Walking toward Te Horo beach yesterday I saw kahu, the harrier, coming in from the sea. It kept trying to find some lift in the air, but instead kept sinking down out of sight, plummeting toward the dunes, only to appear again, flapping its way upward.
Kahu was the one reason we could not call the settlement realm, introduced. Because they introduced themselves!
I wanted the big birds – the giant hunters – to be numero uno in each realm. Karearea (the NZ falcon) for forest; toroa (the royal albatross) for sea; hokioi (the giant eagle) for extinct: and kahu (the harrier) for settlement.
Of course 3 of these birds turn up in the predator realm as well. The fourth – toroa – hunts too, but far away from land.
Once, they ruled. Maintaining the balance in their realm. As only good hunters can do.
I’ve always thought that the same change could happen in separate corners of the world. We’re all on the same planet – after all.
I’ve never needed one pair – like Noah’s ark – to go out & multiply across the world. Either walking on land bridges until they crossed the globe. Or left alone to change after being marooned as continents spread far apart.
This week I found science catching up with my point of view!!
Apparently a 20-million-year-old kiwi fossil found in Central Otago had researchers suggesting that the kiwi flew here from Australia long after Gondwana broke apart.
It seems that kiwi & moa flew around the continents and then became flightless after arriving here. Just like their cousins the ostrich in Africa, the rhea South America, the emu in Australia, & the cassowary in PNG.
To go from flight to non-flight can be super-common if you’re a ratite or a rail. Or even if you’re a stout legged moa.
A world-wide change that is very weird, and very possible.
Mutton-birding (titi/sooty shearwater) season started April 1 and finishes end of May.
Rakiura (Stewart Island) Maori, from our deep south, have rights to gather muttonbirds on 36 islands – the Titi Islands – around Rakiura.
Last year a lack of small fish such as krill, for the birds to feed on, meant many chicks died in their holes.
But good follows bad and this years season is looking better. The birds now being caught are a good size and the majority are healthy.
In Cloak of Protection titi are hunted by Norway rat (when it gets onto their islands) and, of course, the human hunter.
On another note, got the best feedback about Cloak of Protection yesterday. One of my friends is teaching years 5&6 in Manurewa, Auckland. She said ‘we tried & we tried to study NZ’s wildlife & we got nowhere. Then we played the game & the kids knew everything – birds, predators, the lot!’
Walking down onto Waikanae Beach last evening, was looking skyward for the flock of black dots of titi (sooty shearwater) that have been around. . .
. . .when my attention was caught by a massive seagull. Well, that was my first thought until it unfurled long wings & folded them in again.
No seagull then!
I began tracking giant bird foot-prints toward the water’s edge. Webbed & as big as the palm of my hand. Dwarfing the dog-prints.
Closer – but, not too close – I found three birds distanced along water’s edge. They weren’t so keen on meeting me! One shuffled (on short-legs) into the water & landing a safe distance away, folded those giant wings into its body again.
So – here’s what I could see from my (short-sighted) distance. Pale curved petrel beak, white body, black back. Giant body on short legs.
Here’s a pic to toroa, who range throughout the NZ coast all year. Might have been???
Wending my way up the South Island, & staying in Dunedin, with my friend Gretchen, we drove out to beautiful Waitati. Then on the way home we popped into Orokonui ecosanctuary.
Gretchen & her mum had paid for a couple of posts in the predator-proof fence around the 307-hectare native forest. So helping create this mainland island. Here is the only Cloud Forest in New Zealand without threat from introduced pests.
Being a mainland island presents new difficulties. Tieke, the saddleback, were released there in 2009 and the end of 2012.
But a lot of the saddlebacks and their offspring left the sanctuary, leaving only a few behind to breed.
‘We didn’t expect that, as they are not great fliers, but saddlebacks need a large territory and there’s nothing to stop them flying over the fence.’ So Conservation manager Elton Smith said in the Otago Daily Times, 16/1/14.
‘But all remaining pairs are expected to produce a second clutch and some might even have three. . .we’re hoping for well over 30 fledglings for the season, which will be a fantastic result.’
Saddlebacks don’t occur anywhere on the mainland without predator control so the ecosanctuary is the only place to find them, other than offshore islands.
In Cloak of Protection tieke, the saddleback, is hunted by kiore, ship rat, cat & stoat. Needs an extremely good fence to keep that lot out!!
If you’re looking for a retail store to purchase Cloak of Protection these summer hols – we’ve finally added a list. At the bottom of the BUY page.
Here’s Morgan’s illustration of tuuturiwhatu, the NZ dotterel. Found (when not breeding) on the beaches of the northern North Island, on the islands of the Hauraki Gulf, & above the bushline of Stewart Island.