Tag Archives: Tiritiri Matangi

An Afternoon with the Birds on Tiritiri Matangi Island: Day 3 of 3

I slept outside on my second night on Tiritiri Matangi Island.  I took the mattress from my bunk into the courtyard of the bunkhouse before it got dark.  A volunteer had told me that kiwi will sometimes wander through the courtyard at night.  It also let me avoid the awkwardness of trying not to disturb my roommates as I crawled into my bunk in the dark after my walk.  See the previous 2 posts on days 1 and 2 on the island.

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

Because the ranger hauls baggage from the wharf to bunkhouse and back, I’ll pack a bit more next time I visit Tiritiri.  A good inflatable mattress wouldn’t be a bad thing to bring to the bunkhouse.  Even a Therm-a-Rest type camping mattress might be a good supplement to the mattresses provided.

A Second Dawn on Tiritiri Matangi Island

I listened to the dawn chorus from the courtyard, then got some more rest, and maybe even a little more sleep.

Later in the morning I enlisted the help of some bunkhouse guests to fish the messages out of the bottle I had found the night before on the beach near Tiritiri Wharf.

Messenge in a bottle
Message in a bottle

It turned out the bottle had been launched just 3 days earlier from Brown’s Bay.  The messages were extremely silly.  The senders had burned the edges of some of the pages to make them look old, and listed the date as 1790.  My favorite part is “This is a very old letter”.

The messages in the bottle
The messages in the bottle

I texted Bella, and she seemed surprised and amused that someone had found the bottle.  She liked the idea of me sending it on, so I added my own brief message, with the URL of this blog, refilled the bottle with messages, and put it back in my jacket pocket for return to the harbor.

Precious Memory

Memory is cheap, and it’s been a while since I was up against a hard limit.  I hadn’t brought my laptop to Tiritiri Matangi Island,, and had only one 16GB card and one 8GB card to store pictures.  Because I was trying to get good pictures of the wildlife I was taking a lot of shots.    By the end of my first day I knew I was taking too many pictures, and something had to give.  I changed from 14BIT RAW mode to 12BIT RAW mode, and switched to uncompressed RAW.  While I enjoyed tea and a snack at the visitors center I found an article that reassured me that I wasn’t making too much of a compromise.  All the same, I had to delete a few shots to make sure I had room for any little blue penguins I might see in the harbor on the trip back to the city.  It was only the 3rd time I’ve completely used all of my memory, and this time I shot no movies.

An Afternoon with the Birds

I decided to spend the rest of my time on Tiritiri Matangi Island along the Wattle Track, at the water troughs provided for the birds.  The one closest to the road has the bigger deck of the 2, and more seating.  I found it most comfortable, and it showed me the most birds.  I was told that this is a great place to enjoy the dawn chorus.

Tiritiri Matangi Lighthouse and bunkhouse from Wattle Track
Tiritiri Matangi Lighthouse and bunkhouse from Wattle Track

Hearing people talk about the kōkako over my stay at the bunkhouse had really piqued my interest.  Going into my 3rd day, this was the last creature  I knew I wanted to meet.  The beauty shown below came to the trough for a drink, and spent time in the surrounding trees as well, giving me lots of time to take pictures.

Kōkako
Kōkako

Kererū are beautiful birds.

New Zealand pigeon (kererū)
New Zealand pigeon (kererū)

A couple of young girls sat down and watched for a while.  They were particularly interested in meeting a kōkako.  I told them about the one I had seen.  Many birds came and went, but no kōkako.  Ridiculously soon after they moved on, another one finally stopped by for a drink.

The picture above doesn’t show it, but that one had blue and white bands on its feet, this one has orange and silver.

Kōkako
Kōkako

An older woman was also disappointed that she didn’t see any kōkako.  I felt lucky, but I had spent days walking to see birds, and I think I saw more of them by sitting quietly at the troughs.

Saddleback finally showed themselves to me in the open.

Saddleback (tieke)
Saddleback (tieke)

On the ferry ride to Gulf Harbour I sent the bottle on its way, with any luck to miss Tiritiri Matangi Island this time, and make its way to the Pacific Ocean.  It felt a bit too similar to throwing trash into the ocean.  I explained myself to a boy and his mom before launching, and they were supportive.  Like everyone else on the boat, they seemed to have had a good day.

Tiritiri Matangi Island
Tiritiri Matangi Island

Tiritiri Matangi Island isn’t exactly a secret.  It’s a popular day trip, but I could never bring myself to pay the price of the trip for just 5 hours on the island.  It took me a while to invest the time to make the longer trip come together.  Procrastinating was a mistake, booking 2 nights was not.  I spent most of time time looking for exotic creatures, and at the same time walking through the beautiful landscape.  I could have spent more time enjoying the sun and the waves and the beaches.  It’ll be well worth making a 2nd trip to Tiritiri Matangi Island.

Please enjoy the full gallery of 6 pictures below.  To view all 3 days on imgur, click here.

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.

The Big Smoke

I haven’t personally ever heard Auckland referred to as “The Big Smoke”.  But over the course of last summer, traveling around the South Island, I got to hear a lot of what kiwis outside of Auckland think about New Zealand‘s largest city.

Harbor Bridge and Sky Tower
Harbor Bridge and Sky Tower from Birkenhead Warf

A while back I was having drinks with a native Aucklander who was having endless fun with all of the many easily ridiculed aspects of the USA – easier than usual after the 2016 elections.  Eventually I reminded him that the term “JAFA” is used in the rest of New Zealand to mean both “Just Another F*cking American” and “Just Another F*cking Aucklander” …that for the rest of New Zealand, Aucklanders and Americans are kind of in the same category.  His response was a surprised “You get that!”

Guide books more or less advise tourists to sleep off the jet lag, buy any needed supplies, and head out of Auckland.  But Auckland is part of New Zealand, and it is highly underrated.

Central Auckland at night
Central Auckland at night from Bayswater Marina

In Defense of Auckland

I don’t really want to get into the list of negatives attributed to Auckland, or even to defend Auckland from those claims.  Fortunately, I’m able to link to a blog post that does that beautifully.  It is better in many ways than anything I could have written.  It offers a native’s perspective* on the debate, and offers insight on how taboo it is to say anything positive about Auckland, among kiwis outside of Auckland.  Consensus is enforced by browbeating on a number of topics in New Zealand, and this article offers some insight into this aspect of kiwi culture.

Most importantly, the link above tells us in detail what non-Aucklanders think of Auckland, and does a good job of setting the record straight.

I couldn’t have said it better.  But maybe I can add something to it.

* (Correction!  StoriesThatAreTrue is a travel blog written by Gemma Tarlach, an author (and much more) from the USA.)

Rangitoto Island from Narrow Neck Beach
Rangitoto Island from Narrow Neck Beach

More Than Just a City

It is important to point out that Auckland is the name for both a city with a population of 1,454,300, which constitutes 32 percent of New Zealand’s population, and one of the sixteen regions of New Zealand, with by far the biggest population and economy of any region of New Zealand, but the second-smallest land area.

I have never heard anyone mention this distinction though.  For Aucklanders, other kiwis, tourists… for everyone I’ve ever met… Auckland is Auckland.

Both city and region are governed by the Auckland Council, which began operating on 1 November 2010, combining the functions of the previous regional council and the region’s seven city and district councils into one “super council” governing a “super city”.  This is probably the most important blurring of any remaining distinctions between city and region.

Auckland is about the size of The Greater Los Angeles Area, with fewer than 2 million people.

Rangitoto Island and the Sky Tower from the Waitakere Ranges
Rangitoto Island and the Sky Tower from the Waitakere Ranges

What Else Is Auckland?

Auckland is New Zealand – a place of awesome natural beauty.

Auckland is Piha.

Lion Rock, Piha Beach, Te Waha Point in the distance
Lion Rock, Piha Beach, Te Waha Point in the distance

Auckland is also Whatipu.

Whatipu Beach
Whatipu Beach

Auckland is all of the other great west coast Tasman Sea beaches well.

O'Neill Beach and Bethell's Beach
O’Neill Beach and Bethell’s Beach

Auckland is Tawharanui.

Tawharanui Open Sanctuary
Tawharanui Open Sanctuary

Auckland is all of the east coast, Pacific Ocean and Hauraki Gulf beaches, like Pakiri Beach in the north.

Pakiri Beach
Pakiri Beach

Auckland is Tawhitokino Beach on the southeast coast.

Tawhitokino Beach
Tawhitokino Beach

Auckland is the forests and mountains of the Waitakere Ranges in the west.

Waitakere Dam
Waitakere Dam

Auckland is the mountains and bush of the Hunua Ranges in the east.

Cosseys Reservoir in the Hunua Ranges
Cosseys Reservoir in the Hunua Ranges

In the past 2 years I’ve taken you to almost all of Auckland’s 34 Regional Parks, and I’ve recently created a page to help you navigate my many posts about those parks.  Follow the link above for 34 beautiful things that Auckland is.

There are few things I’ve enjoyed more than the North Shore Coastal Walk, with its rock shelves and tree-lined cliffs and constant changing views of Rangitoto Island.

Browns Bay, Auckland
Browns Bay, Auckland

Rangitoto Island is not just a nice bit of scenery visible from Auckland, Rangitoto Island is Auckland!  Rangitoto is a beautiful place to visit, and returns the favor by offering fantastic views of the city.

Devonport, CBD and Harbor Bridge from Rangitoto Island
Devonport, CBD and Harbor Bridge from Rangitoto Island

Auckland is Waiheke Island.

Matiatia Bay on Waiheke Island
Matiatia Bay on Waiheke Island

Because Auckland is also a large city you get interesting cultural events in beautiful natural settings, like Sculpture on the Gulf on Waiheke Island.

Sculpture on the Gulf, Waiheke Island
Sculpture on the Gulf, Waiheke Island

Because Auckland is a very diverse city it offers events like the Lantern Festival, one of many opportunities to enjoy Chinese culture in New Zealand.

Auckland Lantern Festival
Auckland Lantern Festival

Many ethnic groups from all corners of the world have a presence in Auckland, making it by far the country’s most cosmopolitan city. Europeans make up the majority of Auckland’s population, however substantial numbers of Māori, Pacific Islander and Asian peoples exist as well. Auckland has the largest Polynesian population of any city in the world.
Wikipedia

I haven’t been to Auckland’s Pasifika Festival.  I’ll try to remedy that in 2017.

Cook Island dancers at Auckland's Pasifica Festival
Cook Island dancers at Auckland’s Pasifica Festival – from Wikimedia Commons

Auckland has the spectacular Auckland Civic Theatre.  I’ll have to remember to post about this awesome place.

The Civic
The Civic

Auckland may not have the wildlife that the South Island has.  But it does have a great array of New Zealand’s native birds.

Tui
Tui

And naturalized birds as well.

Eastern rosella
Eastern rosella

I did meet a young seal on the coast below JFK Park.

Seal
Seal

There is a lone leopard seal that has moved into Auckland’s harbor.  She’s been here since at least June of 2015.

Leopard seal - from Wikimedia Commons
Leopard seal – from Wikimedia Commons

I’ve been trying to get a look at this seal, but haven’t had any luck so far.

DOC notice about Auckland's leopard seal
DOC notice about Auckland’s leopard seal

It Gets Better

I can’t really finish what I set out to do with this post, at this time – because it is possible, even likely, that I haven’t yet seen the best that Auckland has to offer.  I plan to remedy that in 2017.

I’ve booked 2 nights on Tiritiri Matangi Island, with its abundance of threatened and endangered birds and reptiles.  I look forward to the dawn chorus of native birds, and with a little luck I might get to meet little spotted kiwi, little blue penguins, tuatara, and other rare wildlife.

Little blue penguin - from tiritirimatangi.org.nz
Little blue penguins – from tiritirimatangi.org.nz

I hope to visit Kawau Island, with its four species of wallaby.

Dama wallaby - from Wikimedia Commons
Dama wallaby – from Wikimedia Commons

And kookaburra!

Kookaburra - from kawauisland.org.nz
Kookaburra – from kawauisland.org.nz

Wallaby are tenacious pests that do extensive damage to Kawau Island, but before they are eradicated, I want to see kangaroos in Auckland.  Of course Kawau Island offers a lot of native, less destructive reasons to visit as well.

I’ll post soon about my recent visit to Rangitoto Island.  Rangitoto is one huge pohutukawa forest, so I may decide to go back very soon to see them all in bloom.

Rangitoto Island
Rangitoto Island

I want to make it out to Great Barrier Island and ideally spend a couple of weeks there.

A view over the eastern coast of Great Barrier Island, from a ridge line in the center of the island
A view over the eastern coast of Great Barrier Island, from a ridge line in the center of the island – from Wikimedia Commons

Whakanewha is the only regional park I haven’t posted about, and it is located on Waiheke IslandSculpture on the Gulf is coming up, from January 26 through February 19.  There are many other places I need to visit on Waiheke as well.

The Hauraki Gulf has over 50 islands, and I plan to visit a number of others that I haven’t mentioned above.

By the middle of 2017 I hope to be a much greater authority on Auckland, and in a greatly improved position to show you what is really great about The Big Smoke!