Island several years ago. We also saw NZ Dotterel (with chicks) and Variable Oystercatchers. We picked up our luggage from Salty Dog then headed south along the motorway through Auckland City to Miranda. At Miranda Shorebird Centre we picked up Cattle Egret (appropriately amongst cattle in the paddocks next to the centre), before heading through to Kaiaua for our lunch of fish & chips, eaten on the foreshore. Wrybill, Variable and South Island Pied Oystercatchers, Eastern Bar-tailed Godwits, Red Knots, and Turnstone were all seen on our walk across the shell banks and grass flats, with Banded Rail amongst the mangroves. Leaving Miranda we cut through the hills to the huge Whangamarino Wetlands where we scanned for Australasian Bittern and were lucky to get distant views. We skirted Hamilton (NZ’s fifth largest city) and drove through dairying country to Waitomo Caves. Enjoyed a brief stop for ice cream at Ngaruawahia. We stayed at the Waitomo Caves Hotel and did the spectacular Glowworm Caves trip after dinner with expert guide Chris Templer (also a great entertainer).
Day 6 - Wednesday 10th Nov
Early start today and went straight through to Mapara Reserve. The trail leads across a stream then up a valley. We got great views of a Shining Cuckoo; it was brilliant, shimmering in the morning sun. While everyone was focused on this bird a NZ Falcon slipped by spotted by a lucky few in the group. Whitehead, Tomtit and Silvereye added to our pleasure and we saw Eastern Rosella and Ring–necked Pheasant on the drive up the Mapara Valley. Heading south we followed SH4 south through the King Country to Taumaranui where we stopped to pick up lunch for a picnic beside the Whakapapa River at Owhango. A lovely spot with lunch laid out on a table and seating on a rail overlooking the rapids. We saw Tomtit flicking about the boulders below the bridge. Having missed Long-tailed Cuckoo at Mapara we crossed the bridge and drove further into the forest for another go, but without success. Then on past the high volcanoes of Tongariro National Park (Ruapehu, Ngaurahoe and Tongariro) to Ohakune where a side road took us west to the Manganuiateao River, one of the many rivers which drain the high peaks and the Central Plateau. Our target was Blue Duck and we saw several from the roadside (looking into the river gorge) with great views from the bridge. This was a great chance for everyone to really test their photography skills (all lined up along the bridge), Brian especially, who was using his camera digiscoping for the first time on this trip. We watched two kayakers paddling down the rapids only metres away from one bird standing on a rock. It didn’t seem too bothered. We checked in at Tussock Grove Hotel then drove up Ruapehu to a trail in the forest known as the Old Blythe Hut Track. In tall red beech forest we heard a flock of Kaka and managed to call them in towards us for good views.
Day 7 - Thursday 11th Nov
Today we drove round the east side of Mt. Ruapehu via Waiouru and the Desert Road. We made a visit to the Kaimanawa Forest Park and picked up Long-tailed Cuckoo, Yellow-crowned Parakeet, Whitehead and Tomtit on two walks there. Also, superb views of the Tongariro River where it plunges through a narrow chasm, the Waikato Falls. At Tokaanu on the shores of Lake Taupo we saw Dabchick, Black Shag, Little Shag and Little Black Shag. Through to Pureora Forest and climbed the forest tower amongst the massive podocarp trees. We saw Kaka. We also heard a NZ Falcon, however this bird was going to elude us for most of the tour. There were North Island Robin and Whitehead in the trees nearby. We arrived at Rotorua late afternoon. Linda and Brian raced off to have a quick look round the Whakarewarewa Thermal Area before it closed. The rest of us settled for views of the geysers and mud-pools from our rooms or the hotel grounds. Our cultural evening was next door at the Maori Arts and Crafts Institute with its beautiful meeting house and gardens. Mia Ora was a splendid show of Maori traditional culture mixed with a lot of humour (very much the Maori way) and some modern touches. The evening ended with the Maori guides taking us out to a lookout where we could enjoy the panorama of the thermal area lit by spotlights.
Day 8 - Friday 12th Nov
The view out over the thermal area from the dining room at breakfast was very misty in the morning. We did a quick trip down to the lakeside for the Black-billed and Red-billed Gull colony (with nesting Pied Stilts and Caspian Tern) then caught the 9.15AM flight to Christchurch. There we picked up our vehicle at the airport and headed north to Kaikoura. We stopped at St Anne’s Lagoon for lunch where we saw several Cape Barren Geese on the far side of the lake before they disappeared out of sight over a ridge. There were plenty of other birds on the lake: Paradise Shelduck, Black Swan, Australasian Coot and NZ Scaup. We decided to see if we could get a closer look at the Cape Barren Geese so drove up to the main road. Found them close by although were quite flighty. Cape Barren Geese are interesting in that they are of the same stock as the extinct flightless NZ goose which was quite common through the South Island. We arrived at Kaikoura early afternoon and after checking in at our motel headed first to the point at the end of Kaikoura Peninsula. We saw some waders along the beaches and wave-cut rock platforms: Eastern Bar-tailed Godwit, Turnstone, Variable Oystercatcher, Banded Dotterel and with some good spotting from the group a Whimbrel, also NZ Fur Seals and White-fronted Terns. Then it was over the hill to South Bay to climb aboard the boat for our seabird pelagic. South Bay lacks a suitable all-weather harbour so boats are brought ashore in between trips. Out on the bay we saw a good range of birds, the endemic Hutton’s Shearwaters closer to shore, then Salvin’s, White-capped, Gibson’s, Antipodean and Northern Royal Albatross; a lovely Black-browed close to the boat; White-chinned, Westland Black and Cape Petrels, both Giant Petrels and Sooty Shearwater. Our skipper Alistair was very enthusiastic and made sure we were well aware of the dangers seabirds (especially albatrosses) face offshore through errant fishing practices. Dinner was at the White Morph Restaurant.
Day 9 – Saturday 13th Nov
An early-bird seabird pelagic for most followed by breakfast at the Oceanwings/Dolphin Encounter café. Linda opted to do the early whale trip and when she came back beaming we were able to judge pretty quickly that her dream trip had been a huge success. Once we were all together it was on the road north to Blenheim and Picton, with brief stops along the coast on the way. At Picton we were booked for another boat trip at 1.30PM, this time out on Queen Charlotte Sound. We had lunch at a café on the Picton waterfront, before finding out our regular boat was out of action. This meant we had to transfer to the marina at nearby Waikawa Bay to pick up “Playmate” for the trip. We spotted Californian Quail as we drove into the parking area beside the marina. Out on the water we saw King Shag, Pomarine Skua, Blue Penguin and Australasian Gannet, also Bottle-nosed and Dusky Dolphins before we reached Motuora Island. On the island we saw NZ Robin, NZ Pigeon, Bellbird and Tui but missed the South Island Saddleback. Time was against us getting out to the White Rocks where the King Shags have a small colony, but we did see more on the way back up Queen Charlotte Sound. After a brief stop to refuel it was back on the road for the two and half hour early evening drive up the Wairau River Valley to Lake Rotoiti and our accommodation. We flashed past the many vineyards of NZ’s largest winegrowing region (Marlborough), and looked forward to wine with dinner that night. We stayed at Alpine Lodge in St Arnaud.
Day 10 - Sunday 14th Nov
An early morning walk in the beech forest beside Lake Rotoiti, a lovely loop track through part of the mainland island project established to further protect key forest species, especially the Kaka which we saw. There was a lot of talk about Lord of the Rings; the forest was full of reminders. After breakfast we drove to the lookout overlooking the lake before heading down the Buller River Valley to the West Coast. At Westport we picked up some lunch and headed to Cape Farewell, where Weka joined us at our picnic site. We reached Punakaiki and our accommodation (Paparoa Park Motel) mid afternoon. Our walk to the Pancake Rocks was a blustery affair but we managed to see Hector’s Dolphins, White-fronted Terns, Spotted Shags and probably Sooty Shearwaters/Westland Black Petrels out at sea. We drove up Bullock Creek after dinner in a light rain, and saw Weka and Brush-tailed Possum. We heard (but didn’t see) Great Spotted Kiwi (and Morepork) while walking two trails, one in forest the other through scrublands.
Day 11 – Monday 15th Nov
Not far to go today as we were staying at Franz Josef Glacier. We stopped for gas at Greymouth then at Hokitika for the Jade Factory and souvenir shops. At Whataroa we hooked up with White Heron Tours for their jet boat ride down the Waitangitaona River to the coast. First we enjoyed lunch on their dock in the sun spying a convenient NZ Pipit on the river bank and Tomtit in the trees behind us. Then it was off at tearaway speed, skimming down the shallow rapids down river to the mouth and coast before turning back up another stream (the Waitangiroto River) into the heart of the rain forest. Superb tall swamp Kahikatea forest – the colony of Great Egret, Royal Spoonbill and Little Shag. We also saw green hooded orchids beside the boardwalk. Once back on the road we made a quick trip down to Okarito Lagoon before driving through to our accommodation (Rainforest Retreat) at Franz Josef Glacier. After dinner we headed back out again to try for our third kiwi, the newly separated species Okarito Brown Kiwi. It was windy with light rain (again). We were not overly optimistic and after about an hour’s listening had heard nothing. It really was down to one last try when we were rewarded by first a female calling right beside the road (with everyone scrambling out of the wagon – there were only two of us hardy souls outside) then two males. We had superb views of one female calling right in front of us and one of the males crossing the road to join her!
Day 12 – Tuesday 16th Nov
An early start as we wanted breakfast at Fox Glacier (Café Neve) and a quick visit to the glacier itself. Then back on the road and heading south with a brief stop at Bruce Bay (to wave watch and enjoy the wild beach) to check in at Lake Moeraki Lodge and to have lunch. In the afternoon we headed south first to Ship Creek where we saw Hector’s Dolphins from the beach. We tried for South Island Fernbird there but with no luck. We also did the forest scramble down to Murphy’s Beach where there is a large colony of Fiordland Crested Penguins. We had superb views of birds coming both ways, some swimming down the stream that flows into the pool to the beach, through the pool and across the beach to the sea. We could also watch others coming out of the sea. A young NZ Fur Seal on the beach quite close to us dozed most of the time we were there, but suddenly came to life and chased a couple of the incoming penguins back into the surf. We had an enjoyable dinner at this lovely lodge.
Day 13 – Wednesday 17th Nov
Today we continued south to Haast first making a stop just south of Ship Creek at a promising wetland area for Fernbird and were rewarded with several coming very close. At Haast the road turns inland and towards the mountains. It’s a spectacular route and we made several stops en route for photos. At the Haast Pass itself we did a walk in the forest for great views of Long-tailed Cuckoo, Rifleman and Brown Creeper on the old Bridle Trail, the original route. Then down the Makarora Valley with a stop for lunch at the roadside café, past Lakes Wanaka and Hawea through to Tarras before driving over Lindis Pass to the MacKenzie Basin.. Near Omarama we did a walk on the dry side (the rain shadow effect of the Southern Alps means the rainfall drops from 250ins on the West Coast where we’d been to just 20ins in the MacKenzie Basin, a mere 30 miles or so away. The lupins were in full flower on the Ahuriri River making a very colourful scene (more photos) and although we didn’t see any Black Stilts or Wrybill we did pick up breeding Banded Dotterel, Pied Stilt, South Island Pied Oystercatcher and Black-fronted Tern. We stayed at MacKenzie Country Inn in Twizel.
Day 14 – Thursday 18th Nov
A fairly early start along the shores of Lake Pukaki to the Tasman Valley and a walk out onto the wide braided river flats. It was a fantastic morning with Mount Cook a superb backdrop to some very good birding: Black Stilt, Wrybill (including two gorgeous chicks), and Banded Dotterel with chicks of varying sizes, Pied Stilt, South Island Pied Oystercatcher, Black-fronted Dotterel, Black-fronted Tern, Canada Geese, Paradise Shelduck. All the goodies you’d hope to find on these inland South Island east-draining river beds. At Mount Cook National Park we went for a walk to the lookout overlooking the Mueller Glacier and the climber’s memorial for views of Mount Cook itself. We returned to Twizel, picked up lunches for a picnic at Lake Benmore where we saw Great Crested Grebe, Australasian Coot, Paradise Shelduck and NZ Scaup. Our attempt for Marsh Crake (which are amongst the willows here) was thwarted by the loss of the tape. We headed down the Waitaki Valley to Oamaru a little earlier than expected. We stopped at Moeraki for afternoon tea at Fleur’s Pace overlooking the bay and the fishing boats. An hour or so later we reached Dunedin and drove out to Harington Point on the Otago Peninsula and our motel. At nearby Taiaroa Head we went for a walk to the cliff-edge near the carpark: great views of Royal Albatross, White-capped Albatross, Sooty Shearwater, Stewart Island and Spotted Shags, all breeding on the headland. We heard a Blue Penguin. We stayed at Harington Point Motel very near the end of the Otago Peninsula. We had dinner at the 1908 café in Portobello.
Day 15 – Friday 19th Nov
An easy start this morning where everyone “mucked in” for breakfast in the leader’s cottage, much to the amusement of Marie, the motel owner. All great entertainment and a fine spread of bacon & eggs and cereals with fruit. We drove into Dunedin via the Peninsula’s inlets and the ‘high road’ for a 3 hour visit to the Otago Museum. Most of the time was spent looking at the fine collections on display at the Southern Land, Southern People Gallery – NZ’s extinct fauna stretching right back past the moa, giant eagle and adzebill (giant rails) to fossils of penguins, ancient whales and plesiosaurs. Everyone had the chance to look at some of the other exhibitions as well including the Sir Edmund Hilary show, plus spending time (and money) in the Museum shop or putting digital images on disk at a photo shop. We took our lunch back out to the Otago Peninsula, and ate it at the motel. Then we headed once again to Taiaroa Head for more cliff top sea watching. We picked up the main species as well as a solitary Hutton’s Shearwater down below the cliffs. On the Monarch cruise out under Taiaroa Head, we got excellent views of the large Stewart Island Shag colony, Yellow-eyed Penguin on the rocks, Fur Seals, Royal Spoonbills and of course the Royal Albatrosses. We joined an Elm Wildlife Tour (local operator) to Papanui Beach near Cape Saunders the Otago Peninsula’s eastern-most headland. This operator has access to a private beach, a beautiful remote setting. We saw NZ Sea Lions and also a Leopard Seal. The latter looking very emaciated however it still managed to affect a certain menace, Black-backed Gulls hung around very vulture-like waiting for the inevitable. We saw Variable Oystercatcher chicks on the beach, scurrying into the dunes. And of course Yellow-eyed Penguins which are the main feature here returning from the sea to feed young chicks. Some chicks could be seen close to the track or through remote cameras. Although it was quite late when we headed back we still managed to get a meal at the Portobello Pub, superb fish and chips with the local brews and wine.
Day 16 – Saturday 20th Nov
After driving back into the city and a slow pass past Carisbrook Ground (home of Otago rugby and cricket) we headed south to Invercargill via Balclutha and the Catlins. From the road leading up to the car park at Nugget Point we saw a Yellow-eyed Penguin under a tree. We managed the walk out to spectacular headland and the lighthouse before the rain swept in. Stopped at Owaka for lunch at the diner. At Lake Wilkie we went for a walk through the dripping tall podocarp forest down to the lake. The weather cleared a little as we drove through the rest of the Catlins. A highlight was the flock of 15 pigeons that burst out of the flowering broom on the side of the road and over the bus. We stopped to see where they’d gone and spied them settled en masse on a dead tree. At Curio Bay we spent some time looking at the fossil trees in the wave-cut platform then looking for Hector’s Dolphin at nearby Porpoise Bay. We drove up to the headland (breezy) overlooking the bay and out to sea (our first look at Foveaux Strait and Sooty Shearwaters flying past) then back on the road to Fortrose. There was little to see in terms of waders at the Mataura Estuary (Fortrose) so we tried the Waituna Wetlands near the coast, very strong winds. Small groups of waders were huddled behind sedges and rushes. However, heading in and out we saw flocks of Redpoll, Yellowhammers, Goldfinches and House Sparrows on freshly ploughed paddocks and roadside verges. Some of the Redpolls were in brilliant breeding plumage – a stunning crimson. We stayed at the Ascot Park Hotel complex, on the edge of Invercargill in the motel units.
Day 17 – Sunday 21st Nov
Drove from Ascot Park to Bluff where we caught the ferry. Met up with a Kiwi Wildlife group and their leaders coming back from Stewart Island, they’d seen Mottled Petrel on the crossing. Sure enough, not far out from Bluff Heads we picked up some of these beautiful Pterodromas: also White-capped Albatross, Fairy Prion, Common Diving Petrel and Sooty Shearwaters. After checking in at the Bay Motel we grabbed our lunches then headed over to Ulva Island for some excellent birdwatching with Stewart Island Weka, raucous Kaka, Stewart Island Robin, Tomtit, Brown Creeper, Red-crowned Parakeet and Saddleback including a ‘Jackbird’ (juv saddleback) feeding on huhu beetle larvae. After an early dinner at the South Sea Hotel we headed for the wharf for the kiwi trip with Philip Smith, a local tour operator. First the 30 min boat ride to Glory Bay and the little wharf where we waited for darkness. After landing we scrambled over the trail to Ocean Beach, and a fair bit of walking before watching a Stewart Island Kiwi feeding amongst the kelp on the beach. In the end we left it (still feeding quietly) and headed home.
Day 18 – Monday 22nd Nov
After the late night we opted for a 9AM start for our pelagic. We cruised out from Halfmoon Bay to the Northern Muttonbird Islands (Jacky Lee, Bunker and Kanetetoe) for Brown Skua and many NZ Fur Seals, also some chumming further out where we picked up White-capped and Salvin’s Albatross, Cape Petrel and Sooty Shearwaters. Then saw Fairy Prions, Diving Petrel and Northern Giant Petrel on the run to Wreck Reef off Stewart Island’s East Cape. We headed in to Port Adventure and anchored for lunch. Did a nice little meander in the inflatable up Heron Creek then saw several groups of penguins, both Fiordland Crested and Blue before leaving Port Adventure.
Day 19 – Tuesday 23rd Nov
After an early breakfast in our rooms, we caught the 8AM ferry to Bluff. Didn’t see many birds on the return journey, and the weather had deteriorated. Picked up our bus then drove in to Invercargill to visit the Southland Museum, a chance to view Tuatara and the Subantarctic Exhibition. Then on to Riverton where we stopped beside the Aparima Estuary. Waders were on the high tide roost - mostly Eastern-bar-tailed Godwits, Variable Oystercatchers and Pied Stilts plus a group of over 40 Turnstones. Also Royal Spoonbills further out. After a brief rest stop at Tuatapere (so-called NZ’s Sausage Capital) we headed for Lake Hauroko. It was a drizzly day (we ate our picnic lunch in the minibus) however we still managed a walk in forest along the lakeshore, then on through Manapouri to Te Anau and time out.
Day 20 – Wednesday 24th Nov
Fairly early start with the drive through to Milford Sound via the Eglington, Hollyford and Cleddau Valleys. We made stops at Knobs Flat to try for NZ Falcon and did a walk into beech forest at Smithies Creek to follow up on a report for Yellowhead. While we couldn’t confirm it we did get good views Brown Creeper, Fantail and Yellow-crowned Parakeet. At the Hollyford lookout we added Kea along with the stunning views down valley. Then at Homer Tunnel Nature Walk found Rock Wren and Kea (again). We had lunch near the river in the Gertrude Valley and tried to walk up valley to see the alpine flowers, however too much water in the river made it impossible to get very far upstream. We did see a dead baby hare on the track walking back. After driving through the tunnel we got nice sightings of Brown Creeper on the Chasm walk next to the bridge. We checked in at the terminal in Milford for our overnight cruise at 4PM and departed half an hour later. Milford turned it on with great contrasts between one day and the next. Fiordland Crested Penguins were the highlight of this trip and we saw them at their colony at Harrison’s Cove. Not many other birds but the scenery was sublime.
Day 21 – Thursday 25th Nov
In the morning everyone (except Chris) opted for the Underwater Observatory, a great way to appreciate Fiordland’s very special underwater environment. Chris had all the gear from the boat safely loaded by the time the team arrived back at the terminal. A wet drizzly day which turned to snow at the tunnel. We spent a bit of time at the nature walk with snow swirling before calling it quits and headed for the walk up to Marion Creek, a lovely walk through moss and fern-draped forest to a gantry overlooking a fine cascade. We stopped in Te Anau for lunch and then the DOC Visitor Centre to buy books and cards. The drive through to Queenstown was pretty uneventful; however spotting a NZ Falcon at dinner at our hotel was quite neat. It flew out from the trees below then circled back over the building.
Day 22 – Friday 26th Nov
Our last full day on tour. In the morning we woke to find snow almost down to lake level: a superb sight, and rather unusual for late November (which is supposed to be early summer). We stopped for pictures on the drive up Lake Wakatipu. We stopped in Glenorchy to pick up a coffee before crossing the Dart River and heading to the Routeburn Valley. We did the walk to Lake Sylvan before doing the Double-barrel Falls walk where we got more good views of Rifleman at close range and a Yellow-crowned Parakeet feeding on Astelia berries close to the track. The snow was still on the trees higher up the valley sides when we got to the end of the road, although the sun was shining and we found Yellowhead on the edge of the clearing behind the shelter. We also saw a wild cat on road leading to the Routeburn road end. Lunch at Glenorchy, before heading back to the hotel for a brief stop. On the drive along the lake we got Australasian Coot and Great Crested Grebe. At Arrowtown we went for a walk up the Arrow River before dinner, and were treated to some superb views of a pair of (possibly three) NZ Falcons. Although a bit late to do any shopping, we had our last dinner at Ancient Briton pub. The cricket on the TV was much to Pauline’s satisfaction, if not the locals (kiwis).
Day 23 - Saturday 27th Nov
The homeward journey started at Queenstown Airport and those flying back to the UK all the way with Air New Zealand were relieved to be able to check their bags through to Heathrow. Six of us flew to Auckland, and Marcia and Jeff headed for Christchurch separately before flying on to Aussie.
Chris Gaskin (Tour Leader)