4 February 2013
On Friday I had a late Wellington overnight duty — flew the “night rider” in, landing at 11pm, in the hotel a bit before midnight — then not out of the hotel again until 1550 on Saturday. I made good use of the fine weather and free time by visiting Zealandia (formerly the Karori wildlife Sanctuary) with good friend Natalie, a Wellington local.
Natalie had only visited Zealandia for the first time a couple of weeks before, but raved about it. And I can see why. 225 hectares of mature (mostly native) bush surrounded by a predator-free fence, it is teeming with birdlife. Previously I’ve only seen kaka in Stewart Island, but there are a couple of hundred who call the Karori sanctuary home. Their raucous skaark! is ever present. (Although I didn’t get any photos of these guys because I am too slow!) The kaka are joined by hihi (stitchbirds), kereru (wood pigeons), tui, whiteheads, North Island robins, bellbirds, kakariki, grey warblers and the very rare saddleback. Oh, and the tuatara.
The track through the main part of the reserve is either sealed (and wide enough to drive on) or metalled — very well kept, and very easy walking. But this well-traversed area comprises only a very small portion of the whole. Beyond it there are tramping tracks that extend for several kilometres throughout the bush. On this visit we stuck to the easy part — which is also the area where the many bird feeders are situated, and hence lots of birds.
Whilst Natalie and I were sitting on a bench watching birds at one of these feeders, Natalie suddenly exclaimed in a loud whisper: “By your foot!” I looked down to see a tiny North Island robin inspecting my shoe… which it duly found not very interesting, and moved on to Natalie’s shoelaces, which I can only assume it mistook for worms. It sat on Natalie’s shoe and pecked vigorously at her brown, round laces. When that proved futile, it launched an assault on the socks. Such bold behaviour is proof the birds are accustomed to “ruling the roost” within the sanctuary’s predator-proof boundaries.
While my photo haul wasn’t that inspiring (no tripod, and I’m too slow) the potential is limitless. Definitely on the “must go back” list.