part three

Westport (SI) - Wellington (NI)
Day 11   30th October

Westport to Nelson

This was a travelling day, and it was raining again, so we were glad we didn't have any trips planned. We took Highway 6 from Westport on the north west coast, across country, following the Buller River. Between Inangahua and Lyell, we were very lucky to spot a Weka on the roadside! This large flightless rail, about the size of the Pukeko, but with shorter legs, is quite common, but secretive like the rest of the rail family, so we were fortunate to add another lifer to our list  today.

On our arrival in Nelson, the sun had come out, so we went to find the local botanical gardens for a walk. It was actually more of a park, where we saw 4 Yellowhammers and 3 Goldfinches feeding on the playing fields. Along the wooded path up the hill we got a Tui and on the summit a Kingfisher. Throughout our trip, we often heard the loud kek-kek-kek call of this kingfisher before we saw it.

5 species and one lifer today
The only way to get into Abel Tasman NP is on foot or by boat, so we opted to pick up one of the numerous water taxi services from the village of Kaiterteri, at the southern end of the park. (See this website for more details). The park has only basic facilities, so we picked up lunch at a local grocery store. Be advised to take a towel, too, as you need to wade out to get on and off the boat.

We were dropped off at Anchorage Bay and were given 3 hours to walk through the bush along a section of the Abel Tasman Coastal Track (total length 51km), to the pick-up point at Bark Bay. This was ample time, but we didn't linger over the first half of the walk, wanting to make sure we wouldn't miss our water taxi! The area is very beautiful, making it a popular destination for tramping, camping and sea kayaking. We saw 14 species of the usual forest and sea birds, but no lifers.
From Kaiteriteri we returned to Nelson via Highway 60, seeing lots of White-faced Herons and Pied Stilts on the adjacent tidal flats. We stopped at a freshwater pond on the inland side of Highway 60, as it looked promising and here we saw a pair of Australasian Shovelers (one above), the only lifer of the day. Little Shags were nesting in the willow trees around the pond, and we also saw both the Variable (above left) and Pied Oystercatchers, 4 California Quails, some.Pukekos, a Masked Lapwing (above) and Welcome Swallows (the one pictured above was photographed from quite a distance away, hence the grainy quality of the enlargement).

26 species for the day

Day 13   1st November

Nelson to Wellington via the Picton Ferry

Today was another travelling day, taking the scenic route to Picton, which although it looked shorter on the map, turned out to be a very windy road, with very few places to stop and look at the beautiful scenery! Another time we will definitely take the main road!

The crossing of Cook Strait was uneventful and we saw very little. All three of the gull species followed us for the first few miles, and then farther out we identified Sooty Shearwaters. A Prion of some sort was also sighted, but we couldn't be sure which one - most probably a Broad-billed, but it could have been a Fairy, it was just too far away to make an accurate identification.

On arrival in Wellington, we were met by our friends, and then we had to pick up the new rental car, as the rental companies will not allow vehicles to cross on the ferry! Later that evening, during a walk after dinner, we heard a Morepork calling. This common native owl was given this strange name because it's loud double hoot sounds like "more-pork"!!

Kapiti Island has been a protected wildlife reserve since 1897, and lies off the west coast of North Island, about 45 minutes drive north of Wellington. It is 10 km (6.25 miles) long by 2 km (1.25 miles) wide and is an important offshore sanctuary for the bird species of New Zealand, which have been devastated over the years by imported predators, such as weasels, stoats, cats, and rats. The Australian possum was also a nuisance because it ate the native vegetation. Kapiti is now completely predator free, and for it to stay that way, visitors are required to inspect their baggage before embarking on the journey to the island. The native bush has regenerated, cloaking almost the whole island in lush forest.

Our friends in Wellington had organized this trip for us, as a landing permit from the DoC, has to be obtained in advance, and before booking the transport . A maximum of 50 people per day are allowed on the island, in order to prevent too much disturbance to the wildlife. There were no overnight stays possible, when we visited.
The boat was due to leave Paraparaumu at 9am, so we phoned in at 7am to check that the trip was still going. It is very dependant on the weather as there are no jetties on Kapiti. At the departure point, the boat has to be launched from a trailer pulled by a giant tractor, and on arriving at Kapiti, the boat reverses in and a walkway is carefully lowered on to the pebbly bank. On our arrival we had to some time while the boat returned to pick-up a second group, so we explored the lowland area, hoping to see the Takahes, but no luck. However, we did find a pair of New Zealand Pipits (one above center), an uncommon native, Red-crowned Parakeets, Yellowhammer, Goldfinch and European Starling.     

We then had an orientation talk on the history of the island and New Zealand's endangered species. The ranger asked us not to feed the birds and to be especially watchful for the very crafty Kakas (below right - a native parrot, related to the Keas of SI), which would fly in and snatch our lunch if we didn't keep an eye on them. Meanwhile there was one in the nearby bushes (lifer), peacefully waiting for an opportunity to do just that!! Also running around the perimeter of the tour group, was a remarkably tame or perhaps just unafraid, Weka (below left), giving us a great opportunity for photos. After the briefing, we were left to explore the island and we choose to take the Trig Track leading to the summit (521m).
The terrain was steep and rough through the bush, and stopping to look for birds every few minutes, meant that we didn't have enough time to get to the top. In order to be back to catch the return boat, we turned around about two thirds of the way up, and went back via the Wilkinson Track. Trying to find the endangered endemics was difficult, as it was a very windy day, but we did see the Saddleback, some Whiteheads and a single Stitchbird, checking an empty nectar feeder. The  DoC was not providing supplementary feeding here, like they did on Tiritiri Matangi Island. Unfortunately, no Kokakos, so it was just as well that we saw one on Tiritiri. Fantails were quite common and we saw a Tomtit and several NZ Robins (photo below right), almost always on the ground, collecting insects to feed their young. It's interesting to note that the North Island Tomtits and Robins have developed a difference in the plumage from their South Island cousins, but I believe there are no plans to split them into separate species.

While we waited for the boat to take us back to the mainland, we tried for the Takahes again, and this time found a male and a juvenile feeding in the long grass, but they weren't as photogenic as the pair we'd seen on Tiritiri. Also in the area were Paradise Shelducks, Variable Oystercatcher, Black-backed (Kelp) Gulls, Bellbird, lots of Tuis and a NZ Pigeon posing nicely for photos (below left). We also heard the kek-kek-kek call of a Kingfisher, but didn't spot it.

21 species, with 1 lifer for the day
Day 15   3rd November

Karori Wildlife Sanctuary (now known as Zealandia), Wellington

Sanctuary  website

On our final day we had an evening walk at the Karori Wildlife Sanctuary planned. We had pre-booked this via e-mail before leaving the States, as in Nov. 2000, the sanctuary was not fully open to the public. There were only 2 conducted walks per week possible, and they may have been fully booked by the time we arrived in Wellington.

The Sanctuary is now better known as Zealandia and is open daily, except Christmas Day.

Karori is situated within the Wellington city limits and is surrounded by an amazing predator proof fence, which cost NZ$2 million to construct. A lot of work has been done within the sanctuary to eliminate all the mammalian predators, so that the birds can breed in a safe environment. Several rare and endangered bird species, such as Little Spotted Kiwi, Brown Teal and North Island Robins have been introduced to the sanctuary, and native birds such as the Tui are becoming more common in the area. In fact, on the morning of our visit, 8 endangered endemic Brown Teal were freed. They had been bred as part of the Ducks Unlimited breeding program, and had been quarantined at Hamilton Zoo, prior to being flown to the sanctuary.

After an orientation talk in the nature centre, we left to explore the sanctuary. By now it was dusk, and we could hear Tuis and the European introductions - blackbirds and thrushes the dusk chorus. We passed a large tree, which was usually full of roosting Little Shags, but this evening there were only 5. On the lake we saw a pair each of Mallards and  Paradise Shelducks, and in the woods we heard a Grey Warbler (Gerygone).. Whilst waiting to go into a small cave to see a strange native insect called a "weta", we were very lucky to spot a Morepork, when it flew into some bushes by the path. The Morepork (29cm/11.5in) is New Zealand's common native owl, and is so-called for the call it makes. We also heard the Little Spotted Kiwis calling, and in the moonlight saw what could only have been 2 of them crossing the path ahead of us, after all, there are no mammals left in the sanctuary.

9 species, with 2 lifers for the evening
Masked Lapwing aka Spur-winged Plover
Scenic view from the track in Abel Tasman National Park
Typical suspension bridge on the well maintained Abel Tasman Coastal Track (total length 51km). The Abel Tasman National Park is located on the northwest coast of South Island, NZ. Note the lush vegetation with tree ferns in this section through the bush.
Red-billed Gull seen at Bark Bay, Abel Tasman N.P, while we waited for our water taxi to pick us up for the return journey to Kaiteriteri
Australasian Shoveler in silhouette
A pair of all black Variable Oystercatchers
Welcome Swallow
Black-backed (aka Kelp) Gulls on the beach of Kapiti Island
The boat waiting to return to the mainland from Kapiti Island. See bottom of page for a photo of the island.
Weka - a flightless member of the rail family
Kaka - a parrot species endemic to New Zealand, as is its cousin the Kea in the South Island
New Zealand Robin - an inquisitive forest bird. This one was gathering insects on the forest floor in the bush on Kapiti Island
New Zealand Pigeon - a large, beautifully coloured pigeon (51cm/20ins), endemic to New Zealand
The population of Paradise Shelducks has increased since Europeans settled in New Zealand, because farming the land has provided more habitat for them
The Bellbird has a variable song of musical, clear, liquid notes
New Zealand Pipit
Male North Island Tomtit
The Tui (aka Parson Bird)  is a nectar feeder  
Click here for complete species list
Back to part 1 or  part 2
© 2001 Helen Baines

email me
Kapiti Island, an important offshore nature sanctuary, off the south west coast of North Island, near Wellington.
Comments or broken links, please:

Planning details for a trip to Kapiti Island (as per instructions on the DoC website)

A landing permit must be obtained from the Department of Conservation. Permits will not be issued more than 3 months in advance. Only 60 to 100 visitors per day are allowed, depending on which section of the island you wish to visit.

Visitors must arrange their own transport, using one of the licensed launch services. There is a list on the website.

Boats depart from Paraparaumu Beach in front of the Kapiti Boating Club.

Day 16      4th November

Return flights to the USA
NZ Airways: Wellington - Auckland,  Auckland - Los Angeles, 
Continental: Los Angeles - Houston
Day 14   2nd November

Kapiti Island Nature Reserve
PLEASE NOTE: Visior's permits must be obtained several weeks in advance from DoC, and before you book the travel. See below for more information.
Day 12   31st October

Abel Tasman National Park
This page was last updated on: October 20, 2013