Glenorchy & Arrowtown (Nov 14-15)

Lake Wakatipu on the way to north to Glenorchy
Sunday morning we headed out in search of the New Zealand Falcon nesting site we'd heard about a few days earlier. The entire area north of Queenstown is stunning, as the road follows along the northern arm of Lake Wakatipu with Mount Earnslaw pointing the way ahead. The road splits north of Glenorchy and if you go left, after crossing the northern headwaters of Lake Wakatipu, the road turns south again into the Kowhai Bush Scenic Reserve toward Kinloch.

Click here for larger images with captions.

New Zealand Falcon
This is the direction we headed to see falcons, about a one hour's drive out of Queenstown. "Third stream on the right, and don't go into the bush because there are hunters" were our only directions. But we didn't need to search because sure enough we immediately saw a falcon sitting in a large dead tree right from our car. Mike walked over the roadside ditch to take photos. Moving in just a bit closer, he was dive-bombed by not one but two of the falcons at a distance of about 8 feet! Wow, close enough to hear their wings. Though he couldn't see their nest, he was clearly too close to it, so he retreated a wee bit and they relaxed, posing majestically for photos. After a reasonable amount of time we left the birds to their parenting duties.

Down the gravel road to the north is the start of the famous Routeburn Track which leads to Milford Sound. We did the start of the Track via the nature walk, where we hoped to see Yellowheads, as this area contains 25% of their population. We saw many birds, but they were difficult to photograph in the deep shady bush. We're sure of sighting Yellow-crowned Parakeets and Yellowheads, also saw a group of Riflemen in better light foraging for insects on the big trees' bark.

After a quick trip back to Glenorchy for lunch we headed north again and this time stayed to the right in order to drive the road to Paradise. Besides a dot on the map, Paradise seems to only be a paradise for puns. But past Paradise is the start of the Dart-Rees Track and the Chinaman's Bluff walk, if you're game to drive the unsealed road and ford several streams. Mike tested Susan's comfort zone in our little afternoon adventure drive to the start of the track to Chinaman's Bluff. She had to concede that it was safe, after we passed another couple in a compact car.

Only our calendar drove our decision us to leave the Glenorchy area that afternoon, and we spent the night back in Queenstown.

Australasian crested grebe
We got up early to drive up to Coronet Ski Resort, where we happened to see two more Yellowheads, one right on the road! After taking in the pretty views surrounding Queenstown for the last time, we headed to Arrowtown for breakfast at a cute cafe followed by a stroll through the quaint mining town, this time on a dry day. We left via Lake Hayes, where we watched the waterfowl and especially enjoyed another great showing of Crested Grebes.

We continued via Cromwell ("Fruitbowl of the South") where Susan snagged a chocolate coconut bar for the road while Mike got diesel. Down the road at the glacier lakes we'd seen in October, with low clouds providing uninspiring light for photography, and most of our clothes in the dirty laundry bag, we decided fifteen days was long enough to be gone and headed "home" for Blenheim.

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