Feathers and scales of Tiritiri

In my last two articles about Tiritiri Matangi, I showed you the island and many of its inhabitants, but some are still missing. Let’s have a look, OK?

North Island saddleback (Philesturnus rufusater)

This bird, emblem of the Supporters of Tiritiri Matangi, went very close to extinction. The introduction of rats and stoats brought a dramatic decline, and the only remaining birds were confined to Hen Island in the beginning of the last century. Like many other endemic species, they were then translocated to other locations, including Tiri in 1984.

North Island saddleback (Philesturnus rufusater)

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An island for myself

My first day on Tiritiri Matangi was one of discovery, of initiation. The following ones were days of deeper exploration.

As I mentioned before, there was no ferry coming to the island on Monday and Tuesday. That meant that, for 2 full days (which actually turned into 3 when the ferry didn’t come on Wednesday either), we were alone. One ranger, two volunteers and three photographers on an island of 4 x 1 kilometers. Oh, and lots of birds!

New Zealand pigeon (Hemiphaga novaeseelandiaea)

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Dear diary #2

01.09.2018 Auckland

After coming back from Tiritiri, I’m staying at the hostel all day, sending email and trying to sort out my close future.
I couldn’t help but notice how omnipresent rugby is, for there’s TV running in the living room, and it seems there’s always a documentary about the All Blacks on.

03.09.2018 Auckland

Today, a guest at the hostel told me I looked like Arnold Schwarzenegger. Not sure how to feel about this…

05.09.2018 Muriwai

Great day today, I hitch-hiked for the first time! I went to the Australasian gannet (Morus serrator) colony in Muriwai; it was gorgeous, and I captured the picture I was looking for.

Australasian gannet (Morus serrator)

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Welcome to Tiritiri!

It took some time for her to take me seriously, but once I achieved that, our conversation was set on better rails. The agent at the Department of Conservation’s desk in downtown Auckland gave me some good advice on birdwatching around the city, and one info proved critical: one could stay overnight on Tiritiri Matangi. “Tiri” is an open sanctuary, an island free of introduced predators where trees have been replanted and rare birds introduced. Closely monitored, the place is open to visitors, and a ferry goes there every day, except on Mondays and Tuesday. That’s what pushed me to book a stay between Sunday and Wednesday: the promise of tranquility, with noone but a handful of guests in the vicinity.

That’s how, only a few days into my stay in New Zealand, I was leaving the city to spend a few days on a remote island.

The crossing yielded some news species already: White-fronted tern (Sterna striata) and Australasian gannet (Morus serrator) were maybe the most notable.

White-fronted tern (Sterna striata)

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Dear diary

19-21.08.2018 In the air

I boarded the Emirates Boeing 777 in Lyon around 21.30. It looked nice, with soft lights and a scent akin to the one at the “Bombay”, my favourite Indian restaurant in Grenoble. The 6-hour flight went well, I slept a bit. The 15-hour flight from Dubai to Auckland was much longer, but the Airbus A380 was comfortable as well once I had overcome my stomach ache. I watched the latest Avenger movie, and also the last Harry Potter movie.

21.08.2018 Auckland

I arrived in New Zealand at 10 in the morning. I passed the biosecurity check with ease, and took first a bus out, through green pastures. Seeing people drive on the left of the road was profoundly unsettling. It still is now.

I didn’t want to take the direct bus to the city but go with the cheaper way, with “normal” urban transportation. After the bus, I took a train in Papatoetoe station. Trains are really slow, they open their doors very slowly, and take their time before leaving the station. Chill… Oh, and they still have people manually checking your ticket, like in Budapest. They also still have phone booths in the city.

My first spendings: a bus ticket, a bird book and a burger. Then I walked to the hostel.

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A blue throat

Sometimes, I’m asked why I travel alone, why I don’t take a friend with me (even if sometimes, I do). Half-jokingly, I say I don’t know anyone who would be able to sit for hours with me just waiting for birds.

That’s basically what I did that day. I went to the entrance of the national park, and waited. I walked a bit as well, but after one hailstorm I took directly in the face, I decided it would be wiser to stay close to the car. I still had time to see a Horned lark (Eremophila alpestris) walking in the tundra, the first one for that trip.

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High tundra

I’m writing from home, in France, and even though temperatures have been very high here, I still don’t remember fondly the weather I faced when I drove accross the mountains of Varanger, going from Berlevåg and Kongsfjord to the Varangerfjord. Hail, wind and two degrees, that’s not how I had envisioned my vacation.

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