I packed so much into the last week or so that it felt like much longer! A long-planned reunion in Dunedin combined with the BirdsNZ conference in Te Anau made for a great week of photography, birds, and general shenanigans (like jumping in Lake Te Anau at 7am while the air temperature flirts with 0°C). It was good to get out of the office, out of Auckland, and stretch my photography muscles again. It was even better to have a stellar few days in Dunedin with that bunch of nerds in the photo above (myself included).
Highlights of the trip were two stunning afternoons with Monarch Wildlife Cruises, out through the mouth of Otago Harbour, past Taiaroa Head to see albatross skimming the fringes of the Southern Ocean. Back on a rolling swell with seabirds hanging in the sea breeze had me instantly in my happy place. I think I got a few neat photos as well – more of them to come in later posts. I’m dying to go on a longer pelagic trip with them! If only flights to Dunedin weren’t so pricey…
The Otago Museum is well worth a visit (or two), with great permanent exhibits and a tropical house full of butterflies. It’s 10/10 the best way to escape the chilly air of Dunedin in winter.
And then on to Te Anau, where I spent two days enjoying and live-tweeting (how appropriate) the BirdsNZ Conference. The talks were stellar, but it was difficult to sit inside all day with the Murchison Mountains looking stunning just across the lake! One day soon I’m heading to Fiordland to do some proper exploring…. but in the mean time I contented myself with staying up late to photograph the stars.
Always on my mind is the Aurora. Literally the night before I flew down to Dunedin there was an unexpectedly brilliant display, which had petered out entirely by the time I arrived, and then the clouds closed in for most of the rest of the week. Thwarted again… When I do finally get to see it, it will be all the more special!
The conference ended with field-trips on Monday, and I was part of the group that headed out to pest-free Pomona Island in Lake Manapouri. What a day! The whole island is glorious, with vibrant beech forest carpeted by moss several feet deep, full of hopping South Island robins, the canopy alive with Mohua and Rifleman. It was my first time seeing Mohua, a bird I’ve been wanting to see since I was very young – and a perfect end to a great weekend of talks about New Zealand’s great diversity of birdlife.
I had a day in Dunedin before my flight home, and Monarch just happened to have a half-price deal on their afternoon wildlife cruise, and well…you know me. Nat and I had another glorious hour on the water, this time with even less wind! Bad weather for albatross, supposedly, but we still saw plenty. Less than three hours later and I was wedged back into a window seat, flying back to Auckland. It felt surreal. Arriving in a relatively warm and humid Auckland was a shock to the system after a week of cold southern air. But what great memories! And now…back to work.