Wednesday, January 1, 2014

30 December 2013: Tiritiri Matangi island science reserve

Day 2 of our trip had us visit the off-shore scientific research reserve called Tiritiri Matangi.  We caught the Tiri Kat ferry from Auckland Harbour in the morning and made the 1.5 hr trek to the island.  After a quick greeting from the Department of Conservation (DoC) ranger, Jason, we were met by our personal guides, Simon & Morag Fordham.  Simon & Morag have been volunteers on Tiritiri for the last 17 years and are part of the 'Supporters of Tiritiri Matangi' group that help care for the island and its native plants and animals.  Our tour worked its way down a coastline where Simon described the origins of New Zealand and the organisms that evolved on the islands over the last 80 million years.  We were fortunate enough to see a nesting Variable Oystercatcher female brooding her eggs in a nest right on the beech!  Mom patiently watched as we all snapped some amazing pictures of this species of concern.  From the beach, we wove through native stands of trees and shrubs, looking for and listening to the chattering of the North Island Saddleback, Whiteheads feeding their begging offspring, and inquisitive Bellbirds visiting a nectar feeder designed by Simon. It was a great tutorial on the flora and fauna of Tiritiri and it was impressive to hear about the extraordinary efforts made by the grassroots 'Supporters' organization.  Our group then moved onto the beach for a little dip before we headed back to Auckland for dinner and work on daily journals.  It was a fantastic day!

Our group walking past the roped-off site harboring the Variable Oystercatcher female on her nest.

A North Island Saddleback investigating us as we walked through its territory.

Bellbirds visiting the nectar feeder designed to provide food, but also a convenient site to catch the birds!

 Our group posed for a snapshot atop the island of Tiritiri Matangi.  Behind the group is one of the oldest lighthouses in New Zealand and in the Hauraki Gulf.
 The critically endangered Takahe, a flightless bird, makes its way across the lawn near the Visitor's Centre.  Only 260 individuals of this species remain alive (and we got to see at least 2 of them!)
The Kokako, or Blue-wattled Crow, another endangered species, sat preening its feathers after bathing in a water trough along the Wattle Valley trail on Tiritiri Matangi Island.  According to Morag Fordham, an 'amateur' scientist tracking the Kokako on Tiritiri, the island's population is probably one of the densest aggregations of this species in New Zealand.

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