You know that you are going to a special place when the owner of the motel you intend staying at makes a point of meeting you before you even leave for the island. It's a relatively quick 60 minute ferry ride across Foveaux Strait. I had hoped to photograph a few birds on the way over, however we only got distant views of albatross and petrels.
As soon as we arrived at the motel the local Kakas dropped in to accept what must be the usual handout of peanuts that they come to expect when there are new arrivals. These birds turned out to be great photographic subjects as they were habituated to humans and easy to approach.
The next day we caught a water taxi to Ulva Island which is a rat free Island a few kms from Stewart Island. It is probably the most pristine of any sanctuary in New Zealand that is open to the public.
Over the last 10 years a number of threatened species have been released here, so it is a very good spot to see and photograph these species. While on the island I was able to photograph Red-crowned Parakeet, Saddleback, Brown Creeper, Kaka, Tui, Bellbird, White-faced Heron, New Zealand Pigeon, Weka and South Island Robin. Seen but not photographed were: Yellow-crowned Parakeet and Rifleman. We had so much fun here photographing the birds and enjoying the scenery that we extended our visit from a half day to a full day. We were aided in locating some of the species by a helpful guide aptly named Ulva. The South Island Robins here have all been released and are much studied. They all have very visible leg bands,. These birds show no fear of humans and will land at your feet to pick up any insects that you disturb as you walk.
You are not allowed to use flash at all and the tour guide was the only person who could shine a low powered torch at the bird itself. As a result we came away with a lot of blurry underexposed images, fit for record shots only. Not the best photographic wildlife experience I've ever undertaken, however most of the other participants seemed to be happy just to see this unique bird. Apparently Stewart Island is one of the few places that there is the possibility of seeing a Kiwi during daylight. Though I think you would need to go to one of the more remote areas.
I can highly recommend a visit to Stewart Island, though I doubt that many will be as lucky as we were with fine weather. I also recommend the Motel (Rakiura Retreat) we stayed at for the friendly service and surrounding gardens.