It didn't take long to climb to the top where there was a magnificent 360 degree view. Here's a pano of Lake McGregor from the top of the hill- looking towards Lake Tekapo and the Two Thumb Range. Our van is parked just out of sight at the end of the willows on the far right.
In the other direction is Lake Alexandrina; a steep bank drops down to the boat sheds that sit on the lake edge below the cribs. The mountains in the background are part of Ben Ohau Range which borders the western side of Lake Pukaki all the way up to Mt Cook and the Southern Alps.
This is Lake Alexandrina, the pano is quite distorted as there’s no dip in the centre- I moved too fast through the scene as it was recording it. That’s David on the right scanning the lake with his binoculars. The cribs at the left are at the top of the hill and would have an amazing view over most of the lake although I think the ones at lake level would have a more interesting outlook with the stream, waterfowl, fishing and holiday activity.
This one's a more proportioned shot of David looking up Lake Alexandrina towards Mt Joseph (1682m) on the far left and Mt Hazard (2213m) in the centre.
It’s hard to pull ourselves away from the stunning views out over Alexandrina but just a few short steps to the otherside of the hill top and the view is just as lovely over Lake McGregor. I catch sight of a puff of dust on the lake road…
… and zoom in to see a motorhome leaving.
David makes his way down the slope to the sheep track that runs around the edge of Lake McGregor. I follow, wondering if there’s any Banded Rails or Spotless Crake in the raupo swamp ahead of us, I'm pretty sure there must be a few grebe nests.
It’s not long before David stops and waits for me to catch up; he’d seen a skylark flying off and suspecting it was leaving a nest, tracked his way to the spot. Sure enough, he locates the well camouflaged nest with three eggs, hidden in the grasses. As we move off, the skylark is singing way up above us, just a dot in the blue sky.
We follow the sheep track around the lake edge and locate not one but two pair of grebes floating about just off the shore. We’re certain one pair have a nest in the reeds near the swamp in the photo above, because, as was the case with the Lake Alex. grebe pair, one was floating about near the edge and was then joined by it’s mate after we left the immediate area.
In the end we lost count, but before we left the lakes, we would have seen at least 10-12 pairs of gebes; 6 or 7 pair on Lake McGregor alone. Pretty good considering they are critically endangered. (And in case I've confused you, the grebe nest & chick post from the other day was after we left the area, we're still looking at this stage)
A little further on we came across a small flock of merino sheep and lambs who seemed surprised to see us and moved off up the hill at pace.
Later that afternoon, while we were exploring the edge of Lake Tekapo, we could hear from the same area, a farmer whistling and farm dogs barking. The next morning the flock of sheep were grazing on the banks of the stream just across from our van, the lambs looking a little dejected and sorry for themselves. The poor little things had red bums and no tails, some also had a docking ring on other delicate parts! Poor darlings :(
It wasn't long before David spotted a big Brown cruising along the shoreline and decided to try his luck...luck he must have left behind in the van.
Further on another fisherman was trying his luck in the drowned willow area of the lake. His best friend watched on from the comfort of the boot, looking totally bored...
Or perhaps sad that he couldn’t chase the hares (‘teddy bears') on the bank behind the car. I spotted them before they saw me and managed to creep up a little way before they took off together up the slope, both stopping briefly to check out the situation, before bounding off again and disappearing out of sight over the top of the hill. One day I’m going to manage a close up shot!
We stopped for lunch near the road, finding a rock to sit on, on a reclaimed piece of ground that must be there to help channel the water into the road culvert and on it’s way to Lake Tekapo behind. David scans the swamp for birdlife.
A male paradise duck stands watching as his mate & 6 or7 ducklings swim off into the tangle of willows- I can’t quite decide whether he standing guard or too lazy to swim after them (I think it’s the latter), a Australian coot takes a rest on a sunken log while another trout cruises past heading for the culvert. A male NZ Scaup tries to lead us away as his mate and 5 ducklings duck and dive under the willows. Scaups are very shy and these are the first ducklings we’ve seen that we can recall this spring; their paler markings are more brown compared with mallard ducklings.
To be continued....