28 Mar 2009

Kapiti Island

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Having travelled South from Hawkes Bay and spending a night at Herbertville further down the coast. We then visited Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateaturipukakapikimaungahoronukupokaiwhenuakitanatahu the longest place name in the world!!! Not alot to see apart from a hill after which this is named.

We then went across the North Island and stayed a couple of nights at Foxton Beach adjacent to the Manawatu Estuary. I had heard this was one of the best spots for waders on the West Coast of NZ. It is a RAMSAR site. The Manawatu estuary is a large coastal inlet in the lower half of North Island. It is a site used by migratory waders mainly from Alaska and Siberia during their winter. Here I saw Bar-Tailed Godwit, Red Knot, Wrybill, Pacific Golden Plover, NZ Dotterel, Caspian Tern, Pied Oystercatcher and Pied Stilt but not the Royal Spoonbill that I was told were there.

I also met an American guy who was studying the Bar Tailed Godwits and was noting all their plumage changes especially in the ringed birds.

We then left to go to Paraparaumu Beach where we were to collect the ferry to Kapiti Island. Kapiti Island is about four miles from the South-West Coast of North Island New Zealand. It is about 6 miles in length and about a mile wide. The west coast of the island has precipitous cliffs and at the highest point is 521metres or 1700ft.

It is one of New Zealand's top publicly accessible Nature Reserves. Well having said that you do have to get permits to go on the Island infact you have to have two one for each end of the Island. These can be obtained in Wellington at the Department of Conservation or DOC as everybody in NZ knows it. I had pre-booked my stay on Kapiti with Minnie at Kapiti Island Alive Kapiti has the largest single area of lowland coastal forest that is free from introduced animal herbivores and predators. It took nearly a hundred years to eradicate the possums that were introduced in the 1890's and until as recently as 1996 to eradicate all the rats on the island.It now is the home to about 65 species of bird including a number of relocated endemics. The Brown Teal(Pateke) Kokako, Stitchbird (Hihi), Takahe, Saddleback (Tieke). Of which I didn't see the Kokako or Stitchbird.

You get onto the ferry on the beach and it is then reversed on its trailer by a tractor into the sea.
Then once it is afloat off you go! We were staying the night on the North end of the Island so didnt visit the South end of the Island. We dropped off about fifteen people and then headed upto the other end where we were met on the beach and had our luggage taken upto the lodge. Meanwhile we went to a covered building near the Okupe Lagoon. It was here we were given a talk about the birds and the history of the Island. As we were being lectured there were birds everywhere. It was my first sighting of the Weka.

There are four subspecies of Weka of which most disappeared before 1940 in North island . There are only very small populations remaining on South island. They are quite an endearing bird and you have to watch your lunch as they are always on the lookout to see if they can pick up a scrap. The other problem with introduced birds such as these is that they prey on some of the native animals. They will also eat nesting groundbirds lizards and giant land snails. We were told how some birds will try and force the Long Tailed Cuckoo into the ground where it has difficulty taking off and the Weka will get them.

The other bird that was everywhere particularly feeding on the pollen from the New Zealand Flax was the Bellbird (Korimako) anthornis melanura

The yellow on their heads is the pollen.

After the lecture Daddy and I made our way to the Lodge where we were going to stay the night.
It was here that we met Amo Clark and Rodney who it turned out were absolutely wonderful hosts:we were to have an absolutely wonderful 48 hours in their company.,
Amo along with her brother and sister in law are the owners of Kapiti Nature Lodge. Amo is a Maori and her tribe or (iwi) have been living on Kapiti since the early 1800's and have great knowledge of the Island's history and flora and fauna.
We were the only visitors to be staying the night. The remainder of the visitors would be leaving the island at around three thirty.

I decided to go on a walk and see what birds I could see and photograph. One of the first ones I came across was this Keruru or New Zealand Pigeon that was eating berries from a tree right in front of the Lodge.

It was a beautiful afternoon and I made my way towards the lagoon on the island where I came across the New Zealand Pipit.

I have to say I find pipit identification quite difficult and was glad there was only one species in NZ. As I walked along this track I saw a Whitehead and then a New Zealand Robin appeared. They are a lovely little bird and virtually unafraid. They will perch within a few feet of you infact I found they were almost too close to photograph.

My eldest son Jeremy who went on the Outward Bound Course at Anikiwa in the Marlborough Sounds in March said that when he was doing his solo a NZ Robin landed on his foot. (Solo is when the participants have to spend three days and three nights in the bush in a 10m square area on their own)

The other bird one heard and saw alot of was the Tui. It is a NZ endemic and one of the largest of the Honeyeater family. Early New Zealand emigrants called it the Parson Bird as at first glance it looks black with a bit of white around its neck. They feed on the pollen of the New Zealand Flax.

Another bird that was fairly common was the Silvereye or Waxeye. a small passerine native to Australia, New Zealand and some pacific islands.

One of the other birds that was everywhere was the Red Crowned Parakeet. There are three species of Parakeets in NZ. The Red Crowned,Yellow Crowned and the critically endangered Orange Fronted Parakeet.All of which have become endangered because of habitat destruction and nest predation by introduced species.

Having walked quite along way in the midday sun I headed back to the lodge for a cup of tea. As I was having the tea outside a Takahe walked past. There are a number on the island that have been introduced here. The Takahe is a remarkable bird.The Takahē is the largest living member of the Rallidae or Rail family. It is about 2 foot long and can weigh upto 6 lb's. It has a massive bill it reaches up and feeds on the seeds of grasses. The amazing thing about this bird is that it was thought to be extinct in 1898 after the last four known remaining birds were taken. However in 1948 more were found by Geoffrey Orbell in the Murchison Mountains near Lake Te Anau!!! There are at present only about 250 birds remaining.

As I was sitting outside the lodge a Kelp Gull ( Larus dominicanus) kept on landing on the roof and I liked this shot I got of it as it came by.

Daddy and I were shown to the hut
we were going to be sleeping in by Rodney, the brother of Amo's sister in law . He was also to take us out to look for Little Spotted Kiwi later. We had a really good supper with Amo and Rodney. Rodney then produced an envelope of Kiwi feathers. They were very soft indeeed. Then we went with Rodney to look for the Kiwi. We went round the back of lodge and sat on a bench and listened while Rodney with his red torchlight searched for them. We heard one and then a little later finally saw one. It was bigger than I expected about the size of a small chicken. Even though the Little Spotted Kiwi is the smallest of the Kiwi species. They have powerful legs and it wasnt long before it ran off into the grass.

I was really chuffed as this was my third visit to NZ and I hadn't seen any on my previous visits. We then continued to look for them further away from the lodge and the one sound that penetrated through the dark was the sound of the Morepork (Ruru). It is a small brown owl and it sounds exactly as it is called. Then one called very close by and Rodney shined the torch up into the branches and there it was. It didnt seem concerned by us and we were able to get pretty close. It was really exciting to get so close to an owl.

Then we went back to our hut and went to bed. In the morning the weather had changed and was very grey and drizzly and Rodney told us that the ferry had been cancelled. We of course didn't believe him. It had been and we tried to see if we get a helicopter of the Island but the cloud level was too low. So we spent a highly amusing extra 24 hours being entertained by Amo and Rodney.

Out in the bush there was a bird that made quite a racket which I learnt was a Long tailed Cuckoo and it made the noise just before flying off from where ever it was. I got this distant photo of it.

That evening Amo treated us to the Maori delicacy of Paua. It is a mollusc found on New Zealand shores. In other parts of the world it would be called Abalone. Well it was a revelation to me it has to be one of the best seafoods. It was absolutely delicious.

Just before I went to bed I thought I would try and see a Kiwi again. No further than 30 yards from our hut there was one and I got to look at it for alot longer than the previous evening. Brill!!

In the morning I heard some birds right beside the hut that I didnt recognize and was glad to catch up with the Saddleback.
After breakfast we made our way down to the shore along which was walking a White faced Heron.

The ferry appeared and Amo and Rodney came to see us off.

I would heartily recommend Kapiti to anyone remotely interested in birds. It was one of the highlights of our trip. I cannot wait to go back and hopefully I will be in November 2010 this time accompanied by my wife Penny.

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