Last part of the voyage home, from Christchurch to Arthurs Pass. I stayed at the Mountain House Backpackers as I always do, where I had a dorm room to myself. The bus gets into Arthurs Pass Village at about 9.30 am so you’ve got the whole day there even if only staying overnight. I headed off up the Bridal Veil track which leads through forest almost all the way to the top of the pass. Curiously there were no kea around the village so the first bird to add to the year list today was a tomtit just at the entrance to the forest. I saw a kea in the forest a little while later, but no brown creepers or riflemen which were the other two bush birds I was after. I’d be coming back down the same way however, so after leaving the forest I walked on up the road towards the top.
Apart for forest birds I was also searching for rock wrens and blue ducks. For the rock wrens I normally go up the Otira Valley but this time I tried the Temple Basin track for the first time. It is quite a lot steeper
Chamois (Rupicapra rupicapra)
long shot: two chamois almost in the centre of the photo on the scree.
and rougher than the Otira track! I didn’t find any rock wrens up there but as I went higher and higher (the clouds were below me!) I figured I may as well look out for chamois, and to my complete and utter surprise I found a pair of them on an opposite slope, picking their way across a scree. I hadn’t seen a “new” mammal since quokka in 2011 so I was very pleased. I turned back around when I reached the ski huts and went back down to the road, and then continued on to the top of the pass.
The blue duck pair which live at the pass are usually in Pegleg Creek which flows into the Otira River. They are a bit hit-and-miss because it just depends on whether they are somewhere visible when you get there. This time I didn’t even need to go all the way to Pegleg Creek. I came over the top of the pass, looked down from the road to the Otira River with my binoculars, and the ducks were sitting on a rock in the middle. There was no easy way to get closer to where they were
Chamois (Rupicapra rupicapra)
crop from one of the longer shots. Two chamois, heading away from the camera.
so I just watched them from where I was until I got too cold. Unusually, at the top of the pass I also came across a group of five grey ducks on a little tarn. I’ve never seen any ducks up there before. It’s pretty hard to find a pure grey duck in New Zealand due to all the hybridisation with mallards, but these looked as pure as they could possibly be. They were all gone when I returned from seeing the blue ducks so I guess they were just having a quick break from flying over the mountains.
A bit further down I happened across a flock of brown creepers by the roadside – awesome wee birds they are! – and then back in the forest on the Bridal Veil track I briefly spied out a male rifleman. So that was that; apart for rock wren and fernbird (which I heard a couple of times but couldn’t see) I’d seen all the Arthurs Pass birds I was after that day, and
I saw some chamois! A good last day of the trip.
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