Tag Archives: little blue penguin

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.

Morning

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

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.
Wikipedia

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.

Tiritiri Matangi Island, Paradise in Auckland: Day 1 of 3

Tiritiri Matangi Island may be the very best that Auckland has to offer.  It’s the best place in New Zealand to experience rare and endangered wildlife.  It also offers stunning old-growth and regenerating bush, pristine beaches with clear turquoise waters, and world-class coastal views.

Hobbs Beach, Tiritiri Matangi Island
Hobbs Beach, Tiritiri Matangi Island

Milesteppin.com has been around now for 2 years!  I’m happy to be celebrating by posting about a place as special as Tiritiri Matangi.  I’m going to post separately about each of my 3 days on the island.

Getting to Tiritiri Matangi Island

Tiritiri Matangi Island can be visited as a day trip.  There’s one ferry out each day, Wednesday through Sunday, and one ferry back.  This gives you about 5 hours on the island.  To better experience the island I booked 2 nights in the Tiritiri Matangi Island bunkhouse.  I was able to do this around 2 weeks in advance in peak season.

Tiri Kat - Tiritiri Matangi
Tiri Kat

I studied carefully all of the information provided on the Department of Conservation website for booking and packing for Tiritiri Matangi, including the biosecurity requirements.  As an open wildlife sanctuary, invasive species have been removed from the island, and efforts are ongoing to keep it pest-free.  I put some time into cleaning my hiking boots, which were the muddiest they had ever been after completing Kaipatiki Coastal Walk 2.  All equipment must be clean, all food containers must be mouse and ant-proof, and bags must be closed so as to prevent any small creatures from stowing away.

Devonport from the ferry - Tiritiri Matangi Island
Devonport from the ferry

The ferry ride itself is very scenic.  It takes about 50 minutes to travel from Auckland to Gulf Harbor, and about 20 more to Tiritiri Matangi Island.  I wasn’t ready at this early stage to see any of the creatures I was hoping to encounter, and missed a great chance to take pictures of a pair of little blue penguins swimming out for a day of fishing.  I’ve linked to a great picture by Philip Griffin instead, below.

Little penguin. White-flippered adult swimming. Akaroa Harbour, December 2012. Image © Philip Griffin by Philip Griffin Philip Griffin © 2012
Little penguin. White-flippered adult swimming. Akaroa Harbour, December 2012. Image © Philip Griffin by Philip Griffin Philip Griffin © 2012

I had conversations with several friendly and enthusiastic volunteers before arriving at Gulf Harbor as well, and began to take in helpful information.

Arrival and Guided Walk

I could have packed more for my visit to Tiritiri Matangi, because the ranger greets the ferry and hauls everyone’s luggage to the bunkhouse.  A wheeled suitcase would have actually worked better than my backpack.

Tiritiri Wharf - Tiritiri Matangi Island
Tiritiri Wharf

Several visitors took the opportunity to photograph a map of the island posted at the shelter near the wharf.

Tiritiri Matangi Island
Tiritiri Matangi Island

There is a short orientation to the island, followed by a guided walk that I booked when I booked the ferry.  I chose the longest of 3 options available.  We started along Hobbs Beach Track.  This side of the island looks west across the Hauraki Gulf toward Shakespear Regional Park and Whangaparaoa Peninsula.

Shakespear Regional Park/Whangaparaoa Peninsula over the Hauraki Gulf from Tiritiri Matangi ISland
Shakespear Regional Park/Whangaparaoa Peninsula over the Hauraki Gulf

Private boats anchor off of Tiritiri Matangi Island.  Some people come ashore to enjoy Hobbs Beach.

Hobbs Beach, Tiritiri Matangi Island
Hobbs Beach, Tiritiri Matangi Island

After Hobbs Beach our guide continued onto Kawerau Track.  Kawerau Track leads through some of the densest and oldest forest on the island.  She gave us lots of information about the birds we saw, and some that we didn’t, and also about the trees and plants, and about the island itself.

Kawaerau Track - Tiritiri Matangi Island
Kawaerau Track

We met a takahē along Ridge Road.  This is probably the rarest creature on the island, and one of the rarest animals in the world.  There are about 300 takahē, between 70 and 80 of which live in the wild.   Our guide was able to identify this bird by the bands on its legs, but unfortunately I don’t recall its name.

Takahē - Tiritiri Matangi Island
Takahē

Our guide reminded us of an unfortunate incident in 2015 in which the New Zealand Deerstalkers’ Association was hired by the Department of Conservation to carry out a cull of pukeko, a non-endangered, very common relative of the takahē, on Motutapu Island, and during the cull they killed four takahē – 5% of the wild population.

I got a much better picture of a pair of takahē at  Orokonui Ecosanctuary north of Dunedin.

Takahe at Orokonui Ecosanctuary
Takahē at Orokonui Ecosanctuary

Although there aren’t many takahē on Tiritiri Matangi, it isn’t too unusual to see them because they’re not especially afraid of people.

A takahē named Greg used to greet the visitors on the ferry when it arrived in the morning, then run up to the visitors center and mingle with the people there.  Greg was nearly 20 when he died in 2012.  He fathered lots of babies, and many of them still live on Tiritiri Matangi.  Enjoy the video of Greg the Takahē  below – but don’t feed wild animals, or try to attract them with food, like the visitor in the video!

I knew the guided walk was over when I spotted the lighthouse and bunkhouse.  I guess the land in the distance must be the Coromandel Peninsula.

Lighthouse and bunkhouse from the road - Tiritiri Matangi Island
Lighthouse and bunkhouse from the road
Island Circuit

I went to the bunkhouse for an orientation on staying there.  About half of the residents were researchers or volunteers.  I got the scoop on the bunkhouse, and lots more info on the island and its flora and fauna.  I found a place to put my stuff, and had lunch.

Walking has become a habit.  When I have a day free, I think about where I’ll walk.  This habit has kept me active and exploring New Zealand.  When I finished lunch I had about 5 hours until sunset, and I knew that it takes about 4 hours to walk all the way around the island, so that’s what I did.

I passed by the lighthouse and visitors center and followed the East Coast Track.  The first little bay I saw demanded I take pictures.  I think this may be Chinaman Bay.

Chinaman Bay? - Tiritiri Matangi Island
Chinaman Bay?

After the ferry leaves at 3:30pm, the only people on the island are residents of the bunkhouse and a few DOC staff.  If you go anywhere other than the bunkhouse or Hobbs Beach, it’s like having the island to yourself.

Tui dining on pohutukawa - Tiritiri Matangi
Tui dining on pohutukawa

Tui are common in New Zealand, but they’re much loved for their song and their personality.  At first tui look like a black bird with a small tuft of white feathers at its neck, but a closer look reveals that the tui, although not bright, is very colorful.

Tui - From Wikimedia Commons
Tui – From Wikimedia Commons

There is some bush on the East Coast Track.

East Coast Track - Tiritiri Matangi
East Coast Track

And lots of beautiful coastline.

Fishermans Bay - Tiritiri Matangi
Fishermans Bay

Fishermans Bay is an especially scenic one.  A few boats anchored there, but I didn’t see anyone come ashore.

Fishermans Bay - Tiritiri Matangi
Fishermans Bay

I didn’t visit the foreshore anywhere along Tiritiri Matangi’s east coast, although Pohutukawa Cove, too, was tempting.

Pohutukawa Cove - Tiritiri Matangi
Pohutukawa Cove

Bright colors are not common among New Zealand birds, so I was immediately interested in the kākāriki, or red-crowned parakeet.  I was happy to encounter large numbers of these birds along the North East Bay track, on the northeastern coast of Tiritiri Matangi.

Kākāriki (red-crowned parakeet) - Tiritiri Matangi
Kākāriki (red-crowned parakeet)

It was easy to identify what they like to eat.  I found them less shy than I expected, although I didn’t get very close.

Kākāriki (red-crowned parakeet) - Tiritiri Matangi
Kākāriki (red-crowned parakeet)

Saddlebacks, or tieke, are common on Tiritiri Matangi, and they’re not exactly shy, but it quickly became clear that it would be a challenge to get a good picture.  They made a habit of shouting at me from partial concealment, and never standing still for long.

Saddleback, or tieke - Tiritiri Matangi
Saddleback, or tieke

I improved with practice, and on the 2nd and especially the 3rd day I got much better pictures of the wildlife.

The New Zealand pigeon or kererū is a common bird, and always a welcome sight.

The New Zealand pigeon or kererū - Tiritiri Matangi
The New Zealand pigeon or kererū

I walked to Papakura Pa near the northern tip of the island, and to Tiritiri Matangi Pa on my way south.  As with many pa, I couldn’t get a good look at the lay of the land, or understand their defensive advantages as a site for a fortified village.  I do recognize however that those villages both had outstanding views.

That great evening light made everything look better as I walked back to the bunkhouse.  Tiritiri Matangi feels like a different world than central Auckland, but if you look south, Rangitoto Island and the CDB and Sky Tower are there to remind you that they’re just a little over an hour away.

Rangitoto Island and Auckland CBD from Tiritiri Matangi Island
Rangitoto Island and Auckland CBD from Tiritiri Matangi Island

I returned to the bunkhouse for dinner and a rest, but my day wasn’t over.

Rangitoto Island and Auckland CBD and the Tiritiri Matangi Island bunkhouse
Rangitoto Island and Auckland CBD and the Tiritiri Matangi Island bunkhouse
Night Walk

Red light is less disruptive for the nocturnal animals, so red cellophane was made available at the bunkhouse, and rubber bands to hold it in place.

I was less than 20 minutes along the Wattle Track when I came suddenly face to face with a little spotted kiwi.  We both froze.  My light was brighter than what I had used to meet the North Island brown kiwi at Trounson Kauri Park on Kauri Coast.  Its eyes glowed as it stared back at me.  I made a noise, and it turned and ran away.  I had brought my camera, but I didn’t try to take a picture.

Little spotted kiwi - from Wikimedia Commons
Little spotted kiwi – from Wikimedia Commons

Little spotted kiwi are the smallest species of kiwi.  They were brought to Tiritiri Matangi, and aren’t believed to have lived there before.  They’re breeding well on the island, and the population is increasing.

I walked to Hobbs Beach. enjoying the scenery in the light of the moon and the sounds of the night creatures.  The I walked back to the bunkhouse, had a shower, and got into my bunk as quietly as possible.

You can view the full gallery of 27 pictures below.  To view on imgur click here.