Posted on Leave a comment

kiwi on Raikura

KiwiThere’s some Cloak of Protection games featuring in a competition in the latest i-site, News in Education, magazine.

Some of the pages in this edition ‘Our Amazing Environment’ are about Rakiura National Park (85% of Rakiura/Stewart Island), our newest national park & the southernmost park in the world.

Down there, some people go kiwi-spotting as there are around 25,000 birds. Kiwi often come out in family groups during daylight & even walk on the beaches!

There are no stoats, ferrets or weasels on the island.

But there are still possums, feral cats & rats – so traps have been set. There are plans in the near future to make the whole island pest-free.

Go Rakiura! That’s a massive island about to become predator free!

Posted on Leave a comment

autumn on Waikanae Beach

toroaWalking 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???

Posted on Leave a comment


house sparrowComing back from an early morning stroll on the beach – there I meet the mysterious dropper-off-of-bread for the sparrows.

Quite regularly there’s several packets worth of bread sitting on a steep grass verge. Great flocks chattering & chirping over it!

The bread seems to just appear regularly of it’s own accord(?)

Then the other morning there was the guy out of his bread truck, shaking out the left-over bags. He said he likes the sparrows to get the bread first, before the seagulls arrive.

Tiu (the house sparrow) were released here with high hopes, 1866 – 1871. Brought in from Europe (mainly England), they were to control insects on newly-planted crops.

That’s not what happened. Instead they ate up the farmer’s seeds. Gobbling up wheat, barley & maize!

You would have thought they’d be unpopular after that. But there we are – opening up packets of wheat, barley & corn bread, just for them.

No wonder that bird likes living around humans!

In Cloak of Protection tiu, the house sparrow, is hunted by cat & stoat.

Posted on Leave a comment

Orokonui ecosanctuary

saddlebackWending 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!!

Posted on Leave a comment

at the Invercargill Museum (& Art Gallery)

aptornisQuite often I get asked about the adzebill. Did this bird really REALLY exist?

Oh yes – I say – I’ve seen the bones of one in the Invercargill Museum.

So, this January I went for a hunt in their Natural History section. As you can see in the photo, it isn’t all the bones, but enough to put together a model.

The label Aptornis, refers to its Latin name. I’ve added Morgan’s illustration below for a fleshed-out comparison.

Adzebill were as large as a small moa, flightless, with a massive down-curved bill.

In Cloak of Protection they are both extinct and predator. They were hunted by: kiore; dog; & the human hunter.

In turn they hunted: tara-iti (fairy tern); tara (white-fronted tern); hoiho (yellow-eyed penguin); tutikiwi (snipe); kiwi; & whio (blue duck).

Posted on Leave a comment

looking for a retail store?

tuturiwhatu/NZ dotterel SEA bird
tuturiwhatu/NZ dotterel
SEA bird
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.

All good places to be this summer!

Posted on Leave a comment

matuku-moana/reef heron

matuku-moana/reef heronMatuku moana, the reef heron, live, alone or in pairs, along our sheltered rocky shores, in mangrove-filled estuaries, and around our tidal streams.

Dark-slate grey all-over, they have a heavier bill & shorter legs than the (now) more often-seen white-faced heron.

Crouching low they stalk for food. Walking smoothly, sometimes running, hunting from one end of the pool to the other.

Necks drawn in. Waiting. Jabbing. Lunging. Spearing small fish, crabs, molluscs…

With a slow flapping of wings, flying just above water, they go to their nests. In caves, crevices, rock shelves, flax bushes, & pohutuakwa roots.

Matuku moana is a warm waterbird, living from Eastern Asia to Australia to Aotearoa/New Zealand. Here is their southern-most limit, and here they are preyed upon by stoat, ferret, and cat.

Posted on Leave a comment

tutukiwi / snipe

Here’s a typical story of how a bird became extinct. And how we, as humans, have had a lot to learn.

With eyes set well back on their heads, tutukiwi (the snipe) could see widely. But what they could see coming, they couldn’t avoid!

Like their larger cousin, the kiwi, they nested on the ground. They were very tame. They ran about on the ground.

It suited them to live like this in our luscious landscape.

They did have a surprise though! Their night-time calls terrified early European explorers. Hak’wai, hak’wai, hak’wai – called a ghost from on high, & then a sound like a roaring jet-plane blasted the air!! No-one suspected a bird from the ground could be the culprit!

Suddenly their changes were fatal. It was too late to fly back to the water – too late to hide their eggs in the rushes. In the daytime they were stuck on the ground – now the most dangerous place on earth to be

Too many predators went after them. First they were hunted by the adzebill – but there weren’t too many of them

Then they were hunted in their nests by kiore. Until they were mostly away on our off-shore islands

Then the Norway rat and the cat came, so that they were only on one last island out-post. Taukihepa (Big South Cape), southwest of Rakiura (Stewart Island)

Then, in 1964 the ship rat swam ashore. Two snipe were rescued by the New Zealand Wildlife Service, but both died before release

It was over.

Posted on Leave a comment

takahikare-moana / white-faced storm petrel

In March, masses & masses of these small birds fly from the warm waters of the eastern Pacific, to our off-shore islands. The largest colony in New Zealand on South East Island (Chathams) has 1 million breeding pairs.

Dropping down through the trees, they blanket the air and the ground.

Burrows are so well hidden – that you could walk over a colony in the daytime and never know it was there.

They’re hidden from sight, but not from nose or ear! Their strong, musky smell and their loud night-time calls can gave them away.

Over 150-200 years, kiore (the pacific rat) removed huge numbers of petrels from the mainland.

Today the Norway rat and the cat can wipe them all out.

In Cloak of Protection takahikare-moana are eaten by kiore, cat & Norway rat

Posted on Leave a comment

Finsch’s duck

The bones of this bird tell a common story in these islands. It was better to put your energy into growing, not flying. Ancestors of this duck lost 10% of their wing length within only 10,000 years.

Now it was those stout legs that were made for moving about on land.

Large flocks could be found feeding on the open clearings, foraging for plants, finding them more by smell than by sight.

The duck was always hunted from the skies by both hokioi (the giant eagle) and the Forbes harrier. But when humans arrived they were also hunted on the ground by us and our dogs.

Their numbers went down & down from the 1400’s to the 1600’s, until they were extinct. But one (maybe) was caught by dogs near Opotiki, in 1870.

They’d got stuck on the ground – now the most dangerous place to be. They couldn’t escape the new hunters. They couldn’t fly off & hide on water. Their tree hole nests could be found.

And they didn’t have 10,000 years to change back again! Time was no longer on their side.

In Cloak of Protection Finsch’s duck is eaten by hokioi, Forbes harrier, dog & human