The New Zealand Diaries: close up and personal with local bird-life (12/01/2016)


Having enjoyed a lovely lunch (leftover of a giant steak I had last night at a lovely cafe here in Te Anau), I am now sitting outside at the picnic table on my campsite spot with a cup of instant coffee, the leftover of some pretty delicious Whittaker’s chocolate in my mouth (so far the almond variety is my favourite) and some cheeky sparrows playing around me. I have just treated them to some gluten free bread crumbs as a reward for bringing me such joy these last two days, hopping about on my table, coming real close, as did a curious blackbird. The day’s admin is almost finished: washing done and dried in the wind, dishes washed, camper dusted…..the only activity remaining is a maths session which I am determined to get to today, given the good internet connection.

When I am finished writing, I will have to pop into town before the shops close to get some salad for dinner, some cash and to replace my sunhat which I seem to have mysteriously lost, but after that I will come back and buckly down to it.

That said, I have had an amazing two hours and just have to write about it.After my household chores, I decided to take a short walk to the Te Anau Bird Sanctuary to get some exercise and to see some birds and lake views before the rains forecast for later today and it was the most surprisingly wonderful experience.

The birds at the Te Anau bird sanctuary are all where they are either because they were injured, and/or because they cannot return to the wild and/or for breeding purposes. 3 of the staff were there when I arrived, working to ensure that the enclosure was safe for the first outing of the baby Kakas, about to leave their nesting box at the end of January. We saw mum and dad-Bling and Charlie Brown (the latter a female who was thought to be a male until she laid an egg) and I was fortunate enough to get there just as the friendly ladies there were about to open the nesting box to check on the 4 fledglings. I could see 2 very clearly huddled up in a long tube shaped green enclosure (which mimicks the dead tree trunks in which these little ones would hatch in the wild.  Seconds after, the staff discovered that very uncharacteristically, one precocious little baby Kaka had already left the nest and was hiding in a tree really close to the fence. He looked a bit startled as we peered in at him(or her ) and mum and dad kept checking on their baby and bringing food-it was magnificent. A lady called Sue (who is clearly as enthusiasyic about birds as I am and myself) hung around there for ages rejoicing in the baby bird and the colourful, noisy parents and their antics and kept returning to the cage. Perhaps for this reason, the staff eventuallh invited us to come into the cage and take photos inside the enclosure which was so very special.  Bling was very curious; Charlie Brown can apparently be more fierce and hack a people’s feet. Whether that is worse than the ever-biting sandflies is debatable but I am nonetheless glad not to have experienced that.

It was also from within the enclosure that we witnessed the baby bird being gently taken out of the tree and out back in the nesting box…… with the forthcoming rains and e wind growing heavier, that was felt to be the safest place for it to be. Such special, unique moments-I just had to share them with you.


The sanctuary also held other delights. I saw a ruru (type of owl) dozing on its perch……it did not  like being back in the wild after being injured and paid no attention to other birds. My patience in hanging around the enclosure where the Takahe live was also eventually rewarded: the one that sat sleeping by the fence eventually awoke and started pacing up and down by the fence…..clearly a bit distressed. It turned out that this was because another Takahe was walking about on the other side and the one bird could not get to the other. A magnificent bird and 60% of the only 600 of this nearly extinct bird live here, in the Fiordland area of New Zealand, where the Murchison Mountains have, over generations, protected them from total extinction.

Our final treat was the sighting of a Crested Gebe on the lake itself ……what is amazing about  this bird is not only its appearance but the fact that its nest floats on the lake. Mama Gebe was just sitting on there peacefully, keeping an eye on us and hatching her egg, her nest swaying to and fro on the waves which the increasing wind was creating on the lake. Magnificent. Special. Wonderful.