Day Twelve: Pukaha Mt. Bruce

We left Wellington in the morning and drove to Pukaha Mt. Bruce National Wildlife Centre. Unlike the reserve we’d gone to in Wellington, this one is not surrounded by a huge predator-resistant fence.

Mt. Bruce Pukaha sign

We arrived just a bit ahead of our scheduled picnic tour, so we had time to look around the visitor center a bit before meeting our two guides, Rob and Joy (who was in training to lead the walks). Both of the guides are locals and Rob is one of the people who volunteers to check a particular set of traps every couple of weeks for predators. There are lots of volunteers who do this and there must be hundreds of traps set throughout the huge property. Mammals and flightless birds do NOT mix, and the reserve does everything it can to keep the number of predators down.

Predators caught from the beginning of July to the end of November 2013.

Predators caught from the beginning of July to the end of November 2013.

The guided part of the walk was through the bush and up to the top of Mt. Bruce. I’ll let the photos show you just how beautiful it was!

first path

Anyone know what this is? Rob told us what they called it and I forgot already!

Anyone know what this is? Rob told us what they called it and I forgot already!

There are a few birds in aviaries, and this was one of them, the kokako.

Kokako (photo by Dian)

Kokako (photo by Dian)

        mystery leaf       (photo by Dian)

mystery leaf
(photo by Dian)

chainsaw artistry chair

chainsaw artistry chair

top view one

top view one

top view two

top view two

Unbeknownst to us, the people that packed our picnic lunch (which Rob had carried up in a backpack) gave us real plates and flatware– as well as enough food for double the number of people!

lunch on real plates

We stayed up on top for a while and chatted. Rob had been a teacher for a while on a tiny island out in the Chatham Islands. Talk about remote! No cars on the island he was on, and groceries were delivered once a year.

Once we’d finished our most excellent quiche and salad we sampled all the types of dessert bars that were packed and headed back down to go see the eel feeding. There are a lot of cabbage trees on the walk, and I don’t think I’ve put a feature photo of one in the blog yet.

cabbage tree

cabbage tree

pathway back at the bottom

pathway back at the bottom

These redwoods (imported) are about 80 years old.

These redwoods (imported) are about 80 years old.

Eel feeding time! One of my traveling companions, Dian (I’ll be using some of her photos while she’s in NZ) volunteered to don hip-wader boots and get into the water to feed them. These eels do the opposite of what our salmon do at home. They live in the rivers and then near the end of their live cycles go out to sea to breed and die. The young eels live in the ocean for a bit, and then somehow find their “home” stream (which mind you they have never been to!) and swim up river to live.

eel feeding 1

eel feeding 2

eel feeding 3

kids had to feed from the top viewing station

kids had to feed from the top viewing station

Rob and a young eel feeder

Rob and a young eel feeder

After we finished at the eels we went to the kiwi house, which is specially constructed to allow people to see kiwis during the daytime. The interior of the house is kept in near darkness during the day time so that visitors see the kiwis when they are active. Around 9 pm they lights are turned on and the kiwis all go to sleep for their “daytime” while there’s no humans around. There’s a very special kiwi at Pukaha Mt. Bruce, and her name is Manukura. She is white, not from being an albino but because both of her parents had a rare recessive gene for white feathers! This is a link straight to her page on the Pukaha Mt. Bruce site: Manukura. There are two kiwis in the kiwi house, and they’re both 2 years old. As a reserve there is also research being done and kiwi eggs are incubated when needed. There was one in the incubator when we were there.

kiwi egg 1

kiwi egg 2

kiwi egg 3

kiwi egg 4

kiwi egg 5

kiwi egg 6

kiwi egg 7

kiwi egg 8

kiwi egg 9

Tuatara are housed in an enclosure of their own. These are some very efficient critters! They live a very long time and have the ability to slow their heart rate and breathing way down.

Can you find the tuatara?

Can you find the tuatara?

tuatara see it?

tuatara words

The next to last thing on the agenda was the kaka feeding. They have 3 feeding stations, and it was clear to us that these birds knew that it was time to eat! They were flying all over and didn’t want to wait for the staffer to get the food in the feeder (which starts down low and then gets hoisted up high after the food is in it). The kakas eat both nectar and regular food.

Cheese is a favorite protein at the feeding station.

Cheese is a favorite protein at the feeding station.

Staffer adding food-- and trying not to lose any fingers!

Staffer adding food– and trying not to lose any fingers!

Everybody gets in on the free food!

Everybody gets in on the free food!

Corn in another favorite        (photo by Dian)

Corn in another favorite
(photo by Dian)

notice the lovely colors!

notice the lovely colors!

Who's king of the feeder then?

Who’s king of the feeder then?

kaka feeding 4 sign

Cheeky kaka on rail tried to join us for coffee before we got back on the road.

Cheeky kaka on rail tried to join us for coffee before we got back on the road.

One of several nesting boxes we saw. They're quite large, about a meter long.

One of several nesting boxes we saw. They’re quite large, about a meter long.

Saw this takahe in it's enclosure from the cafe deck.

Saw this takahe in it’s enclosure from the cafe deck.

Spotted a Reindeer in the parking lot right before we left!

Some seasonal fun

Some seasonal fun

With an attitude that I can appreciate!

With an attitude that I can appreciate!

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3 Responses to Day Twelve: Pukaha Mt. Bruce

  1. Pingback: Day Thirty Six: Pukaha Mt. Bruce and Martinborough | harehouse.com

  2. Tara says:

    Hello from Pukaha! We just found your blog and want to say thank you for such a lovely review. We are glad you had such a great time 🙂
    Tara (the bubble cars owner haha)

    • brabett says:

      Hiya Tara!!
      I ended up at Pukaha Mt. Bruce twice on that trip, and had a great time both visits. I follow the emails / blog that goes out and I tell everyone who is buying a New Zealand travel book in my bookstore in San Francisco to try and make it to see you while they’re in Aotearoa!
      I know you’ve had a few hard things happen recently, but there has been some very happy news as well. Keep up the fantastic work, and for goodness sake, KEEP UP YOUR FANTASTIC ATTITUDE!! Greetings to one and all on staff there, with aroha from San Francisco. ~Bonnie

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