Day Ten, part 2: Zealandia!

There is a night tour that can be booked for Zealandia, Wellington’s nature reserve.

Zealandia building

Sorry for the bad shot! It says "The future can longer be What is going to happen? It is What are we going to do?"

Sorry for the bad shot! It says “The future can longer be What is going to happen? It is What are we going to do?”

It starts at 8:30 p.m. and goes for 2.5 hours. Our group size was very small, about a dozen people plus two guides.

interior shot


They start with a short introduction inside the center and then take you out into the fenced reserve for a two hour bush walk. Each person was given a flashlight (or torch as they are called in New Zealand) that cast only a red beam of light– enough to see by but not enough to wreck our night vision or startle the birds. The entire reserve is surrounded by a specially designed fence to keep predators, which in this case means mammals, out of the reserve and away from the flightless birds. Obviously the birds that can fly can come and go as they want, but the reserve has provided them with a safe place to nest. That’s a male duck atop the fence. He was keeping an eye on his mate and ducklings.


duck on fence

There is a reservoir that was part of Wellington’s water supply and is still part of it’s backup supply. There were a lot of shags roosting for the night, both in trees and across the water from us on a hill where they’d built some nests. Shags are all over the world and have done quite well at the reserve.


And now for a photo of a bird that has been declared extinct not once but twice, the New Zealand Takahe! There are very few of them left in the bush, and not very many in reserves either. There is a pair of them at the reserve, and our guide brought a bit of food to put in their feeders as a lure. They were not particularly bothered by our presence and walked right around, through, and past our group.


This is the weird thing about this post. You’re not going to see one more photo! From the takahes we walked further into the bush and the guide told us how to find Little Spotted Kiwis. He stopped at a spot that had listening stations and let us hear what both the male and the female kiwi call sounds like. Kiwis are flightless nocturnal birds, and we would be using our EARS to find them– listening for their calls and for the sound of them rustling around in the forest. The guide had us walk up to where Zealandia has installed some feeding stations (up high on posts) for kakas (you’ll see some of them in my posting about Pukaha Mt. Bruce on day 12). While we enjoyed the comical and rather loud parrot antics he went off a bit from the group (of humans) to locate out first kiwi. The other guide stayed in radio contact with him. At her word we all walked– quickly but as quietly as a group of people can walk down a gravel path!– to where the first kiwi had been found. The guide had a double red light and used it to make the kiwi more visible to us in the almost total darkness that had descended while we were watching the kakas. Let me tell you this folks, there is NOTHING like seeing and hearing a real live kiwi out in the bush. It’s something that many New Zealanders don’t ever experience. This one was a male that was calling to locate his mate. Do you know how big they are?!  They’re about the size of a chicken! The kiwis are territorial, and have many different burrows within their “turf”. They will move from burrow to burrow on different days, and mates don’t necessarily sleep in the same burrow. By calling out they locate each other when they first emerge from the burrows to feed at twilight. They may or may not feed close together, but they usually keep audible contact. Our second kiwi was found a bit later in another territory and was a female. And our last kiwi encounter was really unusual to have happen on a tour (so said the guide!). It was two kiwis, both males, engaged in a bit of posturing over a territorial breach. One fellow kind of chased the other right past us on the path, and the kiwi that was fleeing bumped right into one of the men on the tour. Their eyesight is NOT their main sense! The kiwi whose turf had been invaded then walked around in the trees just off the path making rather a lot of noise– some calls and a lot more rustling than was probably needed — in order to seem bigger and tougher to the intruder. It’s a boy thing. There was an amazing moonrise that we saw from the dam at the reservoir, and then on the way back out to the visitor center we all got to see a ground weta on the footpath!! It was the main guide’s last night tour before leaving to go to the south island to work for the Department of Conservation. I think that after all the years he put into working at Zealandia, the “critters” were making sure that he had a magical last night, and I am SO glad that I was a part of the group that got to share it with him!!

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One Response to Day Ten, part 2: Zealandia!

  1. Pingback: Day Thirty Five: Walking WINDY Wellington! |

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