Tag Archives: pohutukawa

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.

West coast beaches on New Years Eve

On New Years Eve I had the opportunity to act as a tour guide.  I usually try to go someplace I’ve never seen, but as tour guide I opted for the safe and familiar and sure to please – a pair of Auckland’s famous west coast beaches.

Any good tour guide will treat the uninitiated to a view from above Piha Beach on the way in.  Search “Piha” to see several posts about this great icon among Auckland’s west coast beaches.

Piha Beach - west coast beaches
Piha Beach

It has become normal for summer to start late in New Zealand, especially perhaps in Auckland.  December didn’t offer any consistent summer weather, but there were some hot sunny days, and we even managed to string a few together toward the end of the month.  The last day of 2016 was one of the beautiful ones.

We went directly, if leisurely, to Lion Rock for a walk to the top and another overview of Piha Beach.

Lion Rock
Lion Rock

Aucklanders abandon the city between the middle of December and the middle of January as much of the country goes on holiday.  Last year was my first Christmas in Auckland, but I joined the exodus just after Christmas.  2107 would be my first New Year in Auckland.

Piha Beach south of Lion Rock
Piha Beach south of Lion Rock

Depending on where you are, the changes can be subtle. The crowd doesn’t look like much in the pictures above and below.  And I’m sure these beaches get much more crowded.  But it was very easily the most people I’ve ever seen at Piha Beach, or any of the west coast beaches.

At the top of Lion Rock I snapped my 40,000th picture with the digital camera I’m currently using.

Piha Beach north of Lion Rock - west coast beaches
Piha Beach north of Lion Rock

There’s much more to do at Piha, but it was a hot day and I had a shady spot in mind for lunch.  We walked along the beach to return to my car, and set out for the second of the day’s west coast beaches.

The carpark at Karekare Beach suggested even bigger crowds than at Piha.  Search “Karekare” for my posts about another of Auckland’s great west coast beaches.

Karekare Stream - west coast beaches
Karekare Stream

We didn’t head immediately toward the beach, but inland, across the bridge on Lone Kauri Road, to Karekare Falls.

Karekare Falls - west coast beaches
Karekare Falls

This picture from 2015 shows what I had in mind.  The picnic table wasn’t there on New Year’s Eve, so we made do with the low branches.

Karekare Falls picnic area in 2015 - west coast beaches
Karekare Falls picnic area in 2015
Karekare Falls picnic area in 2016 - west coast beaaches
Karekare Falls picnic area in 2016

After we arrived the area quickly filled with people.  Some took the opportunity to go for a swim.  The pool offers a calm alternative to the hazards of the Tasman Sea found at Auckland’s west coast beaches.

Karekare Falls- west coast beaches
Karekare Falls

After lunch we took the Pohutukawa Glade Walk to Karekare Beach.

Pohutukawa Glade Walk - west coast beaches
Pohutukawa Glade Walk

A walk in the waves in bare feet was highly refreshing.  But the black sand, where it wasn’t wet, was extremely hot.

Karekare Beach - west coast beaches
Karekare Beach

Walking in Karekare Stream back to the carpark was an outstanding solution to the hot sand problem.

Karekare Stream, Karekare Beach - west coast beaches
Karekare Stream, Karekare Beach

I concluded the tour with a visit to the Arataki Visitor Centre.  See my post on the visitor center for many more of the fantastic views of Auckland available there.

Auckland CBD and Sky Tower from the Waitakere Ranges Visitor Centre
Auckland CBD and Sky Tower, and Rangitoto Island,  from the Arataki Visitor Centre

For anyone who hasn’t seen Auckland’s west coast beaches, a tour like this can’t miss.  Home-cooked Mexican food with kiwi beer followed by brief and uninspired fireworks from the Sky Tower, viewed from a crowded to capacity Sulphur Beach, brought us to the end of 2016.

You can view the full gallery of 13 pictures below.  To view on imgur, click here.

Rangitoto Island offers some of the best views in Auckland

Rangitoto Island is visible from almost everywhere in the eastern part of Auckland, so it should come as no surprise that all of eastern Auckland is visible from Rangitoto Island.  But this was my second visit, and I was surprised a second time.

North Head and Mount Victoria, Sky Tower and Harbor Bridge, from Rangitoto Island
North Head and Mount Victoria, Sky Tower and Harbor Bridge, from Rangitoto Island

That’s just a small part of the view from the top.  But let’s start at the bottom.

The day started cloudy, and there was a fair chance of rain, but I decided to go for it anyway.

Lighthouse in Tamaki Strait
Lighthouse in Tamaki Strait

Rangitoto often looks a bit 2 dimensional from a  distance.  As you get closer it begins to take shape.  There used to be holiday houses on the island, but people can’t live there now, or even spend the night.  You can see some of the buildings if you zoom in on the picture below.

Approaching Rangitoto
Approaching Rangitoto

The waharoa o Peretu – the gateway of Peretu – welcomes thousands of visitors who enjoy the 35 minute ferry ride from Auckland’s downtown ferry terminal to visit the island.

Peretu, the spiritual ancestor of Rangitoto, is reflected in the beautiful carving. The waharoa itself reflects the rich Māori heritage of pest-free Rangitoto and Motutapu Islands. Ngāi Tai ki Tāmaki carver Reuben Kirkwood tells the story of the wahaora in the following video.
DOC website

Waharoa o Peretu
Waharoa o Peretu

Rangitoto Island is the worlds largest pohutukawa forest.  I should have waited a couple of weeks to visit, in order to see it all in bloom.

The plant life grows over the black volcanic rock that makes up Rangitoto Island.  It gets hot out there.  This is one reason I decided to go on a cloudy day.  The skies cleared, but unfortunately the air stayed a bit hazy.

Volcanic rock and bush of Rangitoto
Volcanic rock and bush of Rangitoto
Rangitoto bush
Rangitoto bush

The landscape is beautiful, but it can’t really compete with the views that appear through openings in the bush the whole way up.

Browns Island
Browns Island

Near the top the path gets steep.  There’s a shady picnic area before this ascent.  Just before the highest point you get a view of the crater.

Rangitoto's crater
Rangitoto’s crater

I haven’t explicitly mentioned in this post that Rangitoto is a volcanic island.  Let’s get some details from Wikipedia:

Rangitoto Island is a volcanic island in the Hauraki Gulf near Auckland, New Zealand. The 5.5 km wide island is an iconic and widely visible landmark of Auckland with its distinctive symmetrical shield volcano cone rising 260 metres (850 ft) high over the Hauraki Gulf.[1][2] Rangitoto is the most recent and the largest (2311 hectares)[3] of the approximately 50 volcanoes of the Auckland volcanic field.[2]
– Wikipedia

There’s a view of the crater from a walkway between the viewing platforms along the rim that makes it easier to take it all in.

Rangitoto's crater
Rangitoto’s crater

Here’s a cool old airplane I saw from the top.

Cool old airplane
Cool old airplane

Ok, I think I’ve built enough excitement, so here’s the view of the city from the top of Rangitoto Island, from Waiheke, Motutapu and Motuihe islands in the east, through the city center, to the Whangaparoa Peninsula and Tiritiri Matangi and even Kawau Island in the north.  It’s a big file, so be sure you’re on WiFi, zoom way in, and enjoy!

The city and more from the summit of Rangitoto
The city and more from the summit of Rangitoto

I’m thinking of using that picture as a way to navigate many of my blog posts on eastern Auckland.  I’ll see what I can come up with.

I took a relatively early ferry and had plans to get in another walk around the island, but I was captivated by this view.  I had a long leisurely lunch and waited for the platform to clear so that I could try to shoot panoramas.  I was asked to take many pictures of people against the stunning background and thus met and talked with many of the locals and tourists visiting Rangitoto that day.

I spent a little time on the other viewing platform, taking in Rangitoto’s crater, northern Auckland, Motutapu and Waiheke and Motuihe islands and southern Auckland.  This file is pretty big too.

Northern Auckland, Motutapu and Waiheke and Motuihe islands and southern Auckland
Northern Auckland, Motutapu and Waiheke and Motuihe islands and southern Auckland

I walked back down the way I had come, with just a little time to spare before catching the last ferry off of the island.  The weather got pretty windy on the ride back to the city, and rained just a little.

Back to the CBD
Back to the CBD

Rangitoto Island is a great day out in Auckland, and the summit does offer some of the best views in the region.  If possible, do it in December when the pohutukawa are in full bloom.

Enjoy the full gallery of ~22 pictures below.  To view on imgur click here.

Dingle Dell Reserve

Dingle Dell Reserve is a sixteen-acre reserve of regenerating coastal forest half a mile from the coast at St Heliers Bay in Auckland.

Near the Long Drive entrance
Near the Long Drive entrance

Much of it is dense bush, making it a quiet, shady alternative to St Heliers beach on a sunny day.  In 1933 a selection of native trees were planted  including pohutukawas, tree ferns, rimu, totara, nikaus, tanekaha and kohekohe.

Dingle Dell Reserve
Dingle Dell Reserve

Maps posted near some of the entrances are helpful as an overview of the park.  Trails are not named on the map, but there are some signs posted in Dingle Dell Reserve.  Trails are mostly identified by the roads to which they lead.

Map of Dingle Dell Reserve
Map of Dingle Dell Reserve

A large willow-like tree (maybe a totara?) overlooks the open grassy area, and a couple of long strips of lawn that reach south into the trees, at the north end of the park near Dingle Road and Woodside Crescent.

Dingle Dell Reserve
Dingle Dell Reserve

The benches here are a good place for a rest, and for watching the many birds in the park.  Tui chased each other through the trees, battering the foliage with their wings like I’ve never seen birds do.  They seemed to like the narrow strip of grass stretching off to the southeast.

Dingle Dell Reserve
Dingle Dell Reserve

It was here that I saw an eastern rosella, a parakeet native to south-eastern Australia. Rosella were introduced to New Zealand in the early 1900s, and are now common over much of the North Island, but I had only seen one previously.  He wouldn’t let me get close enough for a good picture.  I saw him, or a friend, later, in deeper bush.

Eastern rosella
Eastern rosella

The nīkau is a palm tree endemic to New Zealand, and the only palm native to New Zealand.

Nīkau palm
Nīkau palm

You can see nīkau palm in many of these pictures of Dingle Dell Reserve.

Nīkau palm
Nīkau palm

There’s variety in the bush here.

Dingle Dell Reserve
Dingle Dell Reserve

Dingle Dell Reserve is a nice little park, good for a short walk through native bush, for watching birds, and for cool and quiet on a hot day.

You can view the full gallery of 9 pictures below.  To view on imgur click here.

Merry Christmas from Auckland!

Merry Christmas from Auckland!

The pohutukawa, the New Zealand Christmas Tree, began to bloom in late November.

Pohutukawa beginning to bloom
Pohutukawa beginning to bloom

It was just last year I realized how many of the trees around me are pohutukawa, when they went into bloom just before Christmas.

Pohutukawa at Heath Reserve
Pohutukawa at Heath Reserve

I made sure to visit Albert Park in Auckland’s Central Business District for a look at the pohutukawa there.  The one in full bloom below is a long time favorite tree to sit in whenever I have time to pass in the city.

Albert Park
Albert Park

The giant Santa is still there at the corner of Queen and Victoria Streets.  He looks a lot better since his 2009 makeover, and decidedly less creepy since the removal of the winking eye and beckoning finger.

Giant Santa
Giant Santa

We’ve had a couple of hot days in December, but it hasn’t settled into a consistent summer yet.  Today started looking a bit rainy, but the skies are now clear and blue, and we’re hoping the wind will die down a bit more.  If it does, we’ll probably go for a walk on the coast, otherwise we might opt for the shelter of the bush.

Franklin Road Christmas lights
Franklin Road Christmas lights

Franklin Road in Freeman’s Bay has a reputation in Auckland as a good place to see Christmas lights, so we went for a walk there last week.

Franklin Road Christmas lights
Franklin Road Christmas lights

The kiwi snow man is a great idea!

Franklin Road Christmas lights
Franklin Road Christmas lights

The Sky Tower is lit red and green for the holidays.

Sky Tower in red and green
Sky Tower in red and green

I wish you all very happy holidays!

You can view the full gallery of 14 pictures below.