Monday, December 10, 2012

Kapiti Island one from way back in November!

Kapiti Island 22 Nov
(photos out of order too - grrr)

I think this may have been one of the most enchanting parts of the holiday. A trip in a steel hulled boat which rams itself up on the shingle beach. A gangway to disembark shoots down from the roof. Everyone checks their bags in case they have inadvertently imported a predator, and then we make our way to the shelter for a lecture about the island, and how it's been reclaimed from alien invaders, animal or vegetable, inn order to recreate a reserve of native bush, where native birds can flourish.

We've booked a guided walk, so we follow our leader as she shows us a roosting morepork owl, or ruru, in a nearby shelter. Then there are takahe, big heavy primitive looking birds with red beaks and blue feathers. As we walk into the bush we hear then see whiteheads, and NZ robins, who hang around in case we disturb grubs. Tui are in evidence, with their melodic songs, and bell-birds too. The island has managed to more or less eliminate possum, stoats and rats through a long programme of poisoning and keeping them out of the place. Only two boats are allowed to land on the island, apart from those belonging to a few of the inhabitants, who all belong to one Maori farming family.

We decide we'll walk up the Trig track, though we have been warned it is seriously steep. Our guide comes part way, then cries off as she has a sprained ankle. We continue. It is indeed steep. When we reach the first bird feeding station we see lots of hihi (stitchbirds) pretty delicate creatures. These birds have to be fed, otherwise the tui and bell birds will outcompete them for food.

There are several German visitors at the feeding station. We continue, and join the gentler Wilkinson Track which leads more gradually to the summit, where there are picnic tables, and a viewing platform. The sun beats down fiercely, and we all seek shade for eating our lunch. We make our way back to the boat landing area down the Wilkinson Track - definitely the better choice for a descent.

The boat arrives to collect us and takes us a short distance along the coast of the island to The Lodge. This is the only part of Kapiti which doesn't belong to the Department of Conservation. Amo and Manaaki are two members of the family who own the land, and they help run the overnight stays and excursions on this end of the island. Luggage and Amo ride on the back of the quad bike and trailer which Manaaki drives the short distance to the lodge. We're offered coffee and biscuits, and sit down with a Dutch couple who are also staying over night. Manaaki gives a knowledgeable talk about the island, conservation and the wildlife we can expect to see. The only native mammals to NZ are bats, he tells us. Hence so many Ground nesting birds, threatened by predatory mammals from elsewhere. He tells us a but about the kiwi, and the takahe, who are breeding on Kapiti Island.

The Dutch couple go off for an hour's walk. We recuperate from our morning's efforts, and settle into our cabin accommodation, being careful to keep the wekas out.

It's great to be provided with a sociable meal as part of the deal. Delicious fish and veg, and plenty of it. Wine or fruit juice, and a dessert to follow.

Then, one of the highlights, as darkness falls we prepare for the kiwi walk. We must be quiet and follow closely, as Manaaki shines the red torch to one side, listening intently for sounds of kiwi movement. They come out from their burrows, to the grassland in search of food at night. So we process, slowly, stopping frequently, then starting. In the end we see four kiwi, a blue penguin, and a gecko. We return to the Lodge mightily pleased with our evening.

The next morning we have breakfast. The Dutch couple are leaving on the 9:30 boat. We hang around for a while, then walk along the lagoon circuit track, which leads up to a viewpoint. It's quite a climb, but nothing like yesterday's. There are spectacular views from the lookout.
After lunch Manaaki takes us on a quick guided walk through the bush looking for a saddleback. They hide from us. He plays their call, but they don't respond.

All too soon it's our turn to catch the boat back to the mainland. We promise to look out for John, Amo's brother, if we happen to visit the Rutland Bird Fair in August.

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