About 20 birdwatchers assembled at Mount Somers township on 17/7 to count all the waterbirds on this group of lakes in their montane basin, an annual occurence for about 20 years.
Peter Langlands and I were given Lake Emma to count. Road access around the lake to a hut has recently been closed over the winter months so we had a pleasant walk instead of bumping/sliding along a mud track in a 4wd. Birds were few and the lake was about 90% iced over. There were about 150 Mallard ducks and 130 Canada Geese, both introduced species. Native species were fewer - about 10 Australasian Shoveler ducks and a handful of Little and Black Shags, plus a few Welcome Swallows somehow finding insects in the frigid environment. Peter found the bird of the day by walking a bit further than me, a Bittern in a clump of rushes. Bitterns are rare in NZ. They are a beautifully-patterned brown heron, very shy and with a strange 'song' which sounds a bit like blowing across the top of an empty bottle.
After the count we adjourned to the warm environment of a bach overlooking the stunning scenery of Lake Clearwater and its surrounding mountains, to eat soup prepared by the bach-owner on a wood-fired stove and drink a nice hot cup of tea.
The area is only 90 minutes' drive SW of Christchurch and is a great place for a walk in stunning scenery at any time of the year. I think winter is the best when the snow is on the mountains - visit on a clear, still day though.
Ice patterns on Lake Emma
View from the bach, Lake Clearwater and snow-capped mountains
View from the hut across Lake Emma
The Arrowsmith Range across Lake Heron