Friday, 5 November 2010

Tiritiri, oh Tiritiri!

This is the blog for 4 Nov...
We were up and off, with a quick stop at the Supermarket to pickup food and a search of the local park to see what was about – NZ pigeon showed well.  Then headed to Gulf Harbour, where we boarded the ferry and headed out on pretty calm waters to Tiritiri Matangi Island – one of NZs best know island reserves.  As we left Gulf Harbour a distant reef egret was spotted (third of the trip), and fluttering shearwaters soon put in an appearance.  White-fronted terns were on the rock as we approached Tiri, and a single pale phase Arctic skua was seen rising way up into the sky near gannets which were doing the same.

As we listened to Darryl the Ranger give a briefing the sound of the bird song around was music to our ears, with some many new calls.  We pretty much had to hot-foot it up to the bunkhouse to get settled in, but on the way had outstanding views of many of the threatened species that call this island home – North Island saddleback, brown teal, red-crowned parakeet, and of course the more common species such as whitehead, tui and bellbird.  With massive amounts of flax flowering many of the birds were showing their rare ‘yellow-fronted’ forms, with good dustings of flax pollen on their foreheads, something that often catches people out!  ‘Greg’ the takahe was near the lighthouse to greet us, along with lots of his smaller flying cousins, pukeko (purple swamphen).

We quickly settled into our bunkhouse accommodation, had a cuppa and bite to eat, and then headed out to ‘clean up’ on everything else.  Really the main target bird was North Island kokako, with everything else likely to just fall into place as we walked around the trails on the island.  And within a pretty short time we had crippling views of a male kokako singing to his heart’s content, and then feeding, within feet of us.  The female put in several ‘guest’ appearances, but she was obviously a little more preoccupied with nesting, being very close to laying eggs.  Several North Island robins almost went unnoticed they were so close and unobtrusive.
We then had great views of stitchbird near one of the feeders, and saw several others obviously defending territories around the various nest-boxes.  Arriving at one of the dams we sat and waited for a spotless crake to show itself.  Within seconds one did, but only briefly with better views desired by all.  A good chunk of time later the bird came out and we had stunning views of this cracking little bird for more than 10 minutes as it wandered and fed along the edge of the pond, completely in the open.  I might have missed the flightless Henderson rail, but we nailed this one!

Heading  back to the bunkhouse we rested up, and then I cranked the BBQ up and dazzled everyone with my culinary skills.  Nothing better than steak on the BBQ, new potatoes, salad, and a good NZ wine to wash it down.  I had even done some ‘baking’ earlier and produced a couple of apple and berry pies...I think I might have impressed the troops!  There was no time for accolades though as we headed out to look for little spotted kiwi.  With moderate to strong winds and the threat of rain, it wasn’t looking too good, but after hearing several males call we were treating to absolutely stunning views of a female right in front of us on the edge of the road.  She wandered to within several metres of us, giving relatively prolonged views (for a little spot which can be a little hasty sometimes) for about 3-4 minutes.  Fantastic!  Some of us then headed down to the other end of the island as it started to rain, and were treated to equally stunning views of a tuatara right by the track, not bothered at all and slowly heading off out of sight.  As the rain came down we headed back knackered by happy!  Quite a few little penguins were out and about, always surprising me as to why they bother walking 500m + to nest sites they could have put right by the shoreline?!  Another celebratory glass of wine and to bed, as the rain rattled on the roof.

Male North Island kokako singing - one of the many stars of the day. 

Beaut little spotless crake being very 'un' crake-like.

North Island saddleback with flax pollen on its forehead.

Tui feeding on flax flowers - note the pollen on the birds forehead.

Bird of the day – 
Kokako x3, bellbird x1, little spotted kiwi x2

Day total – 
Seen = 50 + 1 heard (morepork); new for the trip = 11; total for the trip to date = 101


  1. Some great work done today Brent, those photos of the bush birds are stunning.
    Also great to get a spotless crake out in the open like that as I know how hard it is to get these birds.
    Great Work!