Backyard Kiwi Release In Parua Bay

kiwi_release_12

Meeting a kiwi up close is a wonderful moment for kids

If I was to recommend one New Zealand location for kiwi watching it would be the region around Whangarei in Northland. Already a few years ago, I was lucky enough to meet Sparky here. In March 2018, I made acquaintance with Ross and 3 of his friends. The 4 kiwi birds have been released into the wild at Parua Bay (Whangarei Heads), after settling over from the stoat free Limestone Island.

Since more than 15 years, Backyard Kiwi (WHLF) is monitoring wild kiwi in the area and capturing chicks shortly after they have been hatching. The birds then get transported to the predator free Limestone Island off the Whangarei Heads coast where they can grow and get strong enough to stand a chance of survival against all kinds of mammals populating New Zealand’s mainland.

Once strong enough (after 6 months or more), the kiwi are recaptured and brought back to Whangarei Heads to introduce wider genetic variety into the area. This might sound like a lenghty procedure, which still does not guarantee the kiwi’s survival once it’s back on the mainland. Still, the success rate speaks for itself: from previously 80 kiwi birds in the region (2001), the number went up to 800+ kiwi (2018). Their movements are tracked and regularly updated in this map, proving that the Whangarei Heads community can truly claim to have kiwi in their backyard.

Backyard Kiwi is organizing regular kiwi releases. If you would like to use the occasion to meet these nocturnal birds up close, keep an eye on their website or Facebook page, where they announce their release dates ahead of time.

kiwi release parua bay

Lots of audience for 4 little kiwi birds

kiwi_release_05

Backyard Kiwi staff has been sharing valuable information, like the fact that uncontrolled dogs are a major threat to kiwi

kiwi release whangarei heads

Before releasing the kiwi birds into the wild again, locals and all other visitors had a great chance to see the kiwi live and ask questions

kiwi_release_07

What a star. Photo. Click. Photo. Click.

kiwi release nothland

This one got a bit upset by all the people and the lack of sleep

kiwi release nothland

Whereas this one didn’t mind and fell asleep again

kiwi_release_13

Ross was the one who got released first

kiwi_release_14

On the way to Ross’ new home in Parua Bay

kiwi_release_15

Home sweet home! This is where the kiwi got released. After catching up some sleep it probably went out to search for food. The kiwi birds can move around freely and aren’t forced to stay at their release place. Some of them have been tracked over a distance of 10 kilometres.

Here is a short bonus video from the moment when the kiwi got placed into his new home in Parua Bay. Good luck little fellow!

If you like this post you might also like That Time I Touched a Kiwi, Played with a Pukeko and Talked to a Tui

Kiwi Curiosities

Thanks to one of my Kiwi tweeps (@nickwallen, a savvy Kiwi Marketing Manager) I recently discovered the New Zealand Story, a video “that defines the distinctly Kiwi attributes that make us [New Zealanders] unique”. To be precise, the story defines these three attributes as “typical lil ol’ EnZed”: Open spaces, open hearts and open minds.

After living in New Zealand for 3.5 years I wholeheartedly agree with its content, though the video doesn’t tell the whole story. How could it, in 3:45 minutes? Don’t get me wrong — it’s a great story, but it’s a flawless one as well. It’s TOO perfect. It lacks a little twist; or did you ever lose your heart to a perfect protagonist? I didn’t!

So I decided to use the occasion to publish my secret list of Kiwi curiosities (yes, I kept record), which – in addition to the New Zealand Video Story above – completes the picture and makes that small country on the other side of the globe uber adorable (at least for me). Have a read and let me know if you agree or disagree:

  1. At home – Kiwi curiosities that made me wonder on a daily basis:
  • Open spaces, yes. Open hearts, yes. Open minds, yes. Open windows, no. Want to get your windows cleaned from the outside? Professional window cleaners practicing high rise abseiling once a year is a thing in NZ.
  • Sinks without mixing taps. You got the choice between blisters, cold shock, or major bathroom flooding. Yay!
  • No mobile network in suburbs. Our friends living 30 km outside Auckland CBD cannot be reached after 6 pm. FYI: “Suburbs” in New Zealand can be whole cities, even complete stretches of a coast line.
kiwi-curiosity-windowcleaner

Finally clear view again!

  1. Locations and tourism – Kiwi curiosities that attract or confuse the common tourist:
  • Mountain names. Too long (Taumata­whakatangihanga­koauau­o­tamatea­turi­pukakapiki­maunga­horo­nuku­pokai­whenua­kitanatahu), too scary (Mount Hopeless, Mount Misery, Mount Horrible, Mount Dreadful, Mount Bitterness), too… words fail me (Pudding Hill, Drunken Sailors Hill).
  • Talking about creative Kiwi names, please allow me to elaborate on bank names (ANZ, BNZ), restaurant names (Saigon, Tokyo, Brazil), hair dresser names (Newton Barbershop, Eden Barbershop, Roskill Barbershop), dry cleaner names (Symonds Street Dry Cleaner, Queen Street Dry Cleaner, Papanui Road Dry Cleaner)… you get the idea.
  • ALL towns in NZ are worth a visit. I ticked off the shearing capital, the salmon capital, the kiwi capital (not Wellington!), the gumboot capital, the doughnut capital… all equipped with life size statues of “whatever they’re famous for”. Why would you not consider a holiday photo with a 4 meter tall salmon as a must have?
  • A self-declared Republic in the Republic. The small township of Whangamomona on the Forgotten World Highway declared their own Republic as protest reaction to being moved to a different regional council. They have their own President (currently Murt “Murtle the Turtle” Kennard). No kidding!
Springfield doughnut New Zealand

Doughnut capital in New Zealand — Springfield, what else?!

  1. Food – Kiwi curiosities I prefer to list without comment:
  • Fried pizza. Fried ice cream.
  • Vegemite (yeast extract spread from Australia) = yikes; Marmite (yeast extract spread from New Zealand) = yummi.
  • (Coffee) refill packs are more expensive than new (coffee) tins.
  • Bavarian hotdogs with Sauerkraut and milk roll (allow me one comment anyway: I’m German, you fools!).
  • Schwarzwälder Kirsch with strawberries (#OMG).
  • Typical food prices: .98 NZD or .99 NZD. But of course they have no 1 or 2 cent coins. If not paying by card, the cash price is rounded up or down accordingly.
Fried and spicy chicken beer

Kiwis love their food (drinks?) deep fried!

4. Personality — Open hearts, open minds, and…

  • Full trust in the honesty box system. I personally love it, though coming from Europe I need to work on that trust thingy…
  • A passion for meaningless security checks. Not sure I can generalize that point, but it happened to me, so it got to be on my list.
  • Embracing exaggerated journalism: “White Out – The Historic Snowfalls of 2011” — happened each time the national news had nothing else to talk about.
  • Crazy about the NZ catamaran racing in the Americas Cup 2013 against… oh, itself. “Did we win?”. #LOL
  • Down to earth people. I once asked on Twitter for Auckland cafes doing the best Latte Art. Gred Boyed, the host of TV NZ’s daily evening news tweeted me his personal recommendation. In France, I’m still waiting for Mélissa Theuriau to even join Twitter.
coffee-art-fern

Typical latte art: New Zealand fern!

5. On the road — (Spoiler) alert: Kiwis are bad drivers

  • Aggressive driving behaviour is the one point on this list which actually doesn’t make NZ more likeable. I have been constrained, pushed, honked and yelled at — both as driver as well as pedestrian.
  • Sticking to their national limit of 100km/h is not an easy task for many kiwis, especially the guys investing a ridiculous amount of money into a Porsche or Ferrari just for being told they can’t race with it.
  • Consequently, New Zealand is one of few countries that creatively address the problem of drinking and driving in innovative advertisements which other countries would consider taboo.
  • They teach dogs how to drive cars. Why? Good question!
  • Kiwis like to customize their car signs. I liked the sign of a German immigrant saying HOTOMA (hot granny).
  • Kiwis can take themselves very serious. In 2013, NZ changed an old road rule. They advertised for months (billboards, TV, social media) that the new rule would be in effect as of April 1, 2013. In March, they decided to change their ads and put the new rule in place March 25, just because they were afraid people would think the whole rule change would be an April Fool’s joke, increasing the chance of having more accidents in April.
  • When kiwis don’t drive, they walk or run. Barefoot. Whenever, wherever. My sympathy for that activity stops in front of the public toilet door. Theirs not.

There you go, that’s my personal list of Kiwi curiosities. It’s almost a declaration of love, ain’t it? :)

Quite a collection for someone who thought the Haka is the “most hilarious thing” about New Zealand. That’s 3.5 years ago now. Rookie mistake!

If you like this post you might also like That Time I Touched a Kiwi, Played with a Pukeko and Talked to a Tui

Weekend Wanderings: Rare Birds, Dinos, And Hungry Eels

New Zealand’s National Wildlife Centre, Pukaha Mount Bruce, is a place where I could easily spend a few hours.

Double rainbow over Mt Bruce Nature Reserve New Zealand

Perfect welcome ceremony at Pukaha Mount Bruce (not sure they do that every day though ;) )

White New Zealand Kiwi Bird Manukura

While the Centre is famous among tourists for having a rare white kiwi – Manukura – it was the first place in New Zealand where I had the chance to see a kokako (after 3.5 years in the country).

Rare Bird Kokako Mt Bruce New Zealand

Kokakos are native birds who have different songs (“dialects”) depending on where they live. They are extremely endangered; only 40 of them are living wild in the Pukaha forest!

New Zealand Tuatara Dinosaur

Tuataras – “living fossils” that were already around during the age of the disonsaurs – are always nice to observe. Though I wasn’t 100% sure who was actually observing whom…

Mt Bruce New Zealand Eel feeding

The main attraction at Pukaha Mount Bruce are the daily eel feeding sessions. Volunteers are very welcome!

Mt Bruce New Zealand Eel feeding

Beside enjoying some gentle strokes, the Pukaha longfin eels want to be fed with a silver spoon.

Mt Bruce New Zealand Eel feeding

Their diet: Veggies with bacon and a couple of mice for dessert. Yummi!

Beside nature reserves like Pukaha Mount Bruce, community driven projects for bird recovery and pest control are a popular method to protect New Zealand’s native tuataras and endangered bird species like kiwis and kokakos.

Listen to the sound of the video below to get an impression of how a New Zealand forest can sound like thanks to successful pest control management and animal protection. I’m loving it!

If you like this post you might also like That Time I Touched A Kiwi, Played With A Pukeko And Talked To A Tui

That Time I Touched a Kiwi, Played with a Pukeko and Talked to a Tui

Wahou, I touched a Kiwi … bird! I had a friendly encounter with a North Island Brown Kiwi during my stay in Whangarei last week (note: blog post first published in June 2012 on my old Posterous blog “Hitting The Road”) and I cannot wait to share some stories around “Sparky”, his playful Pukeko friend “Puki” as well as the talking “Little Tui”.

Everything started with the suggestion of my host Peter to visit the bird recovery centre in Whangarei on my last morning in town. Peter has been so excited about the birds living there that I got seriously interested; not only because he told me I might have the chance to pet a little Kiwi bird, but he promised me I would be able to talk to a Tui and get answers (yep, I mean “human speech”). No sooner said than done, he called his friend Robert at the centre and within seconds I got my appointment and had the chance to meet Robert and his Kiwi bird named Sparky (see photo below).

Kiwi Bird in Whangarei

Observing and touching a Kiwi has been a great experience. The bird’s feathers are a bit rough on the surface but really soft when digging your hand through while searching for the more or less non-existant wings. For Sparky though, wings are of no importance – ears are! Caressing the bird’s tiny ear made him close his eyes to enjoy even more being pet and spoiled!

Sparky got once caught in a possum trap. He lost one leg and would therefore be unable to survive on his own. Robert and his team of volunteers offer the Kiwi a second home, helping out in case the bird doesn’t find its own food. But no worries, Sparky adopted well to his new condition. He jumps forward on one leg and he even pulled out a long earthworm in front of my eyes.

Tui in Whangarei

Enough about the Kiwi, let’s talk about the Tui! You want to know if “Little Tui” was truly talking, right? He was – everytime the bird lacked some attention. As soon as I figured this out, I just turned my back towards the Tui and acted as if interested in all other birds but Little Tui. It worked perfectly. The bird started by saying “Little Tui” (how many birds can say there own name?). I turned around and he continued with “Here you go” and wished me a “Merry Christmas”.

In fact, Tuis do have two voiceboxes and more muscles than other birds to control their vocal chords. This makes them sound so crazy, even when they don’t talk; and it also enables them to imitate human speech pretty well. Robert from the recovery centre told me about Woof Woof, another Tui which unfortunately died last year. He had been the first one to start talking and entertaining the visitors of the bird centre by singing advertisement jingles. In fact, Little Tui picked up the talking from Woof Woof and is slowly teaching a third Tui named Jett to join the fun.

Last but not least, I have to mention Puki (see photo above). This little character bird seems to dislike the lack of attention towards him. Everyone is coming to pet the Kiwi and to talk to the Tuis. Pukekos seem far too common to surprise someone. Far out! Puki is the complete contrary of common. He likes to play with everything that moves (except of birds bigger than him; he’ll get mad at them, trying to chase them away). He loves to open shoe laces and to pull on them (he can’t close them yet though) and to gnaw at trousers.

You can actually only stop Puki from eating you up by gently touching the back of his neck. The bird will immediately bend down and rest his head on the ground till you stop caressing. Robert’s team mates told me that Puki likes to assume everyone is around to play with him all day long; oh, and he also thinks he is the secret boss of the bird recovery centre (but ssshh, don’t tell Robert!).

The Whangarei Native Bird Recovery Centre is run by a small team of volunteers providing help for ill birds in order to return them to the wild. While some birds are easy to cure (like birds that have been nibbling from overripe guava and need to get sober), other birds have severe injuries and would not make it in the wild. Robert and his colleagues gave them a new home and built up strong expertise allowing the centre to even incubate Kiwi eggs. Check out their webcams during breeding season and you might see a baby Kiwi hatching before it will be released into the forest.

If you want to support the work of the recovery centre (which is not sponsored by the New Zealand Government), feel free to make a donation. They really appreciate it! (Note: this article is in no way sponsored by The Whangarei Native Bird Recovery Centre)