Where am I?

Tiritiri Mantangi

May 06, 2006 at 08:10 PM | categories: New Zealand | View Comments

I have to get to the piers in Auckland by 8:30, to pick up my ticket and catch the ferry. Not a problem... oh wait, that's AM! This time I decide that it'll be quicker to take the bus, and with no traffic on a Saturday morning, the 08:05 bus has me there by 08:20.

ferry building

The ferry leaves at 09:00: it's about half full, but it makes another stop at Gulf Harbor to pick up more passengers.

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Arriving at Tiritiri Matangi after 10:00, there's an old takahe at the wharf to greet the tourists. He poses for pictures, and one of the reserve volunteers throws some grain on the ground so he won't wander away too quickly.

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I take the guided walk, and we start along the coast. It quickly emerges that these people are birders. At first I decide that serious boredom is the worst possible outcome, but then they laugh at me for taking a picture of a tree full of English sparrows. What have I gotten into?


The island was inhabited by Maori, who probably hunted out several species, and introduced rats and dogs, which would have preyed on flightless birds. But it wasn't until the island was leased for farming that most of the damage was done. All but a tiny stand of forest was cut down, and the whole island was converted to grazing. Fifty years ago they stopped the farming, eradicated all the rats, and started re-planting native flora and re-introducing native fauna. It's a volunteer effort, though: they say they get very little money from the government.

The weather is great, and the views from the island are stunning. Along the beach, we come to some penguin boxes, but don't see any penguins. We do see the hole in the ground where another local bird lives, and make our way into the stand of old-growth forest. The largest trees here are what we call the New Zealand Christmas Tree. They'll grow anywhere, apparently, and can live over 1000 years.

penguin boxes penguin molt nesting underground rock-dwelling christmas tree old christmas tree Once in the old growth, we begin to hear, and then see, more local birds.

trail map

I had a hard time with the pictures: can you see a bird in either of these?

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Me neither, but I suppose I thought I saw one when I took them. I used the Canon's "Kids and Pets" settings, since I couldn't find the "Tui that won't Sit Still" setting, or the "Fantails that Keep Flying Away" setting. Eventually, I even figured out how to turn off the flash, but I'm not sure if that helped. The guide mentioned that most of the bellbird's call is in the ultrasonic range: I suspect that the birds can hear the mechanisms inside the camera whirring, as it focuses, and they don't hang around to find out what happens next.

2006-05-06_023.JPG 2006-05-06_028.JPG 2006-05-06_029.JPG Mushrooms are easier: they can't hear, as far as I know, and they seem to like to have their picture taken. Tree ferns are good too: these are the silver fern, New Zealand's national symbol.

mushrooms tree ferns

The easiest way to take decent pictures is to find a feeding station. These aren't really cages: there are holes to let the birds crawl in, but the larger tui birds can't bother them while they're feeding. We mostly saw bellbirds at the first few, but there were some stitchbirds later on. I also saw around 10 saddlebacks: they're supposed to be extremely rare, but the guide reckoned that there are about 200 on the island, now. Sadly they don't photograph well at all: they're dark, and they like to hang around on dark forest floors. I don't think this helps them much with cats, though.

feeding station 2006-05-06_032.JPG bellbird After a while of this, we walk to the south end of the island and have lunch among the takahe.

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There's a lighthouse: fine Plimco craftsmanship.

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Then I wander around on my own. The trail system has it all over anything we saw in Argentina.

trail map trailhead Another walk has three birdbaths and a feeder station. There are plaques for the local flora, too: I can't vouch for the flowers on this one, but I tend to agree about its dense growth.


The first two baths are empty, but if I were a bird I'd use this one. I wish my hot tub had this view.


The last bath has another feeder next door, and lots of customers.

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two saddlebacks silverhead male stitchbird 2006-05-06_074.JPG 2006-05-06_075.JPG wattle walk sign

After a while I lose interest in the birds, and take more pictures of the views. We're some distance from Auckland, but you can still squint at the Sky Tower on the horizon. To the east are the outlines of the Barrier Islands.

distant auckland barrier islands view facing north from coronary hill


Here's the ferry: it's time to go back to Auckland. This Takahe posture means "you don't have to go home, but you can't stay here." ferry goodbye On the way back, I saw a couple of interesting boats in Gulf Harbor. The second one has on the road for a long time!

maori boat long beach, ca

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