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Published: February 9th 2008
I saw a kiwi.
Ok, that's pretty much the punchline for this one - but I saw a kiwi in it's natural habitat. In the zoo, and on the other side of a thick pane of glass doesn't count in my book. I just wish I had some photographic proof. Never mind, I know.
Tiritiri Matangi Island is a 2.2 square kilometre bird sanctuary in the Hauraki Gulf. Farmed until 1971, massive replanting and pest eradication programmes have gone a long way toward the survival of rare bird and plant species.
Most of the people staying out on Tiritiri are either volunteers or researchers, but there is a limited amount of accomodation for other visitors. Staying overnight on Tiritiri is definitely the way to see the island.
This was a first-time visit for me, so I happily paid my $5 to be able to tag along with a volunteer guide for the morning. Good value - they pointed out a lot of things that I would never have picked up on. As worthwhile as that was though, the best part for me was after the day trippers had gone back, the ferry leaving at 3pm. Actually I
felt like I had the island to myself well before then because after the morning round of tours ended back at the information centre I headed off on the longest track on Tiritiri, the Coastal Track. The overcast weather from the morning had rolled away and been replaced by beautiful not-quite-cloudless blue, so even though having been in a hurry at the early morning supermarket stop and forgotten to buy sunblock, I was heading out. According to the handy map the Coastal Track takes 4-5 hours, so none of the day trippers bother with it. I think I saw two people early on, then not another human for about three hours.
The thing about looking for feathered locals on Tiritiri is that if you stop, be quiet the wildlife seems to almost come to you. You'll see more in ten minutes sitting down than you might see in an hour striding down the track. I stood still at one stage, and noticed a tiny ball of fluff in the grass down to my left, so just crouched down and waited. It was a brood of quail chicks scurrying around.
The next time I sat down I saw Pukeko casually
walking across the grass track. Also Stitchbird, North Island Saddleback, North Island Kokako. If you time it right you come across the almost cocky Takahe clan wandering around by the lighthouse and cottage.
Another perk of staying overnight is getting to wander over the island in the dark. I started out with two others, one guy from Auckland and another from Canada. One of them had been to Tiritiri eight times but had not yet seen a kiwi. We wandered round for a couple of hours, then decided to split up and meet back at the bunkhouse later. After about an hour of almost disappointing results in the hit-and-miss hunt I decided to head back along the Wattle track which I'd been along earlier in the day, then call it quits.
Why I stopped in that particular spot for a last "let's see what comes along", who's to say. But that rustling to my left was not quite in tune with the breeze. I looked down and it was a big ball of feathers - with it's backside to me. "That's a, that's a, I'm sure it's a......" Yeah, I was sure it was a kiwi, but because
it wasn't side on it was hard to tell in the dark. "Damn!! I can't say I've seen a kiwi 100%!"(MISSING) Then...... it turned and started walking toward the track. It's a kiwi! It's a kiwi! And it's gonna walk right next to me!!"
Unfortunately, it didn't walk right in front of me - my Little Spotted Kiwi friend casually angled off and went further ahead into
the bush. Oh well, I've seen a real kiwi. What's all the fuss you say? Maybe it takes another Kiwi to know......
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