Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Tiritiri Matangi Island

We passed by Beehive Island on route to Tiritiri
and arrived in good time for sunset

[Kyle]Dave and Lyndon were right. Tiritiri Matangi was amazing!

We squeezed into the little bay to the north of the jetty and dropped anchor as close as we dared to the beach amongst two other boats. The wind was supposed to build in a day, making this an unsafe anchorage, so we had to see what we could while we were there.

We also had distant views of the Auckland skyline

We were up early the next morning loaded with a backpack full of water and all of the other supplies necessary for a whole day’s hiking. My back was still pretty sore, but I was determined to get out and make the best of it, so I took a hiking pole to use as a cane and off we went. Our plan was to get as far as we could before I couldn’t take it anymore.

As we went on, I gradually loosened up a bit and found that I could walk just fine as long as I paid special attention to not tripping or stepping into any unexpected holes. Those were a real killer.

The island is just wonderful. In the early 1900s, it was a largely deforested sheep ranch. After that stopped, a program of bringing in native plants began and went on for several years. Once the island was considered to be both sufficiently reforested and free of dangerous introduced predators such as stoats and rats, native fauna was released into the bush. It is now run as an open reserve for many of the area’s native species, primarily birds.

Hobbs Beach, and the ferry landing

Tiritiri now seems like a beautiful botanic garden that is just filled chockablock with birds. We were unfortunately there on an off day for the conservation staff, so we missed out on any of the guided walks they offer. Instead, we got to pick our own route, which gradually morphed into almost an entire lap around the island on their well maintained trails.

Kyle's hiking pole did the trick and we were soon enjoying the birds
The Tui bird (a commoner in the area)

We were really impressed with the island. Not only were the facilities for the visitors top notch, but they had clearly invested a lot of time and effort into making it a good environment for the animals living there as well. There were nest boxes scattered through the forest and they had plumbed a whole water system on the island just for refilling drinking troughs and birdbaths with plentiful, clean water. Many of the birdbaths were placed a respectful distance from a bench, where visitors could sit and watch.

The amazingly presented trail-side nest of the vulnerable stitchbird (hihi), and the native NZ robin

We saw almost every species of New Zealand bird we’d been hearing about, except, of course for the nocturnal kiwis. One of our favorites was the Tui, an extroverted bird with long, beautiful songs who seemed to use any excuse to show off its repertoire. Another was the Fantail, a tiny little bird with boundless energy who really seemed to enjoy showing off. They would land on a branch an arm’s length away and start chattering away, presumably about all of the day’s birdy gossip. They would flit from one spot to another, making a point of showing off their outsized tail feathers all the while. They would happily go about doing this for a full minute or two before finishing their diatribe and going on their way. They were frustratingly hard to photograph because even though they were right there, they wouldn’t sit still for more than half a second. By the time you got one in focus, it was on the next branch over. Fortunately, we had hundreds of chances at it.

Stunning scenery and blue skies!

The coast on the very far side of the island from Begonia was just one viewpoint after another of jaw dropping scenery, made even more beautiful by lots of giant Pohutakawa trees in full bloom. We wanted to explore every side trail and linger at each pretty spot, but we knew the onshore wind was coming and we would have to be on our way, so we started across the island for home. Along the way, Maryanne made the spot of the day when she sighted a Ruru, also known as a Morepork or Tasmanian Spotted Owl, sitting motionless high up in a tree. We checked later and found that their population is considered stable enough to not warrant protected status like all of the other birds on the island, but we saw loads of those and only the one hard-to-find owl, so we were pretty happy.

And, of course, the birds...
Takahe, Bellbird (I think), Morepork and the 3 Oystercatcher chicks

When we got to the beach, we nearly walked through three Oystercatcher chicks. Their camouflage is so good against the pebbles that you can only see them when they are moving. When we passed too close, they all toddled over to mom for shelter and adorably plopped down by her, virtually disappearing again.

The bay was full of boats, most of whom seemed to have stopped only for lunch or a brief swim on the way to somewhere else. By the time we had hoisted the dinghy and had a snack, it was just us and one other. We saw them pulling up their anchor just after we had cleared the bay ourselves.

{Maryanne: The forecast meant we needed to move on, but we'd have loved to have explored the island several times over. Tiriti Matangi translates to 'a place tossed by the wind', so we figured we should take the forecast seriously and say farewell to Tiritiri.

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