Wildlife

The added bonus of your exciting canyoning trip

So there’s a high chance that you’re already very aware of all the exciting adrenaline pumping epic-ness that awaits you in the canyon.  But are you aware of the potential added bonuses that you could experience while on the trip?  The Top of the South offers a myriad of beautiful sights and sounds to behold for those lucky enough to visit.  Here’s a wee selection of some of our favourites!

aihe

Common Dolphin

What a sight to behold!  The New Zealand short beaked common dolphins are coloured in tones of purplish black, grey, white and yellowish tan, and they really stand out with a beautiful criss-cross pattern that centres on the flanks.  They have a high dorsal fin with a concave hind edge, and the head is low and smooth sloping.  Let’s hope you see some!

Photo: Abel Tasman Canyons

tuna

Longfin Eel

New Zealand freshwater eels can live up to 100 years and breed only once at the end of their lives. In order to breed, they undergo mass spawning migrations, leaving the familiarity of lakes and rivers to swim all the way up to the subtropical Pacific Ocean, where they spawn en masse in very deep water.

Photo: Abel Tasman Canyons

Tui

Tui are a boisterous, medium-sized, common and widespread bird of forest and suburbia. They look black from a distance, but in good light tui have a beautiful blue, green and bronze iridescent sheen, and distinctive white throat tufts. They are usually very vocal, with a complicated mix of tuneful notes interspersed with coughs, grunts and wheezes. In flight, their bodies slant with the head higher than the tail, and their noisy whirring flight is interspersed with short glides.

Photo: Project Janszoon

Weka

Keep an eye on your lunch and valuables with these guys around!  The Weka is one of New Zealand’s iconic large flightless birds.  These curious birds are often attracted to human activity, so they can be spotted frequently along walking tracks and at picnic spots.  An encounter with a Weka can be a real wildlife highlight for a lot of visitors and can often be mistaken for the far rarer Kiwi bird.  They are mostly mid-brown in colour with black streaks.  They have red eyes, strong pointy beaks and strong legs.

Photo: www.fernphotos.com

koera

Californian Quail

California Quail are small, plump introduced game birds. They are common in open scrublands throughout most of the country. The male has a striking black face bordered with white, and a conspicuous top-knot or plume. The female is duller in colour with a less obvious plume. In autumn, quail gather in large coveys to feed and roost together. Foraging koera pace sedately, but when disturbed they run at speed, their feet a blur of movement, or burst into flight with noisy, rapid wingbeats.

Photo: www.fernphotos.com

kekeno

New Zealand Fur Seal

These are some of the cutest marine mammals you are likely to meet!  Distinguishable from sea lions by their pointy noses and smaller size, the kekeno is our most common seal species.  They’re covered with two layers of fur to keep them warm and are found on rocky shoreline just like that around Fisherman and Adele Island.  Females can weigh between 30 – 50kg, while males are larger and stockier weighing between 90 – 150kg.

Photo: Mark Parfitt

kakaruwai

South Island Robin

These are possibly one of the friendliest birds you are likely to encounter, ever!  Adult males are dark grey/black with a bright white to yellowish chest, and females are light to dark grey with less of a distinction in colouring between their chest and the rest of their body.  They are very happy in forest and scrub habitats where they survive by foraging on the ground. Males inhabit the same patch of forest throughout their whole lives, and they love to sing loudly.  They are very confident birds that will often approach to within a metre, some youngsters will even perch on your boot!

Photo: Julien Fichot

kuihi

Canada Goose

The distinctive and well-known Canada Goose is a North American native that has been extensively introduced to UK, Scandinavia, and North Sea nations from Denmark to France, Russia and Ukraine, as well as New Zealand. It is a large light-brown goose with black neck and head and a conspicuous white chinstrap. It’s back and upper wing surface are a darker brown. It’s bill, legs and feet are black; and eyes dark brown-black. Both sexes are alike but females are noticeably smaller than males.

Photo: Abel Tasman Canyons

Kereru

With a widespread distribution throughout New Zealand and very distinctive colouring, the kereru is a very familiar sight to most New Zealanders.  It has a bright white chest with a bluey green upper body, bright red eyes and a red beak with an orangey yellow tip.  Their vibrant appearance makes them a very popular subject amongst the art community. These guys roost conspicuously in the tops of trees, so when you’re in the Abel Tasman National Park be sure to look up and see if you can spot them.

Photo: Abel Tasman Canyons

korora

Little Blue Penguin

These wee beauties are the world’s smallest penguin, and they live right here!  kororā can stand up to 33cm tall and weigh just over 1kg.  They all have a bright white underbelly, and the rest of their plumage can vary from black to dark blue and almost greenish as well.  These little guys can dive up to 60 metres in search of food and spend all their daylight hours out at sea.  If you have keen eyes you can see them bobbing about in the waters of the Abel Tasman when there’s not much wind.

parekareka

Spotted Shag

There are actually a few species of shag located in the Abel Tasman National Park including the Pied Shag and the Little Shag, but the Spotted Shag is the most common. These skinny birds can be distinguished by their grey, black spotted plumage on their upper parts, and a striking white stripe down the side of their neck. pārekareka like to roost and breed on bare rock ledges along the coastline, and they can only be found in a marine environment unlike some shags that venture in to freshwater.

Photo: www.nzbirdsonline.org.nz

whai repo

Stingray

Swimming with an elegant, undulating motion of their broad front fins, New Zealand’s 26 species of rays and skates move like large birds in flight. Rays and skates are wide, flattened fish that have skeletons of cartilage, not bone, and open gill slits. Although skates and rays have similar, kite-shaped bodies, skates are usually not as large or as venomous. Rays are not aggressive animals, but if attacked or accidentally stood on they can inflict painful and serious wounds. Skates lay leathery eggs, known as mermaid’s or sailor’s purses, on the seafloor. Other rays carry their offspring inside them and give birth to live young.

Photo: Rebecca Taylor

piwakawaka

Fantail

This is one of New Zealand’s best known and most loved birds. They are recognisable by their distinctive long fanned tail and loud ‘cheet cheet’ song. There are two different colour variations to be found, the most common is the pied colouring, and then there is the much rarer black colouring that makes up 5% of the South Island population. Both variations can be found in the Abel Tasman National Park. pīwakawaka are not at all shy, they fly very close to catch the small insects that walkers disturb as they move through the bush.

Photo: Craig McKenzie

korimako

Bellbird

Bellbirds are the most widespread honeyeater on the South Island. Their melodious song is beautiful to hear when you are walking along the tramping tracks. They have long tongues that help them reach nectar, but they also feed on fruits and insects. This means that they play a very important ecological role by pollinating native plants and trees, and also dispersing seeds across the forest floor. You can spot a Bellbird by looking for their green body, with a short curved beak and a slightly forked tail. You will normally hear a Bellbird before you see one.

Photo: Craig McKenzie

wheke

Octopus

You can find some very large octopus in the Abel Tasman with an arm’s reach of up to 1 metre. They are capable of many colour changes, but mostly appear a grey/purple colour with orangey arms. wheke are very comfortable hanging out in the rocky reefs along the Abel Tasman coastline. They are often preyed upon by seals, albatross and many other marine species. Males die after mating. Females brood eggs in a den for up to 80 days. Shortly before they hatch she will leave the den and die some distance away. Octopus have no bones in their bodies and are amazing escape artists.

Weta

These are incredible looking creatures. They range in size, but with their big bodies, spiny legs, and curved tusks, they are one of New Zealand’s most recognisable creepy-crawlies. They are nocturnal and live in a variety of habitats including grassland, shrub land, forests, and caves. They excavate holes under stones, rotting logs, or in trees, or occupy pre-formed burrows.

Photo: James O’Hanlon

whio

Blue Duck

One of the most highly specialised waterfowls of the world, the whio is confined to New Zealand’s rushing streams and gorges. The mainly feed at dusk and dawn, with their dark colour then can be hard to spot against shaded banks and log jams. The male’s call is like it’s Maori name, a high-pitched wheezy whistle: whio. The Blue Duck is extremely territorial, even the young birds don’t stray far from their nest even after being evicted. You’d be very lucky to spot one of these mysterious creatures.

Photo: Julien Fichot

ruru

Morepork

Often heard in the forest at dusk and throughout the night, the morepork is known for its haunting, melancholic call. Its Māori name, ruru, reflects this call. Morepork are nocturnal, hunting at night for large invertebrates including beetles, weta, moths and spiders. They fly silently as they have soft fringes on the edge of the wing feathers. They catch prey using large sharp talons or beak. During the day they can get mobbed by other birds and are forced to move. We have seen a live display of this during one of our trips down Blue Creek where a dozen of korimako chased it away with loud chatter.

Photo: www.nzbirdsonline.org.nz

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