In mid July we left Stewart Island to spend a few days in the small town of Wanaka to celebrate Jules' 50th birthday - OMG! Wanaka is surrounded by snow-capped mountains and sits beside Lake Wanaka but we didn't do any ski-ing, snowboarding, jet ski-ing or parachuting, instead we sat beside the fire and read books like the couple of quinquagenarians that we are.
There's always time for birding and photography and while I wouldn't say Wanaka is a birding hotspot, I regularly see New Zealand Falcon while leading Wrybill Tours here. Wanaka offers the chance to get close to one of my favourite ducks, the New Zealand Scaup. The chocolatey brown females have a smudged white face pattern around the grey bill and the male has a beautiful dark green and purple sheen with a stunning bright yellow eye. The Scaup allowed close approach for a photo or two and the close proximity meant I got to hear their feint whistling call, very similar to Eurasian Wigeon but a lot quieter.
Other notable birds on the lake were Black-billed Gulls, surely the prettiest of New Zealand's three gull species. This inland species, much like most gulls, has the propensity to be attracted to humans with food. Also on the lake was the Australasian Great Crested Grebe (Podiceps cristatus australis) seemingly identical to the European Great Crested Grebe (Podiceps cristatus) except it never goes into winter plumage and is therefore dressed in its finery all year round (a possible split down the line?).
Keeping with the water theme, I recently wrote an article called 'Stewart Island Waders' for UK charity, Wader Quest which was published in their July e-newsletter. If you'd like to support Shorebird conservation and receive the Wader Quest quarterly e-newsletter visit their website
Back on Stewart Island, the mild winter has evolved into a cold winter with bitterly cold southerlies, sleet and snow, and the odd frosty morning requiring a 'defrost' setting on the car.
Work is slowing down but I still lead the occasional guided walk on Ulva Island and the odd day crewing on the Foveaux Express ferry.
August will see me migrate north for a short visit to the UK for the British Birdwatching Fair . If you're going don't forget to visit Stand 45, Marquee 2, See you there...