Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Seeking the Karearea in a Land of Few Hawks - Part 2

Where seeing Kahu is easy, finding Karearea is far more challenging. And, as we were told by several Kiwi birders, it is usually a matter of luck. There are certain places one can go where one’s fortunes are enhanced, but there’s never a guarantee. For the first 20 days, the closest we came to encountering the New Zealand Falcon was on a forest road near a native forest (a vanishing endemic ecosystem). It was late afternoon, when we heard the signature “kek-kek-kek-kek-kek-kek” call to the east of our location. My husband managed to catch a glimpse of the Peregrine-sized bird just as it rounded a corner of the woods and disappeared into the trees. That was it. No more calling, no more glimpses. I was afraid my luck had run out, as we weren’t going to be in many more of the “enhanced chances” spots before we headed back to the US.

One day on South Island we stopped on a farm road in the hills between Haast Pass and Wanaka to bird, do some botanizing, and to search for a geocache. My spouse had walked up a stream to a waterfall for the latter, and I had gone in a different direction for the former purposes. From our widely separated positions we heard it: “kek-kek-kek-kek-kek-kek!” Sounding like a Kestrel on steroids, the heavily-streaked dark chocolate-colored bird was circling above us carrying prey. “FALCON!” we each shouted. And then I saw the female, the probable intended recipient of the small bird clutched in the caller’s talons. The vocalizing bird disappeared behind the ridge above me, as the larger bird dropped onto a rock high on the slope. “Grab the camera, I’ve got the female!” I shouted to my husband, now running up the road, but still a couple of hundred meters away.

She was still there when he arrived, panting, but with his lens already in position. The male never came back into view – too bad, because the light was such that a shot of him against the blue sky would have been awesome. Presumably he had touched down somewhere above the female, and was waiting for us to clear out before bringing her his gift. We waited in vain, and finally had to leave. The photo of the female isn’t wonderful; she was just a little too far away.

Karearea. Pai rawa atu!

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