Friday 13th June – A Grand Day O ut
Friday 13th June – A Grand Day Out
A few weeks ago, Carol had earned a Day Out to mark the passing of another decade. Several friends had recommended a visit to the island of Tiritiri Matangi. It means “A place tossed by the wind” in Maori and not a bad name for a boat either. The small island, about the size of Sark in the Channel Islands, is situated a few miles off the end of the Whangaparaoa Peninsular and only a 30 minute ferry ride from Gulf Harbour where Arnamentia is currently having her makeover.
Hobbs Bay with the tip of the Whangaparaoa Peninsular in the background
The island is a conservation success story – over a hundred years of farming had stripped away most of the native bush. But in the 1970’s the lease was not renewed and the government made over the island to a conservation society. Over a decade, volunteers planted between 250,000 and 300,000 native trees and just over half the island is now forested. All mammalian predators have been eradicated and a number of threatened and endangered bird and reptile species have been successfully introduced.
There are very strict environmental restrictions – it was a bit like the foot and mouth precautions put in place ten years or so ago in the UK. Shoes had to be clean of mud and our open picnic bag sealed in a large plastic bag just in case any unwanted visitors hitch-hiked a ride. Our visit to the island was greatly enhanced by signing up for a guided tour. Every day a few volunteers go over to the island and each take a small group on a two hour walk. They know all the best bird spotting places and have an encyclopaedic knowledge of the flora and fauna. We can now tell the difference between the Manuka and Kanuka trees – the former, also known as the Tea Tree, has much softer fronds and was used by the Maori for bedding. Here are a few of the birds we came across on our walk:
The New Zealand Pigeon – from its size no doubt sought after for the pot.
White Breasted Robin
North island Saddleback – a type of wattle bird
A Stitchbird named for its cry, not an ability to sew
Tuis - early settlers called them parson birds who thought the white tuft resembled a dog collar
A Takahe – only about 150 survive in the wild. They don’t fly.
Pukekos – common in New Zealand and comical too, they prefer to run rather than fly.
We finished out walk at the visitor centre near the lighthouse at the top of the island. We were able to shelter from the winds which were beginning to strengthen so making the island live up to its Maori name.
The top of the lighthouse surrounded by several native trees all planted within the last 30 years
There are spectacular views in all directions. Here is Rangitoto island, a classic volcanic cone in the middle of the Hauraki Gulf:
Tiritiri Matangi is certainly a special place, not only for the diversity of native flora and fauna but also because of the vision and commitment of so many New Zealanders to bring a ground breaking (literally!) project to fruition and to continue to care for it with great dedication and enthusiasm.