Okarito Lagoon has had very high water levels due to the heavy rainfalls received last week. Lake Mapourika near Franz Josef Glacier flows into the Okarito River. On our two hour nature tours you travel up this river into the rainforest. It is also the main outflow of the lagoon, carving a deep channel through the lagoon on its way out to the Tasman Sea. Although this channel is quite deep during all tides, roughly 2-4 metres deep, it is quite narrow. To each side of this channel is where we see many of the wader birds feeding, particularly at low-mid tides, such as the Kotuku, or Great White Heron, the Royal Spoonbills and smaller waders, such as godwits, oyster catchers and banded dotterels.
These birds all require shallow waters for feeding and the condition of Okarito Lagoon can have a significant effect on the success of breeding birds. The Kotuku rely heavily on the food source from Okarito. Although earlier in the week we were seeing herons, they were mostly from a distance, or perched in trees in the rainforest. Yesterday’s trip rewarded us with a dozen or so feeding once again on the lagoon. The waters are now receding as the flow from the Okarito River has finally slowed.
The Paradise shelducks seem to be loving the weather, and one of our local pairs brought their 5 young out from the nest for a look about. There are two pairs who have called the village home for a number of years and are quite used to people. You can get great photo opportunities of them! The female, uncharacteristically more flamboyant than the male, is chestnut coloured with a white head. The male is dark grey and black. The young all look like males as they gain their feathers, then the females will gradually acquire white feathers around their heads and turn chestnut.
Summer is unfolding in the rainforest with the first of the Rata flowers beginning to bloom. In a predominantly green forest, these flowers make for a delightful splash of colour. Also flowering profusely is the native jasmine. The manuka is continuing to come out slowly with it’s small white flowers, and the flax is providing a great source of nectar for the Tui’s and Bellbirds.
You have great opportunities to see all these birds and native plants in the rainforest on our two hour Nature Tours which run daily at 9 and 11:30 am.
We look forward to your company on board in Okarito soon!