Monday, February 17, 2014

Kapiti Island

Kapiti Island lies 5km off the west coast of North Island, just north of Wellington, and has been a nature reserve of one kind or another for over 100 years. These days it is a predator-free island and reserve, and hosts a number of birds not found on the mainland (except at Zealandia, or in aviaries such as Mount Bruce).

Our original plan had been to take an overnight trip there, but the lodge was fully booked on the weekend we wanted to go so we decided on a day trip. The ferry leaves at 9 in the morning, so we decided we would be better off if we stayed in the vicinity the night before, rather than make an early-morning trek from Wellington. Accordingly, we booked into a bed and breakfast in Paekakariki. This allowed us to visit the Southwards Car Museum in the afternoon, and also to explore a bit of Paraparaumu before heading to our lodgings.

A copper car. Yes.

After dinner we walked along the beach as the sun set in an almost cloudless sky.

That's South Island in the background
I received a text in the morning confirming that they would be sailing that day – which, as the Rauoterangi channel was as flat as a mill-pond, was entirely expected. I guess there are occasions when the conditions in the morning look entirely acceptable for a trip but the forecast is for high seas later in the day when they would cancel…but this wasn’t one of them. We parked by the beach and registered our presence at the Kapiti Boat Club, where we searched our bags for rats and mice, watched a short video about the island and its history, then went outside to board our boat.

Paraparaumu beach has a very shallow slope, so the method of boarding the water taxi is up a gangway whilst it is on a slipway attached to the back of a tractor. The tractor then pushes the boat out to sea until it floats off and is able to make the crossing. The journey is about 10 minutes. At the island, we walked up to a shelter and had a quick talk about the species we were likely to see on the island, and also the ones we wouldn’t see (kiwis, because they would be asleep underground during the day).

Our guide took us part of the way around, pointing out a couple of kiwi burrows on the way, then we parted ways as he took a group on the lagoon walk, which concentrated on seabird life, whilst we took the loop walk up the hill to the lookout point. Along the way we sought out and found various birds, including weka, North Island robins, swallows, and young bellbirds, as well as the inevitable tuis and fantails, often accompanied by whiteheads. We also saw a Pacific visitor, the long-tailed cuckoo, which was being driven away by an angry tui.

Hobbit, wait, kiwi burrows

Mini Babybel

As we returned to the lower level we saw several kakariki, although they weren’t being particularly cooperative in staying still. I managed to get one feeding on flax seeds, but my positioning wasn’t too good in relation to the sun.

As we returned to the lodge for lunch, we found that there were a lot more weka than we’d thought, and I needn’t have been so worried about getting a picture of one – they live around the human settlements and are quite bold in scavenging and stealing food. Also, several kaka turned up at lunchtime – they’ve been known to unzip backpacks to get at packed lunches. The injunction not to feed the birds seems not to apply to the birds themselves – they’ll happily help themselves to anything left unattended.

After lunch we had another walk around on the flat, where we spotted one of the island’s resident takahe (there are 10 on the island, out of a total world population of around 280), and also some saddlebacks, which resolutely failed to come out into a good photography position.

The water taxi took us back at around 3:20, and we had an ice cream in Paraparaumu before heading back home.

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