December 2020 Working Weekend Report

By Richard Stirling

After an unfamiliarly early arrival at the Department of Conservation (DOC) Warkworth quarantine station things quickly turned to custard when the very polite DOC lady instantly failed the beach shoes that I had spent half an hour scrubbing and sterilising.

She managed to find two folds in one shoe’s tongue that I had missed, filled with sand and debris. Luckily I had a spare pair of new shoes to substitute.

Fortunately the inauspicious start bore no resemblance to the rest of the weekend at Hauturu. The ferry ride from Sandspit was over millpond-like waters. We were escorted at different times by grey petrels, shearwaters, a few penguins floating by and a number of gannets either sitting placidly in the water, cruising by or diving vertically into the sea. To cap off our passage to the island, a pod of dolphins cruised on by.

We were sadly denied the privilege of a wet transfer, but happy enough to be relayed by the DOC rangers (Richard and Chippy) on their motor boat, then winched ashore.

Immediately our ears were assailed/serenaded by continuous birdsong and raucous kākā-talk in all directions. A few paces away a kākā was feeding just above head height on flax flowers and was happy to allow close-up portraits.

As it started, so the weekend continued. We were blessed with fine weather, hospitable and accommodating rangers, an energetic knowledgeable leader (David) and an interesting and varied small group of Hauturu friends. The bunkhouse was both comfortable and picturesquely sited in a clearing in the bush.

Highlights included the wonderful non-stop birdsong; the dawn chorus; witnessing a couple of kōkako hop and glide and forage near the bunkhouse; finding a couple of kiwis wandering; getting close-up views of kōkopu and an eel in one of the dry river ponds; seeing flocks of kākā wheeling from groves of pōhutakawa in full flower; kererū not just flying and perching high in the trees, but waddling and sitting contentedly on the ground only metres away; sightings of geckos and Georgina the tuatara, wētā, hihi (stitchbird) kākāriki, kōtare (kingfisher) tīeke (saddleback) whiteheads, tūīï, korimako (bellbird), some rare endemic plants…

If only there had been a sudden storm marooning us on our last afternoon. Alas, there was only another millpond trip to return to the relative mundanity of the mainland.

Thanks to the Hauturu Supporters Trust and DOC for the privilege of going.

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