Kapiti Island is a must visit in New Zealand. It is a small island (2km by 10km) lying off the west coast of the North Island, opposite the township of Paraparaumu. Nowadays it is a bird sanctuary of
international significance but it also has huge historical importance. Maori chief Te Rauparaha lived and ruled parts of the North Island from here and later colonial settlers cleared the land and ran several whaling stations. As early as 1897 it was recognised as important for its flora and fauna. It is now predator free and the vegetation is as close to New Zealand pre-human as you are likely to get. Endemic birds have flourished here and it is a haven for our priceless flightless birds.
I have visited Kapiti Island several times while I have been in New Zealand and in the last part of 2017 have been lucky enough to journey there 3 times. On my last visit I stayed overnight in the wonderful new glamping facilities. Whilst I am there primarily to photograph birds, it has been exciting to connect with the residents and staff of Kapiti Island Nature Tours. They were inspirational in their conservation work, not only of the birds but also of the Maori culture and history.
Here are the highlights from my recent trips.
Bellbird (anthornis melanura)
The korimako or bellbird is a honeyeater with a call similar to the tui but with less coughs and whistles. It is smaller than the tui also and is often bullied by the more aggressive bird.
New Zealand pigeon (hemiphaga novaeseelandiae)
The kereru or New Zealand pigeon is our only endemic pigeon and is a very entertaining bird. With a huge body and small head it looks comical and can often been seen perching in the afternoon sun looking quite dozy. In the sunshine, the feathers shimmer with colour.
Morepork (ninox novaeseelandiae)
The ruru or morepork is our only endemic owl and is a real taonga (treasure). Much more likely to be heard than seen, it is so called because of the haunting call resembling an anguished soul asking for 'more pork'. I slept with my tent wide open and was woken regularly by a ruru calling from the trees close by. It was a real highlight of my trip to see one up close.
North Island kaka (nestor meridionalis)
The North Island kaka is a wonderfully comical character that sounds how I imagine a pterodactyl would as it screeches in the air. Typical of parrots, they are curious and will sit on your shoulder and try to steal your lunch. This is a youngster and you can already see a sense of mischievousness.
Red-crowned parakeet (cyanoramphus novaezelandiae)
The kakariki or red-crowned parakeet is usually spotted in pairs, wheeling overhead and calling loudly. In the early morning, they were everywhere and although I had previously found it difficult to get a shot of one in sunlight, I knew it would only be a matter of time before I got lucky. Thrilled with this shot.
South Island takahe (porphyrio hochstetteri)
| The South Island takahe is one of the most special endemic NZ birds. Extinct on the North Island, it was also thought to be lost on the South Island until they were discovered in the mountains in 1948. There are still only 300 birds left and I felt so lucky to see them plodding around the island.|
North Island robin (petroica longipes)
The toutouwai or North Island robin is an endearing bush bird. Tiny as it is, it will bounce around your feet and shuffle around in the disturbed undergrowth looking for food. This is a young bird, looking for a delivery of food from the parents.
North Island saddleback (philesturnus rufusater)
The tieke or North Island saddleback has long been my birding nemesis. I have spent lots of time around them, usually at Zealandia sanctuary in Wellington but have never managed to get a good photograph of them. I was hoping to get that corrected this time and this photograph is a real thrill and I can now call the tieke a friend!
Tui (prosthemadera novaeseelandiae)
Although I regularly see the tui around, I have struggled in recent years to get a good shot of one. They are easily identifiable by the bright white ruff (colonists called them the parson's bird) and are loud and aggressive. The noises they can make put any parrot to shame, from beautiful melodies to coughs, clicks and sneezes. They are a remarkable bird.
Weka (gallirallus australis)
The weka is another flightless rail and I never quite understand why it doesn't receive the same amount of attention as the kiwi. It has all but disappeared from mainland New Zealand and only thrives in sanctuaries. You can see here the remnants of its wings.
Stitchbird (notiomustis cincta)
|The hihi or stitchbird is so named because of the staccato call that sounds like a sewing machine. It is a flighty wee thing and difficult to pin down and more difficult to photograph as it lives in the gloom of the forest. What I love most about it is that when courting, the male and female both raise their eyebrows to become crests. Very distinctive and impressive.|