8-12-2004

While boarding the ferry we met the German birder Christian Dieter and his
girlfriend. Together we tried to make something out of the rough weather while going to
Stewart Island. And rough it was, half the boat was sick and it didn’t result in spectacular
seabirds. We arrived in Oban just before noon where we first checked in at the (prior
arranged) Shearwater Inn/Stewart Island Backpackers (NZ $ 60,- a night for a small
room) and after that we contacted Phillip Smith (phone: 03 2191144) for the Kiwi
excursion. But Phillip had bad news: slim chance that the excursion could go on because
the gale force winds wouldn’t allow for a drop off at the beach on the other side of the
island. After this deception Christian and I decided to ignore the bad weather and pay a
visit to Ulva Island, the major bird attraction of Stewart Island. The strong wind topped
off most bird activity but we found some good ones anyway: Weka (Gallirallus australis
scotti, Weka), Pipipi/Brown Warbler (Mohoua novaeseelandiae, Finschia) and
Yellowhead (Mohoua ochrocephala, Mohua) and we even were able to keep it dry.
In the evening we had the final word on the Kiwi excursion: it was a no-go. To make
some use of our time we walked up to Ackers Point (about 4 km walk from Oban) and
watched the seabirds while waiting for the dark to have a change for Kiwi that has been
reported around Ackers Point. Great to see was the only Buller’s Albatross
(Thalassarche bulleri, Bullers Albatross) of the trip among the more common NZ Shy
and Salvins Albatrosses. At night the spooky sound of the Sooty Shearwater (Puffinus
griseus, Grauwe Pijlstormvogel) arriving at their breeding sites around the Point was nice
but not a single Kiwi to be heard, let alone see. And of course it rained and we got wet
but what else is new…