Sunday, November 30, 2008

A thought provoking week of bird survey work and another mountain accident

After waiting for good settled weather for almost a month, finally mid last week I was off on a two day braided riverbed bird survey as a volunteer for DOC. This is an annual event I really look forward too and this year the river was the Matukituki that drains all the eastern slopes of Mt Aspiring.

A handful of us spread out across the braids and then walked downstream for about 30 Kms recording every bird we saw ahead of us. It's a physically demanding job, peppered with the need to cross and re-cross many of the branches and sometimes even the main flow, deal with the relentless reflected heat from the riverbed, very nasty quicksand [actually gravel over glacial silt], and any wind that is about.

Because we were a month late our survey coincided more with the juvenile stage of the large and prolific [Southern Hemisphere] Black Back Gull. This species seems to be on the increase and this is probably to the detriment of the increasingly rare Black Fronted Tern. Our course took us through several of the gull colonies and so we saw some chics...

These riverbeds are very raw, but they also have amazing landscape perspectives - we had this view of Mt Avalanche [centre] and Mt Aspiring [behind on the right] over our shoulders for two days. Little did I realise though, as I gazed often indulging my passion for panorama landscape photography, that a tragedy was unfolding: two of my client friends were on the classic South West Ridge, and one of them fell to his death on Thurs. The top of the ridge can be seen here in profile just to the left of Aspiring's summit...

The NZ Herald has the nicest article honouring John - one of the best "top drawer" people I've ever met. My sympathies go out to Meg and his family.

This is myself in full kit on the right complete with sun hat, binos, clipboard and a ski pole [to help with river crossings]. We also carry radios so we can check any duplication of sightings as we travel...

Black Back Gull chics in conference with attendant parents overhead [not seen here] making quite a racket [it's best to not look up!]...

On this survey we noted quite a delightful increase in Banded Dotterels. Although nesting was over for this spring, I took this photo of a protective parent last year...

Also early last week, before the survey, there was lots of bad weather with accompanying high rainfall which filled Lake Wanaka to the brim, and also made our survey river crossings much more difficult. It would also have swept away many chics and nests, and this has given me much to think about re. the dynamic nature of survival! However we noted decreases and increases, another of the latter being the ethereal and beautiful Pied Stilt [I've yet to capture on the camera]

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Blogger Shirley Goodwin said...

Our mountains are so dangerous. We are fortunate to have such great S&R teams.

Sorry I haven't been visiting your blog lately, just too much stuff going on here that I have to deal with.

November 30, 2008 at 6:34 PM  
Blogger Deirdre said...

Who are the others in the photo with you?
Great photos.
Didn't realize that there were so many birds for you to record

December 1, 2008 at 3:32 PM  
Blogger Donald said...

The others in the photo are Ed and Amy - two local DOC people

December 1, 2008 at 3:38 PM  

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