What a paradise we live in, Rose and I decided to take a short walk before dinner across the river. We live in the edge of the Opawa (Opaoa) river in the Lower Wairau Valley catchment, where we run, on demand kayak tours and have a small eco lodge.
Summer has just arrived in Marlborough and it's great to have the longer days to relax outdoors after work.
We are most fortunate that we have a four hour, loop walking track across the river which boarders the waste water treatment ponds and the Waiau Lagoons. Great places to see birds.
Some of the birds we saw were pied stilts, canadian geese, Australisan shovelers, black swans, spur winged plovers, grey teal, royal spoonbill, kotuku, swallows and curl bunting.
We where over the moon to see a fernbird flutter across our path and spend several minutes peeking out at us from the long grass.
The night was topped off with the call of a shining cuckoo, over from the Solomon Islands to predate the nest of the grey warbler.
Kayaking this week with our lovely guests from the U.K. Jill and Alan in the Wairau Lagoon, a typically shallow tidal wetland, we suddenly realised that we were not alone! No more than ten metres away, up pops the head of a young male leopard seal. This rarely seen marine mammal has recently taken up residence in the lagoon.
We stayed very still so as not to frighten or challenge the seal, waiting for him to retreat as he has done in the past on earlier encounters.
This time he seemed very interested in us and watched us for several minutes, we were blocked from backing away by the shallow lagoon floor.
We are very happy to have Glenn Lambeth join us as senior kayak guide this season. Glenn's considerable experience guiding kayaking groups includes working at Outward Bound, New Zealand's outdoor training and team building specialists.
Glenn joined me on the water to familiarise himself with the unique wildlife and historical features of the Wairau Lagoon.
There was plenty of birds to see including the pied and little cormorants at their nesting colony on Hardings Point, opposite the Wairau Bar. Also flocks of royal spoonbill who seem to be starting to circulate again after their nesting on the islands further south.
We were also very surprised to see the leopard seal which made itself at home at the Lagoon. We thought it was a log but on closer inspection it looked at us!
Glenn suggested we offer a beach cooked meal including cockles gathered from the sand, washed down with a glass of local wine. I am certainly up for trying that!
The spring is here and the warmer weather is enticing us out onto the little river which runs past our home, the Opaoa River. Whitebaiters are out on the riverside trying their luck at catching the Kiwi delicacy whitebait. A tiny fish the size of grass blades, that causes a lot of fuss at this time of year. We met Geoff down river, he had just caught a cup full and his son caught a kilo yesterday.
But what we are really excited to see are the royal spoonbill. They know it is spring too and are wearing their distinctive breeding headdress to attract a mate. They also have a ruby red dot between their eyes and a soft rust colour on their chest. They are out to strut their stuff and we take photos of them as we drift by. We never tire of seeing these remarkable birds close up.
They are the bird on our logo for good reason, they are the most popular bird on our kayaking tours. If you want to see the royal spoonbill you can read more about our kayak tours here. Read more.
If you want to go in the draw to win a free tour share this post on social media at the links below and email us to tell us why you want to meet the spoonbill. Cheers Will and Rose zn.oc.sruotocedoowtfirdnull@ofni 021 62 0030
Will and I LOVE animals of all kinds and our retreat is a busy place with our farm animals and pets. Our visitors love feeding our small herd of alpacas. We have five girls and three boys. They are due to have cria or baby alpaca in the summer.
Our new arrivals are Ginger and Grunter our friendly and greedy Kune Kune pigs. They love people and will wander over to our neighbours if they feel they are not getting enough attention.
We have our own free range hens, they free range around our property eating bugs and cultivating the garden. The eggs are delicious in our baking.
Both Will and I are from sheep farms so we like to run a few sheep for old times sake. Our ewes are due to have lambs in October.
We have four very tame cows who were bucket reared as calves. They keep the long grass down around the wetland. They are sort of walking lawn mowers
If you want to stay at our farm stay retreat and meet our animals you can click here to find out more
You can also book a demonstration by an award winning dog trailist. Trevor will show you how he trains his dogs to work sheep and how he breeds the best working dogs in the province. To find out more about this click here to read about the activites you can do when you stay with us.
We have had some lovely kayak trips into the Wairau Lagoon. Here I had alot of fun photographing a rare black fronted tern as it washed at the edge of the sand spit. It is encourageing to hear that the Department of Conservation has had success improving the breeding numbers of this rare endemic bird at the Clarence River. This is after a pest trapping project they carried out at this remote high country braided river.
There is a kotuku visiting from South Westland residing at the Opawa River at the moment. These young birds are almost always solitary and visit places like Marlborough until the breeding season starts at Okarito. There are thought to be only around 150- 200 birds in New Zealand. Because of their rarity Maori held them in high regard and it was considered an honour to be compaired to one.
Rose and I love the black swans of our river even though they are considered by some to be a pest. This junvenile hybrid swan is a sight I have never seen before. Just as mysteriously it has disappeared.
Taking photos of birds in flight holds an endless challenge and fascination for me. Here I had some measure of success with a young black fronted tern and a white fronted tern. Notice the shadow on the sand below.
Will and I have recently returned from our winter holiday at Motueka and Kahurangi National Park at the top of the South Island, New Zealand. We were over the moon to see whio (blue duck) and matatata (fernbird) and mioweka (banded rail) all within a few days.
The whio and mioweka were a first for us!
Here are a few photos we would like to share with you. Photos are by Will Parsons.
You can join us on a trip to d’Urville island! Twice a year we pack up for the island with a small group of no more than eight for a guided five day tour. You will see the rugged beauty, meet the lovely locals and of course catch the legendary and delicious blue cod. Each night you can return to the comfort of a local lodge and local hospitality.
You will hear the stories of the Island and French Pass from Will Parsons who loves to read the history of the area and his wife Rose who grew up at the French Pass and knows the area intimately.
Read more about our tours and dates of departure here
There is always surprises in our ever changing environment at the Wairau Lagoon. Recently an young leopard seal has taken the Wairau as its home. My daughter Holly was the first to see it. “Hey dad, that log is a seal!”
The leopard seal (Hydrurga leptonyx) is built for speed. They are easily identified by their long slim body, comparatively large fore-flippers. They grow up to three metres in length and can weight 300kg.
Adult leopard seals are normally found along the edge of the Antarctic pack ice but in winter, young animals move throughout the southern ocean visiting New Zealand. A population estimate in 1977 put the total number at 222,000.
They are the only seals known to regularly hunt and kill warm-blooded prey, including other seals. Large adults have attacked humans so they demand considerable respect.
In an effort to protect our visitor from human harm I contacted Dr Krista Hupman of the Department of Conservation in Auckland who specializes in marine mammal protection and who has been studying a very similar situation in the Westhaven marina, Auckland for the last 18 months. On her suggestion we are proposing signage to raise public awareness of the leopard seal and how it should be treated if encountered and the laws around it’s marine mammal protection status. We have contacted the local Department of Conservation and Rangitane to make them aware of this rarity in their area of stewardship.