May 2021 Working Weekend Report

By Dr John Sumich

It was roughly 40 years ago that I first visited Hauturu, and 12 years since I had a wonderful week helping survey for hihi on
the island, so I thought it was high time I applied again to visit – although the slopes of Hauturu are as steep as ever my, and knees aren’t what they once were, but still OK.

The changes though were immediate, even before we embarked. Forty years ago we shook out our packs to ensure no rodents were hiding. Twelve years ago we also picked out seeds from socks and Velcro fastenings. Now we had to consider Argentine ants, plague skinks, kauri dieback disease, and myrtle rust that might be unwanted passengers on or in our belongings.

Quarantine was efficient but friendly [thanks Jenny] and after all of us passed muster we were ready to roll. Well, actually, under glowering skies and a nor-east swell of two metres we did roll – and there were a few pitches, yaws and shuddering drops on the far side of waves as well.

A strong cup of tea at Hauturu helped to banish the facial greenness and after lunch we split up to do chores that rangers Chippy and Leigh had thought of. With a VIP coming the following week, everything had to be just so. The boat shed was swept out, concrete paths cleaned, lawns mowed, edges trimmed and windows cleaned to an ultra-transparent finish [of which see later!]

With chores done and machinery stilled it was time to amble, to sit and be bewitched again by the sound of birds. I had specifically decided not to bother with a camera – others have taken far better pictures of all the biodiversity so I purposefully did nothing but sat and listened, absorbing the unique atmosphere that is Hauturu.

Dinner was a great opportunity to hear of other supporters’ backgrounds A mix of young and old, past Hauturu visitors and first-timers all enthralled by what had already been seen, and ready for the night walk. This didn’t disappoint with tuatara on the lawn, kororō (little blue penguins) in the leaf litter, Pacific geckoes, a couple of fast fleeing kiwi bums and even one of the two pāteke.

[Historic fact: 40 years ago we all went at night to the rubbish tip to see kiore!]

A mix of young and old, past Hauturu visitors and first-timers all enthralled by what had already been seen, and ready for the night walk.

Kororō vocalising from their roost under the bunkhouse at odd times through the night didn’t seem to faze anyone as we all arose early to experience the dawn chorus. Of course, kākā decided to start this well before dawn but as the light levels slowly increased, tūīi, korimako (bellbird), toutouwai (robin), popokatea (whitehead) and hihi all contributed.

The walk after breakfast took us over Shag Track and along the John Drew Track criss-crossing the deeply gouged river bed with its massive boulders. After lunch, all the while with surround- sound bird calls we made our way back to the bunkhouse to see on one deck a dead red-crowned kākāriki, on another a korimako – both victims of the clean windows! Leave that off the job list in future, guys! Too soon it was time to clean up the bunkhouse and make our way to the boatshed and a thankfully calmer trip back to Sandspit.

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Working Weekends

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