Tag Archives: dawn chorus

Tiritiri Matangi, Dawn Chorus to Night Owls: Day 2 of 3

Dawn on Tiritiri Matangi

Tiritiri Matangi Island awakens to the sound of the dawn chorus.  If you click play (twice) below, you can scroll down and enjoy the rest of this post to the sounds of Tiritiri Matangi’s songs of the morning.

The dawn chorus is at it’s most subdued in the summer, but it was still beautiful to listen in the calm of the morning, well before the arrival of the first ferry.  The birds awaken and join the chorus at different times, starting with the the North Island robins, followed by the tūī with their wide range of different sounds and songs.  Next may be the bellbirds, each with their own unique 3 or 4 note call.  Kōkako join in with a beautiful, clear, organ-like song.  Whiteheads, fantail, kingfisher, stitchbirds and more contribute.

The video below lets you see which bird is singing which song.


I slept after the dawn chorus, then made a slow start to the day.  My first day on Tiritiri Matangi was a long one (see my previous post).  I took my time getting a hot shower and making lunch.  Guests sign up for tasks on a roster to help keep the place up, so in the morning I took care of the recycling job I had signed up for.

Tiritiri Mtangi Island bunkhouse, Rangitoto, Auckland CBD and Sky Tower
Tiritiri Mtangi Island bunkhouse, Rangitoto, Auckland CBD and Sky Tower

On my way out for the day I stopped at the Tiritiri Matangi Visitors Centre and enjoyed the complimentary tea and a desert.  There are maps, displays and other information, and lots of space to sit and enjoy a cold or hot beverage.  Visitor center and gift shop are both worth a look.

The day cleared up beautifully.

Tiritiri Mtangi Lighthouse
Tiritiri Mtangi Lighthouse
Afternoon Walk

A researcher recommended the North East Bay Track for kōkako so I set out in that direction, in spite of having gone to the other side of the island the day before.  The sun was brighter, the skies and the water bluer.

Chinaman Bay? - Tiritiri Matangi
Chinaman Bay?

I walked quite a ways north, and the views were even better than the day before, but it was hot, and I decided that the birds too would probably prefer the shade.  I headed west across the island to the Kawerau Track.

Brown quail spend a lot of time near the roads and tracks of Tiritiri Matangi.  They’ll run away along the trail before they finally turn into the bush.

Brown quail - Tiritiri Matangi
Brown quail

Sugar water is provided along the Karerau Track inside of wooden cages.  These of course attract birds like the female bellbird below.  Most birds are referred to by their Maori name as well as any English name they may have; the bellbird is called korimako.

New Zealand bellbird (korimako), female - Tiritiri Matangi
New Zealand bellbird (korimako), female

Stitchbirds (hihi) are apparently pretty rare, and it’s amazing that you see so many on Tiritiri Matangi.

Stitchbird (hihi) - Tiritiri Matangi
Stitchbird (hihi)

The bush on Karerau Track is awesome.

Kawerau Track - Tiritiri Matangi
Kawerau Track

The pohutukawa below is estimated between 800 and 1000 years old.

Kawerau Track pohutukawa - Tiritiri Matangi
Kawerau Track pohutukawa

The branches collapsed under their own weight, but continued growing.  In places they formed new root systems.

Kawerau Track pohutukawa - Tiritiri Matangi
Kawerau Track pohutukawa

I’ve seen pohutukawa that are very straight, and I’ve seen them really spread out.

Kawerau Track pohutukawa - Tiritiri Matangi
Kawerau Track pohutukawa

The Kawerau Track is shady and cool.  Much of it has boardwalk, and there are benches in good spots for a rest.  Throughout my walk the bush would come alive with birds of various kinds, they’d stay a while then move on.

Another huge, half-collapsed pohutukawa overlooks Hobbs Beach.

Hobbs Beach pohutukawa - Tiritiri Matangi
Hobbs Beach pohutukawa

I see variable oystercatchers pretty much everywhere I go along the coast, but it was nice to see this pair teaching their chicks to forage.

Oystercatcher pair with chicks - Tiritiri Matangi
Oystercatcher pair with chicks

There are several nest boxes for the little blue penguins (kororā in Maori) that live on on Tiritiri Matangi Island.  The lids can be lifted off to look at any penguins that might be inside.

Little blue penguin nest boxes - Tiritiri Matangi
Little blue penguin nest boxes

One penguin was molting, and was inside the box every time I looked.  Unfortunately the dirty plexiglass makes it hard to get a good picture.

Little blue penguin (kororā) - Tiritiri Matangi
Little blue penguin (kororā)

Little blue penguins are out at sea fishing during the day, except for when they’re molting.  They lose a lot of weight while they molt, and they don’t look very happy.

I like this picture I took last summer of a molting kororā on the Otago Peninsula.

Little blue penguin on the Otago Peninsula
Little blue penguin on the Otago Peninsula

The last part of the Wattle Track offers a great view of Tiritiri Matangi Lighthouse and bunkhouse in the light of the evening.  I had dinner and enjoyed the company of the other bunkhouse residents while I waited for dark.

Lighthouse and ranger station - Tiritiri Matangi
Lighthouse and ranger station
Tiritiri at Night

I walked the Wattle Track back to the wharf without event.  At the beach near the wharf I found a message in a bottle.  I put it in a jacket pocket, to open on the morrow.

Several time before, as I walked past a certain bush next to an entrance to Hobbs Beach, I heard something suddenly start and then go silent.  It happened again, so I went closer to look around inside the bush as best I could.  I must have startled it again; a young tuatara came into a spot where it was nicely visible, and then froze.  It stayed there long enough that I decided to try a picture.  I was quite surprised to be able to get it looking this good.  I’ll have to look further into shooting in dark conditions.

Tuatara - Tiritiri matangi

Tuatara are reptiles endemic to New Zealand. Although resembling most lizards, they are part of a distinct lineage, the order Rhynchocephalia.[2] Their name derives from the Māori language, and means “peaks on the back”.[3] The single species of tuatara is the only surviving member of its order, which flourished around 200 million years ago.[4] Their most recent common ancestor with any other extant group is with the squamates (lizards and snakes).[5] For this reason, tuatara are of great interest in the study of the evolution of lizards and snakes, and for the reconstruction of the appearance and habits of the earliest diapsids, a group of amniotetetrapods that also includes dinosaurs, birds, and crocodilians.

The male tuatara pictured below is named Henry.  He lives at the Southland Museum and Art Gallery, and is still reproductively active at 111 years of age.

A male tuatara named Henry, living at the Southland Museum and Art Gallery, is still reproductively active at 111 years of age - from Wikimedia Commons
A male tuatara named Henry, living at the Southland Museum and Art Gallery, is still reproductively active at 111 years of age – from Wikimedia Commons

As I walked back along the Wattle Track something was startled into motion in the bush beside me. It ran along in the bush beside the path, something I haven’t known kiwi to do.  When it was ahead of me it crossed the path, and I saw that it was a little blue penguin, for some reason walking around in the bush at about 11:30pm.

A bit further along I heard something that I hadn’t heard before, but that I knew must be a pair of the only owls in New Zealand, the morepork (ruru).  They had a beautiful duet that went on until after I finally stopped listening.  I found one of them low on a tree near the path.  He let me listen from front row seats for a along time before he moved to a tree a bit further into the bush, and went right on singing.  My attempt at taking a picture was unsuccessful, so I’ve relied once again on Wikimedia Commons.

Morepork (ruru) - from Wikimedia Commons
Morepork (ruru) – from Wikimedia Commons

I was hoping to see another kiwi, but I couldn’t complain; it was a pretty great day.

Please enjoy the full gallery of 16 pictures below.  To view on imgur, click here.