Ulva Island (Te Wharawhara) ecosanctuary - New Zealand

As I said in my brief introduction, a birder really needs to visit the eco-sanctuaries around New Zealand if land-birds are to be seen (and heard). This is because most species have been decimated by introduced predators elsewhere. The people of these islands are to be congratulated and admired for the effort and money put into halting (and we must hope, reversing) the dreadful plummet to extinction that was faced by so many iconic birds....

ULVA ISLAND in one such eco-sanctuary that needs to be on the `must-goto` list of any visiting birder. Being an open island sanctuary it is unusual as most island sanctuaries are not open to the public for obvious reasons. It is the largest of several small islands situated in Paterson Inlet of Stewart Island at the extreme southern ens of New Zealand`s South Island. We reached the island by using the ferry from Invercargill to Stewart Island and then the water-taxi to Ulva. Be warned that some careful planning and pre-booking is needed if you are to ensure the required 4 or 5 hours on Ulva itself. Next time we will probably stay on Stewart Island itself for a few nights as the walking there is more productive (with kiwi at their most easily viewed due to there SEMI nocturnal behavior) than Invercargill. Note that this would be a more expensive option regarding hotels though.

It is worth buying the guide book - cheaper if bought on the island - this will allow a planned hike along all of the paths SLOWLY and QUIETLY to see all that is to offer. Do NOT be tempted to sign-up for a ranger-tour as this would not allow enough time for photography. Don`t worry, all the normal tricks for seeing birds in a British woodland will work here - any movement by the path under the ferns will be a weka....

And that huge bird that nearly took your head off as it flew up the path was a kaka.... 

And that robin-like bird is a robin.... You get lots of pictures of those!

The beaches are worth carefully searching from end to end - look into the little gaps where undergrowth reaches the sand as that is where the Stewart Island Wekas will be; terns, shags and both species of oystercatchers will be present as well; the HUGE seabird off-shore is an albatross..... 

Yellowheads, Brown Creepers and Grey Warblers are much more difficult to spot - and expect to use maximum ASA values under the trees.
 
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Yellowhead.
Shoot RAW and be prepared to spend some time processing; fill-flash proved very useful as well: the birds are not affected at all by flash. 
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Stewart Island Weka.
Finally, the trip back from Stewart Island to the mainland can yield great views of albatross, so don`t rest too soon. Look out for fishing boats as you leave the harbour as they may have these amazing birds clustered around them; we were treated to several birds following our (fast) boat from the island for at least 20 minutes. You do need sea-legs to get the shot though!
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White-Capped Mollymawk.

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