15 November 2011

Torrent duck (male)

One of the birds I particularly wanted to see in South America is the Torrent duck (Merganetta armata), a strikingly-coloured bird that in habits and taxonomy resembles Aotearoa's whio. At the Laguna Torre campsite in Parque Nacional Los Glaciares, I'd investigated the upper section of the river but had seen no ducks. After returning to El Chalten I enquired at the park headquarters. Where, I asked, might be the best place to see torrent ducks?

Laguna Torre, she replied.

When I said I'd checked the river near the Laguna, she explained that anywhere along the river might be likely, and she showed me good access points. Last week, she said, they'd actually seen a family of torrent ducks right here in town by the bridge. She suggested I start walking up the river from the rubbish dump — at the mention of the dump she hung her head and said, "So sorry, so sorry. We're trying to do something about it."

At five in the evening I left the hostel and quarter of an hour later had reached a point near the dump where I could easily access the river. I briefly scanned the bouldery river edges with the binoculars, then began the short descent. Partway down I looked up and saw, directly opposite the dump, what looked like a bird at the water's edge. I checked through the binoculars, thinking surely I couldn't be this lucky.

But I was. Not just this male, but mum and two chicks as well. I followed them from a respectful distance as they worked their way down the river towards the bridge. Sometimes I think I haven't worked hard enough to have been rewarded with all the wonderful things I've been gifted with on this journey.

[11 November 2011, Panasonic Lumix GH1, 100–300 mm at 300 mm, ISO 200, 1/1000 at f8. Heavily cropped.]

All content © 2011 Pete McGregor


Zhoen said...

As so often, you have a touch with birds. They know you, pose for you, knowing you will make the most of the chance.

Love the racing stripes.

Carolyn H said...

What a lovely duck. I hope you post the photos of mom and the ducklings, too.

Relatively Retiring said...

That's wonderful!
I remember spending many hours in a hide, attempting to see kingfishers, and then seeing one by the pond in the park, surrounded by noisy children. As Zhoen says, they seem to know you care.....remember that weasel who rushed out and posed for you?

Barbara Butler McCoy said...

All I can do is echo the comments of everyone else - lovely, you have a touch, cool racing stripes, would be great to see the mum and babies. Mostly, however, I agree that 'animals' have a sense of who to trust and pose for and who to dodge ;0

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Pete,
I am sure this experience must brought back thoughts of the whio for you. Beautiful.
John and I just returned from 5 days in the Ruahine. We had to alter our plan to go over Knights into Pohangina when the weather there was dark, windy, cold and onimous. So we instead went a bit north via Rangiwahia, and it was much calmer, and in the late afternoon it cleared enough to allow us to continue on and camp up tops. Didn't see any whio down on the Oroua but heard the lovely song of one early in the morning outside Triangle hut. Your name is still in the far from full hut book, and it was with pleasure John and I toasted to your continued waiora and safe travels. Kia kaha Pete e hoa.

pohanginapete said...

Zhoen, I'd like to think they know they're appreciated ;^)

Carolyn, thank you. Photograph of the female scheduled to go up shortly, but I didn't manage a usable one of the chicks.

RR, yes, I remember that weasel well. Often it's easier to get close to birds (and other animals) where they're used to noisy humans — ironic, and a little sad even.

Barbara, thank you :^)

Kia ora Robb. Good to hear you and John had a great time even if your plans had to change. Triangle's a lovely spot, and camping up on the tops must have been magic. I'll look forward to that — less than a month now until I fly out for Aotearoa. Thanks for the toast, too! E noho ra, e hoa.

robin andrea said...

I first saw the photo of the female Torrent and thought, if the female is this strikingly beautiful what must the male look like. So very handsome.

pohanginapete said...

Robin, so true — they're spectacular birds.