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Rock Wren return to Rob Roy

We decided to take a day away from office and head up into Mt Aspiring National Park to hike New Zealand's most varied one-day hike to Rob Roy Glacier.   I had family in town, it was a perfect early spring day, clear and blue with a hint of summer warmth in the air plus I had not been there for nearly 10 years. 

Throughout the journey to Raspberry Creek we passed countless brown boxes on the road side. Boxes we know very well, inside which contain stoat traps. These boxes are lovingly attended to by the the dedicated volunteers from the The Matukituki Charitable Trust with the simple aim of bringing native birdlife back into the Matukituki Valley.     

We know them well as we assist with maintaining 22 of these traps on West Wanaka Station as part of our 4WD safari operation.

I was eager to get back into the heart of the Matukituki Valley to see for myself if the project was working.  

The climb through the beech forest was just as I remembered, the roar of the Rob Roy stream far below, the many shades of green of the surrounding bush and then bursting through the bushline to be greeted with the majesty that is the Rob Roy Glacier.

I cast my mind back to the last time I was here sitting on the rocks, guarding my lunch from the cheeky family of kea that were ever present.  My lunch today was unfortunately quite safe.  There hadn't been a family of kea here in years apparently - according to Eco Warrior, Chris Riley from Eco Wanaka Adventures who regularly guides people to this very spot, kea had been virtually wiped out by predators he told me.

As I was sitting in silence I hear a faint tweet that I instantly thought I recognised. That sound took me back to my days guiding on the  Routeburn Track many years ago.  High in the mountains above Lake Harris was the last time I heard that sound.  It couldn't be the same bird could it?  I was thinking of a bird that as far as I knew only lived in rocky outcrops high in the mountains.   If kea could no longer survive here due to predation then surely this little bird that lives on the ground wouldn't have a hope....

My mind was quickly taken by a loud boom above me as an ice-fall came crashing off the face of the Rob Roy Glacier.   When calm was restored I heard the tweet again.  I was even more confident that I was listening to a birdcall from my distant past.  However there would no satisfaction until I could lay eyes on it.   

Like most of my adventures I carry my camera so I crept up through the jumble of rocks , hoping against hope a fairy tale ending was about to play out in front of me.  I would pop my head up, camera at the ready, spy a small green ball of fluff perched on the end of a rock oblivious to my being there and "click" I would get my proof.

Well that is exactly what happened.  I could not believe my eyes. Rock Wren back in the Rob Roy Valley!  

Rock Wren

Little did I know I was in for 3 more surprises.  Firstly this solitary bird all alone on a rock suddenly became 2! And then secondly to my complete astonishment both birds began a ritual that you only associate with spring, they began collecting grass and darting back and forth under a rock that was literally only meters away from me quite obviously building a nest!

I could not believe my eyes.  I was transfixed for what seemed like hours watching 2 of our most endangered native birds preparing a nest literally meters away from oblivious hikers enjoying their lunch gazing in the opposite direction with craned necks toward the glacier in the hope of catching another ice-fall.  

I flicked my camera into video mode to capture the action, not of the glacier but of these little birds flitting in and out of the rocks busily nest building.  All the while I was thinking I cannot wait to spread the news to all the volunteers involved in the Matukituki Charitable Trust, the Matukituki Valley Protection Project and Department of Conservation - Wanaka.  Well done everyone, here's the proof that we are bringing the birds back!!

Oh and the third surprise, well check out this video, turn the volume up and listen, it comes at 24 seconds.........

Posted by: Mak Orbell @ 13:26:32
Mon, 25 September 2017

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