I have been warned by my TomTom (GPS/route planner) “Warning: your destination is on an unpaved road” it told me.
Leaving the eco-cottages I was staying at in Kerikeri I’d entered the address 476 Puketi Road (Northland, New Zealand) which is about 30 minute drive away: I’m off on a night walk with Adventure Puketi .
When I reach the ‘unpaved’ road I also warned about cows and children!
It seems that sharing the secrets of the forest is a passion for Ian and Barbara Candy and their team of Adventure Puketi guides, one of whom I went out with and her knowledge of the flora and fauna in the environment was shared with enthusiasm. They are Department of Conservation (DOC) approved for guided walking tours of the Puketi Rain Forest.
Don’t ever think the forest is silent just because it’s dark; our walk started in the waning light and finished in the dark.
So what can you see and or hear on this walk? Here’s the list of creatures that I saw: eel, koura, (fresh-water crayfish) owls, glow-worms, weta, and numerous varieties of spiders. Add the ancient kauri, other trees, shrubs and the night sky and the evening is a real treat.
How the walk I did worked was – start off in the light, get introduced to the bush when we could see it, then we turned around and walked the same track in the dark seeing how it differs and the residents change, become visible, or audible.
Sad facts for New Zealand, and the world, is that since the arrival of people in New Zealand (about 800 years ago), some 41 species of bird have become extinct.
Today several species are only surviving thanks to intensive conversation measures and thanks for people such as Don Merton QSM – who unfortunately died in April 2011 before this book was published. I only met him once, but I, and other NZers value the work he did for us and our wildlife.
While we have lost many species and the forest no longer echoes with wonderful birdsong, the bird life in New Zealand is still remarkable with much of it being not just endemic, but unlike anything elsewhere.
The Kakapo, the world’s largest parrot, and the Takahe, the largest member of the Rail family, are two flightless examples of birds unlike anything else in the world. Other good examples are the two wattlebirds, the Saddleback and Kokako. All of these would probably be extinct by now were it not for recent intervention by dedicated conservationists, by people such the authors of this new book, Birds of New Zealand.
Birds of New Zealand (ISBN 1869508513)
is a beautiful photographic guide featuring all 350 species of bird you can possibly see in New Zealand, illustrated with over 600 full colour photographs with full descriptions of all native species and the regular visitors: it is a wonderfully practical book that no bird spotter or nature enthusiast should be without.
This book is not just a guide to identifying the native birds: it is also a wake-up call to look after them, to appreciate and protect them. As Julian says in his acknowledgements, ‘the real thank you has to go to the amazing native bird life of Aotearoa New Zealand, for being so special, and so different. My one hope is that this book will do just a little bit to help you survive and prosper. You have had a rough 800 years and you deserve better.’
Julian Fitter is a conservationist, naturalist and writer with a special interest in island ecosystems. He spent 15 years in the Galapagos Islands where he established and ran the islands’ first yacht charter business. In 1995 he was instrumental in setting up the Galapagos Conservation Trust which has grown to be a significant supporter of conservation programmes in Galapagos. He is the author of a number of books on birds and wildlife, including most recently,New Zealand Wildlife and Bateman’sField Guide to Wild New Zealand.
Don Merton is a name that is synonymous with bird conversation, worldwide. He started work with the New Zealand Wildlife Service in 1957 and retired from the Department of Conservation in 2005. The survival of several species, including the South Island Saddleback, Kakapo and Black Robin owe a lot to Don. The techniques he and his colleagues used to ensure their survival, are now in use around the world and have helped countless other species in the fight to prevent their extinction.
NOTE: Another new book worth checking out by nature lovers is the COLLINS FIELD GUIDE TO NEW ZEALAND WILDLIFE Terrence Lindsay and Rod Morris
Joining the Seal Coast Safari, which ‘they’ say is the ‘best tour in Wellington’ I want to check it out again and see if ‘they’ are right.
I’m picked up at the Wellington i-Site (downtown visitor centre) along with two other locals – Claire & Alice – both Bluebridge employees. Seems this is the first time our driver-guide, Billy, has had locals-only on the off-road Seal Coast Safari. It’s a compliment when locals love our coast so much we go out in the middle of winter to see it from a different perspective.
I get the front seat in the Toyota Cruiser and we’re off – before long we’re at the top of the Zealandia (Karori Wildlife Sanctuary) predator proof fence and site of New Zealand’s first wind turbine: at 33 metres tall it is dwarfed by those built today.
It’s amazing that within such a short time we are well out of the city – for non-Kiwi readers, this is New Zealand’s capital, and the site of our parliament.
Some of the highlights of the trip for me (apart from my always-favourites, the seals and bird life) were the wildlife which included Kaimanawa horses and domestic deer. The horses originate from domestic horses owned by early settlers and which are now a large (problematic) wild herd in the middle of the North Island.
I also loved the views of the city, harbour, Cook Strait and the snow-capped mountains of the wonderful South Island. As you can imagine, traveling along a fault line, and with exclusive access through private land, provided many photo opportunities, and our surf-loving, singing, meditating, and artist (painting) driver loved sharing his knowledge with us.
So local or visitor I can recommend this. (See another piece I wrote about this tour and Maori myths)
Here are just some of the photos I took during the morning.
Tens of thousands of Maori died in the intertribal Musket Wars of the 1810s, 1820s and 1830s. Muskets changed the face of intertribal warfare, decimating the population of some tribes and drastically shifting the boundaries of areas that others controlled. Read more here: