Monday, 25 March 2019

New Zealand - Tiritiri Matangi Island - Island Filled with Magic!

The journey to Tiritiri Matangi Scientific Island from Auckland via Gulf Harbour takes approximately an hour. There is the opportunity to see Shearwaters, Petrels, or Skua if the conditions and time of year are right.  The island is open Wednesday to Sunday to the general public with a 0900hrs departure and a return ferry at 1530hrs. The island hosts twelve endemic species which include the Little Spotted Kiwi. To see this species an overnight stay at the bunkhouse is a must. Food taken on to the island has to be sealed in a bag and footware has to be cleaned prior to entering the boat. All garbage is removed from the island by the individual bringing it on. No pets complete the restrictions which enables the island to be kept predator free.

I booked a Sunday to a Wednesday stay giving me three nights on the island. A team of Kiwi surveyors, volunteers and interns completed the residents. I saw my first Kiwi on the first night under red torchlight. I was surprised how large the smallest of the Kiwi family was. I heard a bird scratching just off the path. I sat on the path observing the snout emerge from the scrub then in a blink of a eye the ball of fluff hopped out into a small channel sniffing away as it moved away from me. I joined the Kiwi survey team who were posted to fixed points to record calling birds at night.

I also watched the Little Blue Penguins make landfall at Hobbs Beach after dusk. I could hear the penguin’s long before they made their way back to land. Walking the North area of the island during the day I heard penguins that were feeding offshore.

The boat ride gave good views of Fluttering Shearwater that joined the wake of the boat as it made its way to the island. I was introduced to Buller's Shearwater by John who had spied a couple of birds following a small fishing boat at the North end of the island. The “W” pattern on the upper-wing was the most obvious characteristic separating it from Fluttering Shearwater a dark patch on the under-wing was the next most noticeable feature. 

I picked up a dark phase Arctic Skua whilst on the crossing from Auckland. The bird flew reasonably close to the boat before disappearing. Australasian Gannet were regular around the coast.
I have summarized the other key species I saw on the island.

Brown Teal are present on the small pools and can be seen during the day despite their main feeding activity being at night.

Brown Quail were very confiding particularly if they were having a dust bath and were seen along the main tracks down from the lighthouse.

Spotless Crake were regularly seen most were juveniles indicating a successful breeding season.

The Takahe are all banded the first generation having been re-introduced to the safety of the island. Juvenile birds were present with all banded and given names by the recovery group.

White-fronted Tern was numerous in coastal areas the largest group of 68 was seen at the Wharf.

New Zealand Pigeon appeared in various locations across the island. Most sightings were on top of trees or bushes.

Red Crowned Parakeet I saw across the island in various habitats. Birds were approachable particularly when they were feeding.

Morepork were heard and generally seen from dusk. This species was covered during  to the Kiwi survey.

New Zealand Kingfisher was uncommon and seen around the lighthouse and the North part of the island.

North Island Robin was usually observed along the paths or as a part of a mixed flock of Thrushes and Sparrows. I had a bird hop over my feet along the main path back to the lighthouse.

Whitehead was numerous in small family groups across the island and were not difficult to locate.

Tui was uncommon but individuals were seen around the lighthouse and at Hobbs Beach.

Bellbird was numerous particularly around the sugar water feeders that were maintained by the staff and volunteers on the island.

Stitchbird was seen at the raised water troughs along the Wattle Track. I had my best views of this species in this area. 

North Island Saddleback was numerous across the island. Individuals were seen at low to mid level in trees and bushes sometimes scratching away at the understory to feed.
Male - Green Head

Rifleman became a bit of a challenge for me but once I had seen my first bird they were regularly picked up on call which I relate as similar to the Goldcrest. The bird is also as small. 
Female - Streaked Head
I joined the Riflebird banding team (Simon, Morag and Luca) one morning on a roving mist netting patrol where a male and female were processed and banded using silver and unique combination of colour rings. 

The last species I added to complete my island tally was Kokako where an adult and juvenile bounded onto the drinking trough.

I leave the Island tomorrow and have thoroughly enjoyed my time here. Thanks to everyone at Tiri Tiri for making me feel welcome and for the bird tips during my adventure on the island. 
For the next part of my North Island visit I will be hiring a campervan with a difference!