Wednesday 19th March -Tiritiri Matanga

Today’s excursion was the result of chatting to a lovely British couple when we took the train (Northern Explorer) from Auckland to Wellington. This fact coupled with the fact we went bird watching makes me feel like my birthday has tipped me into another age bracket!

Up early, make sarnies – peanut butter, Vegemite and cheese!!

Then off to Pier 4 to catch ferry to Tiritiri Matangi Island – it’s a nature reserve just over an hour by ferry from Auckland

We stopped on the way to collect more passengers, in true NZ fashion the driver announced ‘it’s going to get busy, if you want to save your seat, you should sit on it. If you want to give it away I suggest you stand up and stretch your legs……’

It being a nature reserve they’re trying (and succeeding) to keep out foreign seeds, pests, mammals, so lunch has to be brought wrapped up in animal proof containers, you have to make sure your shoes are clean and your bag/pockets are free of stowaway animals and seeds.

We got off the boat and after an introductory talk from the DOC man we were passed over to the volunteers who help look after the island
http://www.tiritirimatangi.org.nz

We were split into people who wanted to do a longer/shorter walk and then divided between the guides. We had 6 in our group and were led by Kay a lady from Northern Ireland originally.

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We took the Kawerau Track, it was slightly longer tan the alternative (the Wattle Track) and went through the oldest part of the island. Kay explained how the island d had,been used for a long time as pasture, the bush that was once there was cleared to allow grass to grow and it was only the foresight of one man who meant some of the original trees still exist around the shoreline – they were kept at his insistence to help prevent erosion by the sea. The island was left to regenerate by itself, but that wasn’t working and so around the 1980s (although best check the link above) volunteers took over to give things a helping hand and the transformation is amazing.

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First stop was the nesting boxes for the little blue penguins, the young had left the nests, but the adults return to the boxes to moult in relative safety – one box had a very bedraggled penguin in!

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We then crossed Hobbs Beach and spotted a family of variable oyster catchers before climbing up into the trees where over the next hour or so we saw enough Tuis that I never need see another – at one point they were everywhere singing away to each other. There were also Fantails, Bellbirds, Saddlebacks, Whiteheads, Parakeets and my favorite the Robin – not at all related to the robin we have in the UK, he has a white tummy for a start (sunsmart is my theory) but his size, shape, demeanour and habit of following you,to see what insects you’ve disturbed is all still the same.

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Now I’m not really a bird watcher, but these walks are fascinating for learning about the wildlife and the island. Just before lunch there was great excitement as we’d finally spotted a wattle bird – kokako….. It was a bit lost on me, but very pretty!

Then just as we were about to sit down, across the lawn came a Takahe and some Pukeko.

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Sat and had lunch in the shade and after being surrounded by exotic birds all morning we were back in the company of sparrows!!

After lunch we were free to wander back to the ferry any route we wanted, so we headed back along wattle track – the one we didn’t do in the morning.

It was fun spotting the birds we’d learnt about in the morning and then we spotted one of our own – an Australasian quail (we’d seen a Californian quail at Abel Tasman).

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The ferry ride back was nicely uneventful and we were back in Auckland around 5pm, just in time to go upload my CV and send it off

For dinner we went to the Bangkok Restaurant – Thai food unsurprisingly! What was surprising was the restaurant itself – up some dodgy looking stairs, but then massive and really lovely. We were talked (easily) into ordering way too much food and it was delicious!

Back at the hostel it was time to pack ready to head to Sydney. I was disrupted though by a phone call from dairy farmer John and we had a fun chat about buses and how it ‘never rains but it hails’ ‘or snows or something’ – ‘it never rains but it pours’ is what we were looking for!

The other distraction of the evening was sharing the dettol/baby oil remedy for sandflies with a friend in Australia and trying to persuade him and my old roomie James to come to Melbourne – not sure I managed to persuade either but it delayed the packing!!

In the end I gave up on packing and we listened to Adam and Joe instead!

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