Sunday 17 November 2019

Day five - curious kiwi

Up and another beauty morning.  A quick trip to get supplies from the supermarket, repack the van and then off to grab lunch, before heading off down the road towards the Whangaparoa Peninsula.  We were keeping eyes peeled, and the sharp eyes of Derek and Elliot spotted a kookaburra on a powerline.  We spun the van around and got great views of a bird sitting on a powerline.  Although an Australian introduction, this was new for a few people, so well worth looking out for.
We had a quick look around a nice little spot, seeing grey gerygone feeding chicks again, a pair of pied stilts with a youngster, and another (!) buff-banded rail.  We arrived at the ferry terminal with loads of time to spare and unloaded our gear, and got ourselves situated.  The ferry arrived, we boarded and off we headed.  A very calm crossing with no tubenoses, but a very surprising brown (southern) skua flew past giving reasonable views, and then a Parasitic jaeger (Arctic skua) made an appearance as well.  Awesome!
We landed at Tiritiri Matangi, unloaded our gear, had a briefing from the ranger, and then set off up towards to the Bunkhouse.  We got most of the usual suspects on the way, with great views of saddleback, brown teal, a surprise fernbird right in the open briefly singing, lots of whitehead, North Island robins, and always on the lookout for kokako.  We had lots of bellbirds, tui and NZ pigeons, and then a couple of stunning male Stitchbird showed really well.
We made it up to the bunkhouse, unpacked our gear and go situated and had lunch.  A little rest during the middle of the day and then some time spent looking for Takahe.  This time of the year they can be tricky, and today was proving no different.  We headed out after a short respite, and wandered some of the hotspots, looking for kokako.  Excellent views of Stitchbird, more pigeon and bellbird, red-crowned parakeet, and some brown quail.  But not a squeak from a kokako.  We managed to find a tuatara out sunning itself outside the burrow in the afternoon sun, a nice large animal about 2.5 ft long.  Very cool animals!  At another location we waited for Takahe, but nothing!  So we started to head back to the bunkhouse, and it must have been time for the kokako to start up because all of a sudden there were at least two males calling.  Unfortunately, one was miles away, the other was just a touch too far.  So, we decided to carry on, because if a couple were calling, surely more would be?!  And after a bit further sure enough another bird singing right beside the track.  We couldn’t spot it high in the cabbage tree, and then the shape of it gliding out of the back of the tree brought groans…mostly from the guide!  We headed around to another trail we knew intersected with the direction the bird had headed and bingo.  The bird was spotted, moved high up into a small pohutukawa tree and started singing right there in front of us!  Beaut views of the zoro mask, the wattles, and the haunting call of the kokako was ours for the moment.  We all got goo views, before it glided off, and then we realised there was another bird, a female, and her beak was full of nesting material.  We lost her as she bounded along on the ground parallel to the track, but what a cool interaction.
We headed back to the bunkhouse happy, still more searching for the Takahe, and we needed to get dinner on the go also.  Wine, beer, cheeses and sunshine, as the dinner was prepared and the BBQ fired up.  A really lovely dinner with great company, a nice sunset and it was then time to eat NZ made chocolate whilst looking for Takahe and watching the night sky appear.  No Takahe, but the chocolate was great.  So, we started our nocturnal mission.  Only a short way into it several birds called, and the hunt was on.  We had fleeting views of a bird zip across the road a fair way away, and it was excruciating hearing it stamp around in the leaves just inside the forest.  But it was clear the bird was not coming out again, so we moved on.  Another scuffling, and a bird disappeared into the forest…. Damn!  There was quite a bit of calling of both kiwi and morepork, so they were out and about.  We set off in a different direction and a bird zipped up off the track a wee way ahead and into the forest…not again!  We got up level with it and could hear it stomping around, and glimpsed it again, but not enough.  Then it moved to an area where we could see, and as we got into position its curiosity got the better of it and it came running in, sniffing the air and completely giving itself up!  We got amazing views of this often tricky bird at just a few metres, before it turned and wandered off into the darkness!  We floated back to the bunkhouse, and dreamt of kiwi.

Day total – Seen = 59 inc 2 heard, (little penguin, common diving-petrel, and takahe); new for the trip = 9; total for the trip to date = 97
The beautiful Tiritiri Matangi Lighthouse

Sunset over the mainland

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