It was a rainy afternoon when Bob and I finally made it to Lake Matheson to explore the walking tracks there. The famous reflection of Mount Cook and Mount Tasman did not materialize on the lake’s surface, but we sure had dandy views of a New Zealand Bellbird alongside the trail.
From the outset, heavy precipitation had been the order of the day, but one cannot put off their plans when on a vacation schedule. So we left Fox Glacier for Lake Matheson in Westland Tai Poutini National Park.
The walking track around Lake Matheson is a short 2.6 kilometres and is one of the most popular and easiest trails in the Park.
The objective is a viewing point where hikers can see the mountains perfectly reflected in the brown waters of Lake Matheson. Given the heavy fog and grey sky, we held out no hope of seeing the postcard perfect sight.
Something that we have not seen in Canada is a duck perched on a fence post. As Bob and I explored the area around Lake Matheson, we were amused to see first a female Paradise Shelduck…
and later a male assuming a place of importance on old wooden fence posts. It seemed odd that they might seek an elevated position whereupon to dry their wings since they are ducks after all.
Whence we caught another bird doing the same thing, we began to wonder if predators were lurking nearby. Then we learned that South Island Pied Oystercatchers come inland from the seashore to breed in riverbeds and on farmland.
One section of the walking track brought us to the Clearwater River suspension bridge. Though the river looks brown like its source, Lake Matheson, just a short ways downstream, the water becomes clear and true to the river’s name.
As Bob and I walked the trail to the Viewpoint Jetty, we passed native kahikatea (white pine) and rimu (red pine) trees that make up part of that ancient forest. A Tui was not put off by the inclement weather and vocalized energetically above us.
The Department of Conservation manages the property around the Visitors’ Centre at Lake Matheson and has planted an abundance of native Flax Plants. A Tui was attracted to the Flax flowers to feed on nectar using its long tongue.
Also taking advantage of the plantings around the Visitors’ Centre was this striking New Zealand Bellbird…
and a number of Silvereyes.
New Zealand Bellbirds are endemic to New Zealand. Their Māori names are korimako and makomako.
This male New Zealand Bellbird illustrates how these birds help to pollinate Flax flowers. That is pollen caught in the feathers of its forehead.
New Zealand Bellbirds do not exclusively feed on nectar from Flax flowers. As honeyeaters, these birds play an important ecological role in pollinating the flowers of many native trees and shrubs such as mistletoe, fuchsia and kowhai.
When the pollinated flowers produce fruits, New Zealand Bellbirds consume the fruit and disperse the seeds so contributing to the regeneration of the forest.
The New Zealand Bellbird gets its name from its far-reaching call that imitates ringing notes of a bell. The morning din of bird calls often is saturated with this bird song where large numbers of these birds congregate.
New Zealand Bellbirds are common throughout both the North and South Islands of New Zealand except in the far north of the North Island. Its distribution has been seriously impacted by the spread of farming that removes native forests and by the introduction of predatory species.
It surprised us to learn that one predatory species is the wasp. Considered a food-robber, wasps compete for the honeydew, nectar and insects that New Zealand Bellbirds rely on thus cutting into their food supply.
Although Bob and I were denied the magnificent view of ice-capped Mount Cook and Mount Tasman perfectly reflected in Lake Matheson, our visit to the lake proved very worthwhile. When back at the Visitors’ Centre, a small window of sunshine made it possible to sit on the deck, enjoy a chai latte and coffee, and appreciate the lovely gardens and scenery thereabouts.