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)
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)
Hamningberg was a place I wanted to see when I visited Varanger again, because the road is closed in winter and therefore we couldn’t go in March.
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)
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.
My first stop after going down the mountains was in Nesseby. There, a small picturesque church stands on the isthmus, and on both sides a beach attracts birds in search of food, at low tide especially.
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.
From Høyholmen, I hoped over the high grounds of Gednje to reach the shore of the ocean. I would have liked to search for birds up there, but heavy showers made me change my mind. Fortunately, the weather improved and I was able to get out of the car in Kongsfjord.
In March last year, when we drove on road 890, we couldn’t turn left to Høyholmen, for the track was blocked by snow. This time, I could drive along this 3-km long jetty… slowly, though, because of all the holes and waves on the track. It left me some time to admire the landscape.
I had a terrifying morning. It had started well, I had woken up early and had breakfast at the back of the car, the air was cold but the sun shone from time to time. It looked like a fine day.
Then I tried to walk away, and in doing so, lock the car. Except it didn’t work. I pressed the button on the key, times and again, but nothing happened. I thought the fresh night in the tent might have depleted the battery, but I had managed to unlock the car with no trouble. I didn’t understand.
Sunday morning, 6 o’clock, basically in the middle of nowhere. Oh, and I didn’t mention my phone’s battery was completely empty. Stay calm, Samuel.
Fortunately, the car was open, and I had access to the car’s manual. Said manual was only in Finnish, but with the illustrations I hoped to gather some knowledge. First, I managed to understand I could still start the car without battery in the key, by bringing the key close to the “start engine” button. Big “ouf” of relief, I was not stuck there. I wondered whether the local town would have the specific battery needed to power the key, but at least I could drive wherever needed.
My second fear was to be able to lock the car (miracles happen), but then be locked out on the key’s whim. So I dived into the manual again, and learnt how to unlock the car manually. I was still annoyed, but I wasn’t lost anymore. And then I removed the battery from the key, put it back… and it started to work properly again. “Have you tried to switch it off, and switch it on again?”
As it turned out, I had no other problem until the end of the trip, and quickly forgot the incident. But what a fright!