Saturday, February 18, 2017

Stewart Island - New Zealand

[This isn't exactly backcountry, but is a way for us to share our adventures with friends. Text by Susan, photos by Bob]

Google Map Link

Stewart Island. January 2-3, 2017

The beach at Stewart Island
We spent a couple days on Stewart Island, well at least we slept there. We spent an afternoon and morning on Ulva Island, a small island off Stewart Island reachable by water taxis. Ulva Island’s attraction is native New Zealand land birds and it didn't disappoint. New Zealand's land bird are in trouble due to introduced predators-- stoats, cats, rats, and dogs. Ulva Island has been cleared of these predators and it is possible to see saddlebags, robins, tomtits, bellbirds, yellowheads and riflebirds. We ticked all the land bird natives on the island and had lovely views of them. 

Hotel at the tiny town of Ovan, Stewart Island

Cruising to Kiwi location
We also did a night trip and tried for kiwi on a remote part of Stewart Island.  We didn't see them. So disappointed. Our kiwi guide worked so hard, but the conditions were awful with very high wind. Got back at 2 am. 

Introduced Eurasian Blackbird

At 5:06am the next morning the introduced song thrush started singing. Three hours sleep - awesome. But up and at 'em. We went back to Ulva Island and it was great. The birds were very active. We added a couple new species and had very nice looks of 2/3 of the species at Boulder Beach.

Birding around Town. Kiwi Xing.
In the afternoon we did a walk about town, Ovan on Stewart Island, and turned up a couple more introduced species. New Zealand is full of birds brought in from other counties, mainly Britain, and in places with predators that is about all you will see.

We had another chance to try for kiwis this evening. This time it was magical. It started with two kiwis when we very barely off the boat. One jumped down onto the trail and foraged right in front of us. Then another one popped out of the bush, again feeding at our feet. Later we heard another two, this time a male and female calling back and forth to each other. The males and females have different calls, so it is easy to tell them apart. Later we saw a third bird, feeding less than two feet away. This bird was so close we could hear it snort sand out of its nose. They do this to clear their nostrils as they use their highly developed sense of smell to find food. Magical, and totally worth another night of minimal sleep. White lights and flash photography are strictly prohibited, so no photos.

A dozing Southern Boobook (or Morepork)

New Zealand Fantail

New Zealand (South Island) Robin


Pipipi (Brown Creeper)

Red-crowned Parakeet


Variable Oystercatcher


Weka can be really tame
Weka can be really, really tame

Beech at Ulva Island


  1. Loved this! Read every word. You saw cool birds.

  2. I remember being quite taken with the Wagtails. The Weka looks like a bird on a mission. What fun, going between your feet. So nice to see your great bird photos and hear about your adventures. Could the Robin and Tomtit be any cuter?