I had a very proud birding moment on my way from Napier to Taupo, where I stopped at a scenic lookout with a view of a tall waterfall. I had been developing my birding skills in Australia, but birding became instantly easy when I got to New Zealand, which has a fraction of the number of birds that Australia has. In the parking lot of the scenic lookout, I saw what I thought was a New Zealand Pipit. I checked in my guidebook to make sure it wasn’t a Skylark, and the book noted that the pipit has a distinct pale eyebrow stripe. I used this diagnostic feature to confirm that it was, indeed, a pipit.
When I got out of the car, a man with binoculars looked at me and said, “Look, a Skylark.” “I think it’s a pipit,” I told him. “No, it’s definitely a Skylark.” He and his wife proceeded to talk about the Skylarks that nest on their farmland property. “I’ve never seen one up in the mountains like this, though,” his wife said. “That’s because it’s a pipit,” I thought, but took the gentler approach of showing them the eyebrow stripe. They continued to argue with me… until another car pulled up. The man said to the newcomer, “Skylark!” and the newcomer said, “No, pipit.” Bird ID success! The original man gave in and I added number 40 to my New Zealand bird list.
Upon arrival in Taupo, I sat near the lake in the sun and then drove to the Spa Thermal Park just outside of town to walk to Huka Falls. The trail led alongside a tributary of the Waikato River, the mouth of which is at Huka Falls. The river was so still in places that I couldn’t believe it was actually a river. The water was deep and clear like a silent lake. Fantails floated about on the air everywhere and silvereyes flitted from tree to tree in small flocks.
Huka Falls is an impressive place, in great contrast with the peaceful river that feeds it. The falls truly show the power of water; I sat and stared for a while at the enormous amount of water before me, white and frothing and loud. When I could stare at the moving water no longer, I walked back to my car amongst the tree ferns and dappled sunlight and silence. What a peaceful afternoon!