Saturday 2 February 2008
Unusual Bird Sighting on Motuara Island
This weekend we were spending a relaxing weekend fishing from the coastal shores of Endeavour Inlet. The weather unfortunately was having a different idea and we rocked and bumped our way out to the Outer Sounds where Motuara Island, our first stop, is situated.
As we reached the jetty it seemed unlikely we were going to make it as the wind was making the sea very choppy and grey, but by some good boating skills we arrived with no fuss. Once we got off the boat and under the shelter of the trees it became a more welcoming day and to be greeted by the sounds and calls of the native birds was indeed an ore inspiring moment. As we headed up the steep incline we first stopped at a rock pool where, it appeared thousands of bellbirds were drinking and frolicking. Our next stop was at one of the many penguin nesting boxes, which are situated on regular intervals up the pathway, where we had a close encounter with the smallest penguin in the world, the blue penguin. As we climbed higher and higher we saw gangs of two or three saddlebacks which, according to Greg, is a rare sight as usually they are only seen one at a time. By the time we reached the top of the hill I was out of breath, but if I hadn’t been the views would have taken my breath away. The stunning sight was not ruined by the cloudy and grey day but was an amazing 360 degree view of the sounds and out to the cook strait.
Whilst taking in the view we spotted the native New Zealand robin, an unusually round bird that could basically be described as a grey ball of feathers on two legs. Greg showed me a way of attracting the bird to come closer, by scraping your foot along the ground it draws the robin closer as it is attracted by the possibility of insects or other food. We slowly made it down the hill and realised we still had half an hour to spare before the boat came and picked us up so we decided to watch the activity around the rock pool. After five minutes of staying quiet the birds acted as if we were part of the scenery. As I am not a native New Zealander I was quite pleased by my knowledge of the birdlife but I then saw a small brown bird with an unusually long thin curved beak coming down to the rock pool for a drink. I was curious to find out what it was and pointed it out to Greg, to his astonishment he also did not know what it was so took some photos of it. It was not tagged and luckily Greg managed to capture one good photo showing the size of the birds beak. It came and went very quickly so we hung around for another glimpse but unfortunately it never returned and we had a boat to catch. When we got on to the boat we showed the picture to the skipper to see if he knew what it was. He stated it resembled a huia bird, a now extinct bird of New Zealand.
When we arrived at our destination we borrowed a bird book and could find nothing that resembled the bird on our photo, we looked up the huia bird but apart from a similar beak, it did not have the distinct wattles of the huia bird. We were flummoxed as was everyone we showed the photo to. Once we arrived back in Picton we took the photo to the Department of Conservation who were also keen on seeing the photo, it turns out our mystery bird was a juvenile saddleback with an unusually long beak.