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Between Monks and Monkeys

Tiritiri Matangi bird sanctuary, Auckland, NZ

NEW ZEALAND | Tuesday, 15 January 2013 | Views [1250]

Pigeon (kereru) sitting just above our heads, Tiritiri Matangi

Pigeon (kereru) sitting just above our heads, Tiritiri Matangi

This summer we spent a great family day at Tiritiri Matangi Island in the Hauraki Gulf, Auckland. We drove to North Harbour, about an hour north of Auckland, and caught the ferry (360 Discovery Cruises) from there. It took about 35 minutes to reach the island. You can also get the ferry from downtown Auckland - the ride is 50 minutes longer.

At the island we were greeted by a DOC (Conservation) officer. It's very important not to let rodents onto the island and we were warned to check our bags for mice, and to pack our lunch in rodent-proof boxes. It seems laughable to think of a mouse sneaking into your pack or a picnic box, but apparently it does happen, and it only needs one pregnant mouse to undo all the good work that hasd been done to make the island safe for native birds. 

We had booked a tour and met our guide, Rosemary, at the docks. She took us up the winding bush path to the top of the island - if you walked fast it would probably take no more than 30 minutes, but we took more than an hour, as we stopped often to talk about the plants and birds on the island, and look for birds. Bird sightings varied. We heard several rare kokako giving their strange booming cry, but only glimpsed the underside of one sitting in a tree far above our head. We saw several saddlebacks - they were extinct on the mainland until they were reintroduced very recently, and you only see them in or around bird sanctuaries. There were lots of pigeons, and at the bird feeders the birds came down with no fear to feed as we watched. We saw riflemen, lots of tuis, North Island robins, whiteheads, stitchbirds and kakariki - mostly birds you don't see on the mainland. It was great listening to the songs of so many unusual birds. 

Rosemary took us to the centre near the lighthouse at the top of the island, where we had lunch (you bring your own, but they provide free tea and coffee). There are comfortable places to sit and eat, and a good information centre with things for kids to do. There's also a very good shop with t-shirts, books, and other high quality souvenirs. All the facilities - toilets etc, were very good. 

Rosemary, who was an excellent guide full of interesting information (a volunteer like most of the people who work on the island) pointed us in the direction of the rare takahe who were being a bit elusive as they have chicks at present. We walked past the lighthouse and were thrilled to see a pair with a big furry black chick, lurking in the undergrowth. 

We took about 30 minutes to walk back down to the jetty - you can go straight down the road which we did as it was raining by this time, or take a longer walk through the bush at the other end of the island. The rain had cleared by the time we reached the small beach near the jetty and we had a good swim, before catching the ferry back to North Harbour. A great day out. 















































Tags: auckland, bird, family, new zealand, sanctuary, tiritiri matangi

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