Up until a couple off months ago I’d not done much in the way of New Zealand native bird photography for awhile, so wanting to visit relatives on the east coast starting from Timaru then proceeding through Oamaru to Dunedin and as I’ve done before I hatched a plan to visit favourite inland places that are quiet and lonely, such as the central lakes Ohau, Pukaki and Tekapo, where I could slowly walk or sit with my camera and wait.
Last time I visited the head of Lake Pukaki I had a marvellous time observing a number of endangered species including the black-fronted tern which live only in New Zealand – they feed on insects, lizards and small fish, and in this photo a few of them demonstrated their skill as low level aviators above the unique glacial blue waters of the Tasman River, which originates just upstream a little in Mt Cook National Park…
However on this trip that began in mid Nov. 2018, the weather changed the game plan – it was about as extreme as you ever get in New Zealand. Relatively speaking there was not a lot of damage fortunately but it played havoc with roads, notably in Central Otago where lots of rain over a short period of time is not the norm., thus as the vegetation is sparse there is no “blotter effect” to hold the water back from draining into rivers instantly, instead run-off is immediate and there-in lies the ingredients for overflowing rivers, landslips and general unusual doings.
In fact since then I’ve never seen our southern inland areas so green – Maniototo farm land..
I’ve posted pictures of the trip on a sister site:
New Zealand’s National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research [NIWA] has just carried out and published their annual aerial glacier survey, and for all sorts of reasons apart from their most experienced glaciologist taking part, and the pilot, a very experienced mountaineer, both being old friends and integral to it’s success, there is my own interest having traversed many glaciers over decades.
In fact looking back many that I tussled with, negotiating crevasses and ‘schrunds etc. have subsequently ceased to exist. A testament to warmer climes!
I took this photo at a similar time of year to the survey – it’s of Mt Cook and Mt Tasman, with the Hochstetter Icefall draining the Grand Plateau, taken from across the Tasman Glacier in Mt Cook National Park but back in about 1975.
Note the horizontal lines – evidence of lateral moraines, at the lower left and right. Well back in the 50s the Tasman Glacier [flowing right to left] was apparently at that level, and this was confirmed in a conversation I once had with the late Mick Bowie, a very famous mountain guide of this era.
Here is the press release and video of the survey, courtesy of NIWA’s web site [and well done Andy and Trevor]:
NIWA has carried out aerial surveys of over 50 of the South Island’s glaciers every year for more than four decades. The survey’s record the snowline on the glaciers at the end of each summer and provide a time line of glacier-climate interaction stretching back to 1977. Look at the results of the 2018 survey – carried out after New Zealand’s warmest summer on record.
Above left: One of the pair of black stilt/kakī that were recently sighted – the left bird is the more common pied stilt. Photo credit DOC
This is pretty exciting and it rather amazes me that these birds have crossed the Southern Alps at presumably their highest point across Aoraki Mt Cook National Park, flying presumably against the predominant westerly winds and at considerable altitude that would average 2500 meters
A pair of New Zealand’s rarest birds the Kakī / black stilt has been sighted on the West Coast and DOC staff are asking the public to report further sightings.
The two kakī were spotted by a farmer on a dairy farm in the Arahura Valley. The farmer suspected they were rare and reported the sighting to the dept of Conservation, who confirmed the birds were black stilt/kakī.
Kakī are critically endangered, with less than 100 adult birds in the wild. Once common throughout New Zealand, kakī are now found on the braided rivers and wetlands of the Mackenzie Basin
This is an excellent summation by photographer Colin Monteath of hedgehoghouse.com of what man-made accelerated climate change is doing to our largest mountains, glaciers and huts around the Aoraki Mt Cook National Park.
Trevor and wife Barbara live nearby and it’s been a privilege to re-acquaint recently over a cup of tea, and share here some of Trevor’s knowledge…
Kathryn Ryan speaks to glaciologist Trevor Chinn on the rapid shrinkage of the country’s glaciers. Over four decades Dr Trevor Chinn has photographed all of the South Islands glaciers, of which there are more than 3,000 as part of a world glacier inventory project.The central Southern Alps has lost a quarter of its ice in recent decades and stands to lose another 50 to 60 percent. The issue has been discussed this week at the Sustainable Summits conference at Mt Cook.