Tiri Treasures

Published: March 9th 2010
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Saturday we were up early to go down towards Auckland for a day trip to Tiritiri Matangi Island. Tiritiri Matangi, meaning “tossed by the wind”, is a protected, predator free island run by DOC as an open scientific reserve and wildlife sanctuary. Only a limited number of people are allowed to visit each day, and so you have to book a bit in advance. ( www.360discovery.co.nz) We caught the ferry from Gulf Harbour, a development towards the end of the Whangaparoa Peninsula, which was much easier than driving all the way into the city, having to find parking (and pay for it!) and be there earlier than we needed to be at Gulf Harbour, and the ferry costs more from the city.

Getting on the ferry, we thought we'd be rained on soon as all we could see behind us and over the city were very dark rain clouds with rain coming out the bottom of them. There was a hole in the clouds over the island, but with so much blackness around, we didn’t think we'd avoid a soaking. We were wrong. The clouds disappeared leaving us walking around in the sunshine, pausing under every tree we could to avoid the heat.

We paid the extra $5 each to go on a guided walk and it was well worth it. We aren’t usually fans of guided tours (the free one round Bath last year was also great!!), but this was a good intro to the islands history, what to look for and what each bird was. We heard or saw all we were likely to in the first hour! The guided walk took about 2.5 hours following the Wattle Track (usually a ½ hour track!) and ended up at the lighthouse area in time for lunch.

The guide had barely started giving us a brief introduction to the island when she was silenced by the call of a kokako. These are pretty rare and she was excited by hearing one! She tried telling us more about the island, but quickly gave up as there appeared to be a couple of kokako calling nearby. We started off up the Wattle Track to try and find them, but unfortunately they remained out of sight. We saw plenty of Tui, some Whiteheads and a NI Robin. The little robin was neat, and as unafraid of us as the one we saw in East Cape. It was banging one leg on the ground then eating the insects that appeared. The guide rustled some leaves on the ground to stir up the insects, and after a brief pause to check us out, the robin came hopping over for a feed.

A bit further along the track we met our first Bellbird. It was trying to impersonate a Tui with its song. We were also introduced to Stitchbirds and Saddlebacks, and many more Tui. We stopped for a while at a water trough where there were heaps of birds drinking and bathing, the Tui being the most aggressive and hustling the others out of the way.

We stopped in the shop / visitors centre for lunch. The small shop sells cold drinks and souvenirs in aid of the Supporters of Tiritiri Matangi Island (“one of the world’s most successful volunteer conservation projects), but no food. We had instructions not to bring food in open, plastic bags, and to check all bags for stow away rodents before getting on the boat.

There is a Takahe (named Greg) that hangs out at the visitors centre helping himself to food out of people’s bags! He is tame enough that you can just push him away, at least if you are a kid. Not wanting to sound old and grumpy, but we don’t think it’s a great idea to let your kids run around chasing endangered birds and pushing them! There was a pukeko there too, so you could compare two members of the same family. (There was an information board to fill you in on the less obvious differences.)

Our afternoon walk turned into a Kakariki quest. We kept seeing these Red Crowned Parakeets flying away as we approached, but not close enough for a decent look, let alone a photo. We walked some of the smaller marked tracks that wind to and from the Ridge Track, over a hill with some stunning views across the Hauraki Gulf, and down towards the Kawerau Track. We saw more Bellbirds and Tui, and those elusive Kakariki in the distance.

The Kawerau Track wound its way back down to sea level through a more established block of trees than the Wattle Track. It made it harder to see the birds as the trees were taller, but the presence of more water troughs and sugar water
North Island RobinNorth Island RobinNorth Island Robin

These little birds tap their foot on the ground to encourage bugs to the surface, then when they do, they pounce and eat them.
feeding stations helped. We also passed a pohutukawa that is meant to be nearly 1000 years old. Just before the end of the track at Hobbs Beach, we saw a Kakariki clinging to a flax stalk about 10m in front of us. It stayed there long enough for us to get a good look, but must have caught the movement of the camera and took off.

We walked along the beach (should have brought our togs!) back towards the wharf and just as the track left the beach to go behind a few trees, our quest was over. We disturbed some Kakariki which flew into a nearby tree and tried their hardest to blend in (green parrot, green leaves, not that hard!). But this time we were lucky, we saw where two of them had landed. One was right at the back, but one was probably no more than 8m away, if that. You can see from the photos though how well they blend in.

As we still had a bit of time, we headed back along the Wattle Track till we were under the cover of the trees, and waited and listened, just in case those kokako came back. Our luck wasn’t holding out, but we did see some more Whiteheads, and what might have been a Rifleman but we are so unsure we left it on the “to be seen next time” list.

One day we might ditch the dogs and chickens and book into the bunkhouse (booking even further in advance than the ferry!) so we can do evening and night walks and try for the kiwi and tuatara, and try again for the Pateke, Kokako and Rifleman.

Critter Count

Heard but not seen: Kokako, Rifleman

Seen but not photographed: White Head, sparrow (!!), gannet, pukeko

Seen and photographed: Takahe, Stitchbird (Hihi), Bellbird, Tui, Kakariki (Red Crowned Parakeet), North Island Saddleback, North Island Robin,

Saving for next time: Little Spotted Kiwi, Tuatara, Pateke (Brown Teal), Little Blue Penguin, and of course the Kokako & Rifleman.

A visit to Tiritiri Matangi Island, a jewel in the Hauraki Gulf, has got to be a must for anyone interested in NZ wildlife. We thoroughly enjoyed our day exploring, meeting birds extinct, or as good as, on the mainland.

Please come back in a few days when the video uploader has been fixed as we have some neat little clips of some of these birds in action.

Additional photos below
Photos: 21, Displayed: 21


Bellbird at a sugar water feederBellbird at a sugar water feeder
Bellbird at a sugar water feeder

These feeders were intended for Stitchbirds, but the Bellbird is a similar size.

the juvenile again

9th March 2010

Nice pics :-)
Hi guys, Great to see you finally made it out there - you'll love the overnight trip when you find a dog and chicken sitter :-)
10th March 2010

What a place
Hey You Two, what beautiful pics and the blessings to experience such a place. Wish I could do the same- maybe one day (smile).
10th March 2010

Hey Annette, thanks for reading and commenting. If you ever come over here, we'll make sure we find dog and chicken sitters and we'll take you there for a night or two!
12th March 2010

Hey guys, loving your blogs too, must admit more since you left Karamea and started exploring more and different places. Getting a bit cold down south? Let us know if and when you get this far, we'll have a little camping trip and you can introduce us to the boesman.

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