Audacity is a trait shared by many New Zealand birds. Here, humans are not just tolerated, but often chased, scrutinized and sometimes hassled—a specialty of red-billed gulls who snatch food off people’s plates at restaurants. Species as different as keas, wekas and fantails (Rhipidura fuliginosa) all share this temerity and insatiable curiosity. Birds introduced from Europe are shy in comparison, save around campsites and touristy areas where they behave like natives.
Lake Rotoroa in the Tasman region (click on map to enlarge)
Coming from Europe, this remarkable confidence never ceases to amaze me, and my recent interaction with fantails in Nelson Lakes National Park taught me it has virtually no limit. Many fantails have crossed my path since I arrived in New Zealand—the species has well adapted Continue reading
Fith instar caterpillar on milkweed. Credit: Yalakom
Monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) are famous for the epic annual fall migration they undertake to Mexico and Southern California. What is little known is that their range extends beyond North America to the Pacific, as far south as New Zealand. North American and New Zealand monarchs are the same species, so biologists believe that Continue reading
Queenstown, New Zealand, viewed from the Gondola lookout. Credit: Yalakom
If you are a nature and bird enthusiast, do not expect too much of Queenstown (Otago, South Island). Too vibrant for its own good, this transient town offers spectacular vistas, but is oddly crowded and congested. Queenstown boasts of being the “adventure tourism capital of the world”, so visitors come for the adrenaline and the party rather than a genuine nature experience. One does not encounter as much wildlife as can be expected in such a remarkable mountainous setting, and if you seek peace and quiet, look away.
It is in Queenstown, however, that I sighted my first Californian Quails (Callipepla californica). Native of the southwestern United-States, these remarkable birds were introduced as game birds in several countries including New Zealand in 1862. The birds subsequently conquered an extensive range and are nowadays found throughout most of the South and North Islands.
A pair of Californian Quails, male (left) and female (right). Credit: Yalakom
Stevensons Island is a hidden gem of Lake Wanaka. Peace and quiet rule this wild island situated just a short boat ride away from Wanaka township (Otago, South Island). The dense native bush vegetation that covers most of the island attracts many bird species endemic and native to New Zealand. And the easy terrain, short trees and small size of the island makes it a perfect birding ground.
View of Lake Wanaka from Roys Peak (1578m). Stevensons Island lies behind the far right mountain. Credit: Steven Sandner (see his Facebook page for more photographs)
With a surface of 192 km² and depth of 311 m, Lake Wanaka is the fourth largest lake in New Zealand (behind Lake Taupo, Lake Te Anau and Lake Wakatipu). It is fed by the Matukituki and Makarora Rivers and drains into the Clutha River, the second longest and highest volume river in New Zealand. Lake Wanaka lies 300 m above sea level in a U-shaped valley that was carved out through glacial erosion during the last Ice Age, more than 10,000 years ago. There, land and water magnificently Continue reading
A small catch. Credit: Yalakom
Grey herons are excellent fishers. Until now, I only knew this from the many photos I had seen of these birds holding large fishes in their long grey-orange bill. Today, I finally got to see a heron fish with my own eyes. One of them welcomed me on a captivating 2-hour fishing lesson Continue reading
The little water vole looking surprised to see me on the other side of the narrow stream. Credit: Yalakom
Wildlife sometimes lives where you least suspect it. You visit a place for months and see nothing until one day something pops up, seemingly out of nowhere. This little water vole inhabits a stream that I have passed many times without ever noticing it, probably because it moves around quickly Continue reading
Here’s one of the two coal tits (Periparus ater) that currently visit my Parisian bird feeder. The couple often keeps together with the large, conspicuous great tit flock that lives in my garden so I hadn’t noticed them at first.
Standing on a privet branch in front of the feeder. Credit: Yalakom