Archives For Mt Cook

Anna ready to take photos of the NZ falcons at Wairakei Forest.

Anna with her camera ready

By Anna McKnight, Partnerships Ranger, Taupō.

A pair of rare New Zealand falcon/kārearea are currently nesting at Craters Mountain Bike Park at Wairakei Forest near Taupō.

The kārearea is a courageous bird. One time, in Aoraki/Mt Cook, a falcon defended itself against an Iroquois helicopter that got too close to its nest.

The helicopter was training with the Search and Rescue team and had to move, as it didn’t want to get the falcon caught in its rotor blades. Kārearea 1, Helicopter 0. That was one brave bird!

Having worked for the Department of Conservation (DOC) in Aoraki/Mt Cook, I knew what to expect when preparing to take photos of kārearea.

Karearea. Photo: Peter Langlands. DOC Use Only.

Karearea. Photo: Peter Langlands

As Murphy’s Law would have it, I was dressed for the office that day—with skirt, stockings and town boots—not very practical. So I raided my fire bag, and with helmet and fire boots for the terrain, I was ready to be dive bombed!

A NZ falcon soaring through the air at Wairakei Forest.

The kārearea speeds towards me

What I wasn’t ready for is the speed of the falcon. They are thought to get up to 200 kilometre per hour!

The falcon flew straight at me, but they were, in this case, just whizzing past to scare me, rather than striking. I need a better, and faster camera!

The sheer speed made the perfect falcon shot elusive, and I decided it is probably best left to the professionals!

NZ falcon pair sitting on a branch in Wairakei Forest.

Falcon pair defending their nest on Craters mountain bike track

It is exciting to be near such a rare and strong bird of prey, but I tried to be as quick as possible so I didn’t stress the parents out too much. Apologies for the amateur photos! If you are a kārearea fan and want to see some more professional photographs check out the page on the New Zealand Birds Online website.

By Sarah Mankelow

A wife’s gift to her husband of a day out with DOC rangers proved to be a life-changing experience for both recipient Grant Vincent, and for Aoraki/Mt Cook staff.

Each year, DOC staff at Aoraki/Mt Cook fly into Mueller Hut to prepare it for winter. The chance to go along on the flight was offered as a prize on a Trademe auction as part of the Million Dollar Mouse campaign. This trip provided a rare opportunity for members of the public to experience firsthand some of the work that DOC does daily to protect our unique wildlife and special landscapes.

Changing the poo drums at Mueller Hut (left & bottom right)
and parked up at Barron Saddle Hut (top right)

The Mueller Hut trip in Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park was always going to be one of the gold star experiences on offer, but even DOC staff were amazed about how wonderful it turned out to be.

The trip was won by Wendy Vincent of Gisborne, as a gift for her husband Grant. Grant’s brother Murray had died in 2008, after falling at Barron Saddle while tramping in Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park.

Dave Winterburn, Programme Manager Visitor Assets, explains how the trip went:

“We arranged for Grant to come for a week, and this gave us some leeway with weather. As a result he became a ‘villager’ for a week, joining the DOC crew at quiz night and smokos.

“The weather was terrible all week, but Friday dawned ‘blue bird’. Grant joined DOC rangers Marcus Reid and Karen Jackson on a flight to Barron Saddle to switch the toilet tanks over. They flew via Freds Stream and the Dobson Valley, the route Murray intended to take on his last trip in the mountains. They landed at Barron Saddle Hut where Grant read Murray’s last entry in the hut book, and then wrote his own entry.

Grant standing on Barron Saddle looking into the Dobson Valley
with Mount Spence in the background

“They then flew onwards to Mueller Hut where Grant was able to spend some reflective time in the mountains, while DOC staff winterized the hut. After lunch and a brew they flew back and joined the full DOC crew for dinner that evening.

“From talking to him, I gathered it was quite an emotional day for Grant. I’m not sure it was ‘closure’ but he was certainly happy to visit the place his brother died.”

From left to right: Wendy Johnson (DOC volunteer for the day),
Grant Vincent, Marcus Reid (DOC Aoraki), Karen Jackson (DOC Aoraki),
outside Barron Saddle Hut

And in Grant’s own words…

“Tomorrow (Friday 27) is exactly four weeks since that amazing helicopter flight to Barron Saddle and Mueller huts. Thanks again for a really special and unforgettable day!

“Thanks again for everything, making my visit something I can tell my grandchildren about, so that Murray can be remembered by his family. I have the ‘terra/link’ Aoraki/Mt Cook alpine area map on the floor at the moment and it’s hard to believe that I was there this time a month ago, doing all that I did. I feel a real affinity for that stunning area because of Murray and my visit, and will certainly be back.

“Cheers for now and regards to all—and carry on protecting our natural heritage.”