Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The Island

It was a warm sunny day, so we decided to take the ferry over to Matiu/Somes island for a picnic and see if we could spot any wildlife there. As a predator-free island, it is home to tuatara, weta and also has a thriving population of kakariki. We climbed up to the gun emplacements at the top of the island and organised our picnic there.

Afterwards we went for a walk around the island tracks, spotting some kakariki, but they didn't land so I was unable to snap them. No sign of any tuatara, and the weta are nocturnal, so I had to make do with seagulls and skinks instead.

The following week, I was back on the island, this time with work colleagues: my employer gives us one day per year to take as volunteer leave, and we had decided to use this to help out the DoC work on the island. There are no permanent staff on the island - they rely entirely on volunteer groups and individuals to get everything done, with one island ranger, Jo, who organises the volunteers. On arrival, we were given two tasks for the morning: transporting a load of gravel from the dock up to the Visitor Centre, where it was to be used for a new building project, and sorting the chopped-down branches from some recent tree clearing into sizes suitable for logs or woodchippings, removing shoots and twigs so that they would go into the machine. It was again a hot day, and by the time lunchtime came round we were ready for a rest and sit in the shade.

After lunch, we had a gentler time of it, clearing overhanging and encroaching foliage from the Western track. As we went along, our DoC organiser pointed out a tuatara on the slopes down from the track. Unfortunately I'd forgotten the ABC rule (Always Bring Camera) so was unable to get a picture of it. As we were clearing the pathway, Jo was also checking the bait boxes for signs of mice and rats, to ensure the island stays pest-free. Inside one box, she found a baby Giant Cook Strait weta - about an inch long. In the next box, there was a fully-grown individual of the same species. These grow to about 2 inches long, and are big, fat creatures. I held this one in my hand, and you can feel the weight of them - an unusual experience when holding an insect! She was carefully replaced in the box.

Whilst we were working, Andy had commented that there were a bunch of people in the water swimming on the far coast - we thought no more of it. But when we came to another gap in the trees, we saw that they weren't people, but dolphins...and a lot of them! There were around 100 dolphins in the pod, swimming into Wellington Harbour.

We finished up our work and waited around for the ferry back to Queen's Wharf. Whilst aboard the ferry, the captain announced that he was going to take a detour into Oriental Bay, because this was where the dolphins now were. Fortunately one of our gang had a proper camera with him and was able to get some decent shots of the dolphins, whilst my cameraphone pictures were a bit rubbish.

photo: Angus Veitch

photo: Angus Veitch

photo: Angus Veitch

photo: Angus Veitch

1 comment:

  1. *envy*

    I always miss live dolphins. Wherever I go, those in my company meet dolphins, while I don't.