• Kay

Day 93 I have died and gone to heaven 

Friday 10 January Kapiti Island (not part of the trail) Distance: Who cares? Steps: A few Elevation: A fair bit up, but no pack so it was wonderful. Weather: Sunny with a slight breeze. Perfect in other words. I am in my cabin on Kapiti Island, with 45 minutes until the Kiwi tour. Just outside my sliding door, no more than 3m away are two huge kererū (Woodpigeon). A weka and its adolescent chick are wondering past and kākā can be heard squawking loudly.

My first Kiwi in the wild

The day started with an introduction on the birds we may see and the history of the island. As well as kiwi, there are kākā, North Island kōkako, tīeke (saddleback), takahē and hihi (stitchbird), plus the usual suspects including tui, toutouwai (North Island robin), pīwakawaka (fantails) and the already mentioned weka and kererū. I had opted for the guided tour for the first hour on the basis our guide (Manaaki), would be able to identify the bird song even if I couldn't see the birds. He was worth his weight in gold. Manaki took us first to the lowland grass area in the hope of spotting the takahē. They have two on the Island. Unfortunately we didn't see either, and I was hoping later in the day I would have time to come back and try again to see them. It would almost be better than seeing Kiwi as there are only an estimated 418 left in the world. We continued on and saw our first pair of tīeke (saddleback). Incredibly, they were soon upstaged. Our guide heard a kōkako! He said he rarely hears them so close. Then all my Christmases came at once and we saw two of them, bouncing around the trees, their blue wattles clearly evident. Manaaki was blown away at seeing them, so you can imagine how I was feeling.

Tīeke (saddleback)

We followed the start of the Trig trail seeing more tīeke (Saddleback) and pōpokotea (Whitehead). Setting us up with a brilliant start Manaaki sent us on our way up the 520m climb to the highest point on the island. Taking my time, stopping frequently to hear all the bird song, I saw several more pairs of Tīeke, a ton of Weka, Tui, Pīwakawaka and Toutouwai. Arriving at the hihi feeding station, once we had sat quietly for about 10 minutes about six Hihi came in to feed. Very unfortunately a group of very noisy Americans came bounding up the track calling loudly to ask if we had seen any interesting birds!! The small group of us watching the hihi, that had strangely enough flown on their approach, all quietly shook our heads and waited for them to pass. Once they were gone the hihi came back.

At the peak I could see the South Island in the distance in the hazy horizon. Lunch was an interesting affair with weka on the prowl, including a chick. When I wasn't looking , and despite the fact I was sitting at a picnic table, a weka attempted to snatch my bag of nuts out of my hand. Seriously cheeky critters.

Weka chick making a run for it while everyone is distracted
Young weka

Back at the bottom I had about an hour before the boat collected us to take us to the northern end of the island. I made my way to the grassy area where the Takahe sometimes hang out and was surprised no-one else was there. As I approached I saw the backside of a Takahe heading into some bushes. I was both disappointed and thrilled. I bent down to look into the bush and there were its feet! At that point it scampered further into the bush and I couldn't see it any more.

I sat myself down about 5m away and waited. And waited. And because I had nothing better to do, I waited some more. It was 45 minutes later, when I thought it was about time I went to the boat pick up point, a Takahe came strolling down the grassy path. The big, prehistoric, gorgeous blue lump of a bird was walking right towards me!!! About a minute later some other people approached the area and the Takahe disappeared into the same bush it had when I first saw it.

OMG it's a Takahe

t was time to go to the boat and I literally skipped there. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I would see a Takahe in the wild. The Kiwi have a seriously hard act to follow. We have been shown to our cabins and Manaki said Kiwi have been seen outside my cabin the last couple of nights. I don't think I will be able to sleep tonight. I have taken a walk along the Boulderbank where there are Black backed gulls nesting and it was the 'Return of the Birds' movie. Some what scary, dive bombing birds that don't want you around their chicks. It is dinner shortly and then it is the Kiwi tour once it is dark. As much as I desperately want to see a Kiwi in the wild, with everything else I have seen today, I don't think I will be too disappointed if we are part of the 20% who miss out. Brave thing to say at this point in proceedings. I did ask if we can individually keep up all night and keep looking for them , so I think in all honesty I may be a little obsessed. 12.30am I am completely out of superlatives. This has been the most epic day. Three different Kiwi seen. I didn't take any photos for fear of scaring them away when the camera clicked which we had been warned about. After we finished our guides Manaki and Vicki took me aside and asked if I wanted to borrow their red light torch (Kiwi can't see red light) and stay watching the Kiwi and take photos if I wanted. Clearly my obsession was evident to others. And I thought I had been behaving normally. Maybe after three months on the trail my normal isn't the same as everyone else's anymore. Anyway, I didn't have to be asked twice. So I have just spent about an extra hour and a half, sitting watching two Kiwi scurry around me foraging for food, and at one point one nearly ran over my foot they were so close. I am in utopia. I took a couple of videos and photos but not expecting them to be anything much as it is so dark, and the only light source is the red torch. I also really just wanted to watch them. I'm so excited I can't sleep, so going out again to see if I can see them again.

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