Resolution Island

Late March and early April is the “roar”, when Fiordland is crawling with hunters, chasing deer and elk (wapiti). This isn’t a great time to be out tramping. So we signed up for a week’s volunteering on Resolution Island. The island is at the mouth of Dusky Sound, pretty much as far west as one can go in New Zealand. Our base – the South Biv on Five Fingers Peninsula – is the westernmost hut in the country.

We flew out of Te Anau towards a wall of cloud. Trust me, said our pilot Mark, there will be a break in the clouds. And there was … we snuck through Centre Pass.

In November we crossed Centre Pass on foot – in a blizzard! Much more comfortable in a helicopter.

We missed our weather window to traverse the Dark Cloud Range this summer. But we have now seen it from many angles. Here it is from the north.

We flew on over the Braan Mountains. They really are in the middle of nowhere, between Dusky Sound and Wet Jacket Arm. They show signs of heavy glaciation.

The weather improved as we got further west. Sunshine on the Kakapo Range across Dusky Sound…

Further along Dusky Sound, we could see Five Fingers Peninsula on the horizon to the right. To the left is Anchor Island. The world’s kakapo live on three islands: Anchor, Chalky (in Chalky Inlet) and Codfish (off Stewart Island). The conservation programme has been so successful in recent years that they will shortly need a new predator-free home. DOC has chosen the Five Fingers Peninsula, but there are a few tasks that need doing before the introduction occurs, including an upgrade for all the stoat traps to make them more bird proof. That was one of our tasks for the week.

Here is the biv – our home for the next week – with the Tasman Sea beyond.

DOC re-introduced South Island saddlebacks to Resolution Island last August. Our second task was to locate as many of them as we could find.

At the present time there are few saddlebacks but lots of their favourite habitat – thick, wiry, wind-blasted coastal scrub.

The saddlebacks were hard to find, and even harder to photograph. Seals, on the other hand, are plentiful. One had found a perfect driftwood pillow.

And the grassy areas above the sea cliffs were crawling with pups.

Powerful waves pushed in from the Tasman Sea.

The waves have carved out amazing features. When I found my way blocked by a steep ravine, I tried walking across this double bridge. But it was littered with seals … who didn’t want me to pass. So I was forced back into the coastal scrub.

This pup wasn’t so brave.

Another inviting rock bridge. But no easy way onto it.

It’s a harsh environment. The vegetation and geology in the foreground looks alpine – despite being at sea level. Look close enough and you’ll see more seals.

On the job between traps. It’s pretty muddy work.

A rare fine view across Dusky Sound.

The eastern edge of the peninsula was generally less rugged.

This is good saddleback habitat.

Over several energetic days we located 11 or 12 saddlebacks. Encouragingly, more than half were “jackbirds” – juveniles born since the August translocation. The ones we spotted were highly active, jumping around so much they were difficult to photograph. Sue took a short video of two jackbirds.

Mushrooms stay still, making them easier subjects. In the background is a trap we rebuilt with a nice new entrance screen.

Stuck out into the Tasman Sea, the Peninsula’s weather was always windy and often wet. Still we got some nice views towards the main part of Resolution Island.

A very satisfying week’s work in a beautiful part of Fiordland.

Posted 2 May 2018.