Just off the West Coast of New Zealand’s North Island lies Kapiti Island.
Like so many off-shore islands in the country, Kapiti is also a haven for native flora and fauna due to the removal of mammalian pests like stoats and possums, and the re-introduction of native plant species.
You can take day trips on a 20 minute ferry journey from the mainland, or stay overnight with a Maori family who still privately own a part of the island. This was a wonderful experience to camp out (complete with private outdoor toilet) with the sound of kiwis and penguins waking you up! Such a peaceful and beautiful place!
There are the mischievous Kaka (native parrots), friendly North Island Robin, bold Weka, fat Kereru (wood pigeon), tuneful Bellbird, Tui, very rare Brown Teal, Morepork (nocturnal owl – named for its call)…and more besides (there are over 1,200 kiwi living here and Little Blue Penguins and Kokako)!
Part of the overnight stay involves going walking in the dark in search of wild Little Spotted Kiwi…and they remained little spotted as we did not see any due to the full moon and their talent for staying hidden…but what an experience it was! Great times, great place, great hosts!
If you are ever in the area, it is well worth a visit! Get away from it all!
I have spoken before about one of New Zealand’s most colourful native birds. As first, they appear black, but look a little more closely and you see the white ruff of feathers on their throat and beautiful brown and green-blues on their back.
They fly noisily through the air and land on the trees and plants which are in flower, such as flax (as shown above) or the pohutukawa or kowhai trees to drink their nectar.
The most distinctive thing about the Tui though is the song. From tweets to whistles to croaks it is incredibly varied. And to top it all, when travelling around the country, I have actually observed regional dialects. The Maori apparently used to keep them as pets at one time and they are known to be great mimics.
Even the people in NZ don’t seem to have regional dialects…it is like travelling from Doncaster to Barnsley in the UK and thinking you might have entered an alien land. One up to the Tui!
For those of you who read my posts regularly, you will perhaps have noted how over time I have gained something of an interest in the conservation efforts which occur in New Zealand on an ongoing basis. It is interesting to note how man has noted the impact he has caused on native wildlife since arriving here and is taking steps to try to avert the devastation…would that man the world over would try to have similar thoughts and take similar actions although perhaps it is often too late.
On the edge of Wellington lies the pest-free “island” of Zealandia. The first mainland attempt to give native plant and animal species a chance to live in peace without the introduced threat of rats, stoats, possums etc. It truly gives a window into what NZ could be (and indeed once was) like…albeit it is only 20 years old and this is a long term project.
Similar to Sanctuary Mountain, near Hamilton (see previous post), you can see Kaka here, Tui, Tuatara, Robin…and also…Saddleback, Stitchbird, Bellbird, Shag, Kakariki (parakeets), Takahe and much more. It is built on a fault line which used to be the site of an old reservoir until someone noted that said water could flood Wellington in the event of an earthquake. When looking at these pictures it is worth bearing in mind some context…these birds are quite fearless…I was stood within touching distance of Kaka (native parrots), I was playing with a Robin in the leaf litter…it even sat on my shoe…and perhaps more sad…I was told that the world population of Takahe is around 250 so the two in the photo below (Puffin and T2 are their names) are just under 1% of the entire species. These birds eat grass and I was struggling to think of another bird that does likewise. Here is hoping that their numbers can recover!
Most of the birds are free to come and go as they please and are starting to spread out beyond the park. If you are ever in Wellington, give them your support! It really is a jewel in the conservation crown…click here to see their website.