After the Vallhund walk out at Ataturk Park and lunch at Chocolate Fish Cafe, Andy and I headed back to Karori. We chilled out for a little bit before making the 15-minute walk down the road to the Zealandia entrance.
Living so close to Zealandia, you’d think I’d have visited earlier, but it’s always the nearby places that you seem to miss. “Oh, I’ll have plenty of chances to go there.” I’ve walked around the entire perimeter countless times on the Fenceline Track, but you don’t really get a glimpse of what’s inside. (Side note: Andy and I did go to the fenceline the other night and saw a Little Spotted Kiwi by flashlight through the fence! So cool.) Andy had been to Zealandia quite a few times before, but not recently, so he was happy to come along as my bird guide for the afternoon.
Zealandia first opened as a wildlife/eco-sanctuary in 1999 and has been going strong ever since. They’ve reintroduced many native species and eradicated pests from the interior. The tall predator-proof fence surrounding the massive sanctuary keeps them out, but they still make sure to check visitors for stowaway rodents when entering. Luckily, I didn’t pack any rats in my backpack this time.
Anyway, let’s get to it! Here’s the Lower Karori Reservoir.
There’s an electric boat that makes regular trips up and down, but we decided to skip the wait for that.
The heritage area of the park was pretty cool, including this little pier.
Up next, we got a firsthand look at how high pests can jump.
I think Vallhund might be close to mouse. Sorry, Higgs.
We got to see some brilliantly green geckos in one of the outdoor cages. I love the two cuddling at the bottom.
With Andy leading the way (who needs a map?), we headed further into the sanctuary.
We stopped briefly at the shag viewing platform alongside the reservoir. Shagadelic! (Had to.)
Momma Shag on the left couldn’t catch a break with her hungry chicks.
We then caught a glimpse of a takahē. This colorful flightless bird was thought to be extinct by the end of the 19th century, but was rediscovered 50 years later and has since made strides towards recovery.
Although this next bird, the tui, isn’t at all rare, it still deserves a photo. I believe this one may be an adolescent, since its neck feathers don’t appear to be fully developed. Perhaps it’s just the angle, though.
We soon stumbled upon a feeding, so I had the opportunity to photograph the typically speedy kākāriki, which is the local name for the red crowned parakeet.
There’s a town on the Kapiti Coast called Paekakariki, which means “perching place of the kākāriki”. Andy and I were up there a few weeks back when we drove the winding Paekakariki Road on the way back to Paremata after our Wendy’s trip.
Walking deeper into the sanctuary, the crowds significantly thinned out. We came across a nectar feeder and were lucky enough to see some saddlebacks and stitchbirds. The saddlebacks unfortunately were too quick and tended to perch deep in the forest, so I couldn’t catch any of them on my camera. I’m also still learning to use the telephoto lens, and with flitting birds, it can be very tricky. Good practice, though!
I had better luck with the stitchbirds. They’re called the hihi locally and were once only found on Little Barrier Island off Auckland.
As with most birds, the prettier one is always the male.
After spending a good 15 minutes watching the saddlebacks and hihis flit about, we climbed up a nearby viewing platform.
The views out over Zealandia were incredible. Everything is so dense, and it’s almost impossible to see signs of human civilization at all (OK, just don’t look back at the platform). I love that an area like this is only twenty minutes from the central city.
It’s not hard to imagine Jurassic Park existing in a place like this. I’d rather have the avian version of raptors as neighbors in Karori, though.
Zealandia more than deserves a couple posts, so stay tuned for Part Two!