Cast you mind back to summer 2011-12 and if you lived in Auckland you will probably be saying “what summer”? It felt like we emerged from winter into perpetual spring. The rain was constant and the sun fleeting.
This summer is the polar opposite. It may have started off with a few hit and misses. As usual Christmas day threatened rain however from early January it has been as if the country moved itself into another climate zone. The last time I remember a summer like this was when I was about eight years old.
However back to today and things are not looking good for our native plants and animals. I knew things were getting serious when our garden of natives started dying. I don’t have much of a green thumb so let’s just say they’ve received little attention from me over the years. They’re robust little blighters, so if they were dying, I knew it was serious.
The kakapo has been pinned with many adjectives. Shy, frisky, curious and romantic are ones that crop up most often, however one that is noticeably absent from the usual list of descriptors is ‘gloriously perfumed’. The cover of darkness means that fabulously coloured plumage will go unnoticed by potential mates. So instead it smells. Great. It’s like its feathers have been dipped in a musky array of essential oils that could come straight from a Middle Eastern perfumier. And since becoming a full-time bush waitress, I’ve become rather obsessed with scouring their feeding area for stray feathers so I can cop a generous nose-full.
Luke gets a health inspection and weighs in at a healthy 2.5 kilos.
At 2.5 kilos, he’s big enough to boom.
A feed-out volunteer, Jenny Galt, downloads data on the movements of the various kakapo in the near vicinity.
Mandy “bush waitress” – every three days volunteers replenish the food stations of key kakapo on the island.
I’m here for two weeks to feed many of the females (and a handful of males) on Codfish island (Whenua Hou) – the epicentre of operation save kakapo – to encourage this critically endangered parrot to breed. Engorge these would-be mothers with food, and you’ll end up with males, lighten the servings and there’s a good chance you’ll have a lot of females on your hands. It’s a rather ingenious method of keeping the population stemmed at a time when food is scarce. This year, team kakapo is hoping for a new swag of females, so they’re easing back on the supplementary food portions. The pellet mix is nutritionally similar to the rimu fruit – which is one of the mystical plants that helps them to breed.
New Zealand, the country that promotes itself as 100% Pure to the world, was one of only two countries to vote AGAINST crucial protection for our Maui’s dolphin in an IUCN World Conservation Congress in South Korea. The majority (117) of countries voted for New Zealand to ban gill netting and increase observer coverage where the dolphins are found.
According to the RNZ report, the anonymous vote was revealed only after a Department of Conservation staff member told the congress that the Ministry for Primary Industries had instructed it to vote that way. However, a statement put out by the department later said that didn’t occur – something’s fishy here (or should that be “mammal-y”?).
Blogger: Campaign Manager for the whio and Forest & Bird’s Marketing and Promotions Project Manager, Phil Bilbrough
The whio (or Blue Duck) is a seriously cool bird. It lives in white water. It is a torrent duck, and how cool is that? If kayaking is a cool whitewater sport but it is just a sport, then the whio who make white water their home, well… they must be ice cool.
Blue Duck, Photo: Craig McKenzie
It is a truly beautiful bird. Its grey feathers with flecks of brown is subtle, textured and stunning. There is something Yves Saint Laurent about its palette - these colours aren’t usually seen together but combine beautifully. It evokes both the rocks and wildness of a mountain river and serenity of nature.
A curious kakakpo eyeballs kakapo feeder, Stephanie Gray
It was a quietly momentous occasion—the last two kakapo youngsters to be released this season stepping clumsily into new lives in the wild to the fanfare of bellbirds and kaka.Weaned from morning crop-feeds several days ago, the birds left their chick-pens in robust good health. Their first night in the bush was a mild one, the following day sunny, and their particular patch of bush is rich with hidey-holes.
Beginning with a hot-pink sunrise over Stewart Island’s Raggedy Ranges, my fifth day on Whenua Hou wrapped up beautifully with a game of petanque on Sealers’ Bay.
Sinbad, Photo: Stephanie Gray
In true island-style, we bowled over and around heaps of glossy kelp, skipped the jack to the creek’s edge, and considered the variable speed of steel through sand.
My feed-out route today took me southwest of the valley, through a verdant canopy of miro, kahikatea and rimu rustling with bellbirds, tomtits and ever-present kakariki. Having found my mud-legs by now, the climb is easy and sweet in the sunshine.
I find Heather’s feed station in a pool of dappled light, and laugh aloud at the state of it. Her water hopper has been ripped off the stand, and the snark (a receiver that collects information on the birds’ comings and goings) kicked to one side and chewed.
By the look of the empty feed bowl, Sinbad enjoyed his kumara cubes and macadamia nuts last night.
Kakapo feeder Stephanie Gray gets to know one of the juvenile kakapo on Codfish island
He’s tidy too, leaving only a few crumbs, unlike the chicks who scatter lumps of pasty, half-chewed pellets up to two meters from their hopper—a kakapo feed station. I start to wipe down the hopper when, with a rustle of leaves and little grunt, Sinbad pokes his head through fern fronds.
The feed-out map and guide I carry mentioned that this particular bird may be roused from daytime slumber to visit, but I’m still taken aback at the sight of this beautiful, inquisitive creature. Sinbad ambles past again, lifting huge clawed feet high above the muck of peat mud and I blurt “Sinbad, you’re amazing. I love you.”
Prior to heading out the next day, I checked the weather report and the forecast said ‘clear blue skies for the next few days’. After reading this I committed the ultimate sin in any trampers opinion, I left my raincoat behind in a further attempt to lighten my pack. By now I was down to the bare essentials; all I had in my pack was kea catching and banding gear, and food. This decision was one I would live to regret very soon into this leg of the survey.
Kea, Photo: C Rudge
That afternoon we made our way to our next survey point and again I headed to my spot alone. I found a comfortable position to wait and look for birds; I saw a mob fly past, back and forth a few times. They weren’t interested in me at all and so I caught up on my reading. After about an hour sitting there, dark spots started appearing on the pages in my book, looking up there was some very ominous clouds lurking about. I hoped that the Met Service’s weather prediction would prevail but the chance of that happening was looking very slim at this stage.
The rain started and was quite bearable for a time, but that didn’t last too long. I was out in the open and all I had to sleep in was a bivy bag. I rummaged through the sparse contents in my bag for something to protect me from the weather and found myself a rubbish bag, a good old ‘blak sak’. I made a head and some arm holes and wore that rubbish bag with style. I proceeded to make my way to Kirsty who was at the neighbouring survey point – which just so happened to be a hut with shelter and comfortable beds!
For those of us lucky enough to live in the Waitakere Ranges with its awe-inspiring forests and thunderous coasts, communing with nature tends to be part of our everyday lives.
The many ways in which we do relate to the natural world and its other inhabitants has always been a source of fascination for me.
As a film-maker one often finds the best stories are on one’s own doorstep, in this case the activities of of local inhabitants, human and otherwise in our well loved local park, the Cascades Kauri Park in the Bethells valley.