A Haunting of Kōkako
May has been a fantastic month for the volunteers at Ark in the Park, Forest & Bird’s 2100 hectare open sanctuary in the Waitakeres. 100 pōpokotea (whiteheads) and 10 kōkako were translocated to the Ark, helping to restore our dawn chorus as John Staniland, one of the project’s founders, explains.
Last week while doing my monthly trapping roster I had an encouraging experience: I looked up on hearing a slight rustling sound and instead of the expected tuī or kererū there was an un-banded kōkako looking down at me which then proceeded to eat bright red supplejack fruits. The fact that the bird had no bands means that it was not one of the birds that has been translocated here but one that has bred locally.
Two hours later while having lunch beside the beautiful Nihotupu Stream at the very frontier of Ark in the Park, I initially thought I was seeing three tuī cavorting in a tree before I realised that one of them was another un-banded kōkako again feeding on supplejack fruits.
Another couple of hours later I heard a soft but alerting “Toc…. Toc….” over the road on the non-Ark side. Two unbanded kōkako, one of which could well be the same bird I had seen 4 hours earlier flew over the Scenic Drive to the area of the gate, to a large kahikatea where they fed on its abundant ripe fruits, sharing the tree with 3 tuī, 2 blackbirds and 2 rosellas. These two birds, probably juveniles from last breeding season, have since been seen by me and others a little further along.
It’s so encouraging to know our trapping and baiting efforts are paying off and I feel very privileged to have seen all this.
To cap off a great day, I came home to news that my wife Karen while walking our dogs at midday heard and saw pōpokotea on and near our property that is above Matuku Reserve! A definite first for our area. These would of course have come through our relocations to Ark in the Park.
For the title of this article I have invented for kōkako the collective noun ‘haunting’. Many overseas birds have long had special and delightful collective nouns such as ‘A Charm of Goldfinches’, ‘A Bevy of Quail’, and ‘An Exaltation of Larks’. I know of none for our magnificent bird with its haunting song, apart from the standard terms ‘flock, group, or bunch’. Can you suggest appropriate nouns?
Birds, birds and more birds!
I carry out general monitoring of all birds inside and outside the Ark three seasons of the year. I have just started my tenth year, having so far done 56 counts. I follow the same tracks, in the same week, in similar weather, trying to restrict as many variables as possible. My circuits are in the northern part of the Ark and at Fairy Falls, and I count only to 20 metres distance.
My recent autumn result, in perfect conditions, is interesting: there were nearly as many tūī in the Ark (52) as in the total of all birds at Fairy Falls (58). 28 kererū compared to 13, and 16 fantail to 7. I was pleased to record 7 tomtit in the Ark (3 at Fairy Falls).
The grand totals were Ark 120; Fairy Falls 58. This is more impressive than it first appears since the Ark total was made up of unusually few (only 4) of silvereyes that usually travel in big flocks at this season.