The Australasian Crested Grebe/Kamana is a beautiful diving bird which is rarely seen on land except when they clamber onto their floating nests near the shore. Their legs are located right at the back of their body, this allows them to dive but makes it near impossible to walk. The grebe has a slender neck, a long sharp black bill and very distinctive head gear- a black double crest with bright chestnut & black cheek frills. These it uses in an involved and rather bizarre greeting & mating display. The grebe are also unusual in that they carry their young around on their backs.
Lake Grasmere was just up the road; access was through a farm gate, along a grass track across a paddock to a small DOC reserve on the edge of the lake.
We saw our first Grebe, a juvenile on the waterfront in Queenstown last year, we now wanted to find an adult bird, to see their unusual plumage and hopefully a little of their courtship display.
|Queenstown Juvenile Australasian Crested Grebe|
Any birds we could see were down the far end of the lake milling about. Looking through the binocs and spotting scope they turned out to be Canada Geese, Mallard Ducks and NZ Scaup- probably taking refuge from the duck shooting season on a protected lake.
Grebe tend to hang out by themselves and after a long sweep around the edges and over the lake we finally spotted two grebes swimming and feeding off to the side. There was no way I could pick them up with my camera so we decided to return the next day now that we knew grebes were in residence.
|David searching for grebes with the spotting scope|
We went back to the lake the next day but unfortunately the grebes once again stayed out of range. I took a shot just in case this was last we were to see of them- this is zoomed in and cropped to within an inch of its life but at least you can see, it's a grebe.
I was also unable to find any grebes at our end of Lake Pearson but there were smalls flocks of Australian Coot with their oversized feet, and NZ Scaup including this male (bright yellow eye) who I thought was nesting rather late in the season. Most scaup are usually quick to depart if you get near them but this one stuck it out while it’s mate did mad circles just off the edge and the rest of their friends swam away. So it was a surprise to see the next day that there were no eggs in the nest at all (hardly surprising when I thought about it) so I’m not too sure what it was up to- just lazier than the others and couldn’t be bothered moving when I approached.
We stopped in at the tiny Cass settlement not too far from our camp, Cass is little more than a handful of houses and a railway shed. But this is not just any shed, it’s a very important & iconic railway shed in New Zealand’s history (thanks Francis). There is an iconic painting by a famous New Zealand artist, Rita Angus, of this colourful little shed.
Before the line ran through Arthurs Pass to the West Coast, Cass was the railhead. Sadly, despite the paint job, the shed has seen better days; half a dozen swallows vacated the interior as I approached & it looks like dry rot has set in on one side. Unfortunately the sun was in the wrong position, so I couldn’t shoot it from the same POV (point of view) as Rita painted it.
These two quietly watched me as I walked about shooting the shed, I went across to talk to them and give them a pat. The younger horse at the back took exception to my visit and tried to bite me while I was talking to his friend; he got a short shift.
Not too far from Cass we took a side road in search of Lake Sarah, another small perfectly formed lake tucked below a large hill. Again there were a good number of water fowl on the lake and again, mostly over the far side. We settled down to have some lunch looking down over the lake and were rewarded when we spotted three grebes swimming by themselves, front centre of the lake. But once again they were too far out for my lens.
I decided to give my wide angle landscape lens a whirl which allowed me to capture the whole lake in the frame. The following two photos were also taken with the lens. I should use it more often but because we’re always on the move and I never know from one moment to the next what I’ll be shooting I find my zoom lens much more user friendly, if somewhat heavier!
We drove another few kilometres up the road, deciding to turn around once we could see that the scenery was not going to change much and that the road looked to go on forever.
The views were spectacular, big mountains, huge skies & a wide open spaces with the Waimakariri River off in the distance- this is further east from where we’d last seen it.
I took this photo of the sign on the door of a small shed beside the railway and near the lake; it’s was either a fishing hut or belonged to the Canterbury University who had ‘Keep Out’ signs along the road- perhaps they farm the land. Whoever owned the shed, they’d obviously had enough.