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I believe it’s secure to say when most individuals take into consideration New Zealand, they suppose large mountains, epic views, and hobbits. And I’ll be the primary to say they’re not improper. Far fewer most likely consider birds. However birds are one of the crucial distinctive issues about this nook of the world.
After we broke off Gondwana tens of millions of years in the past, New Zealand’s ecology advanced with out mammals. Solely birds and a few bats. As a result of they advanced with out mammal predators, many misplaced their skill to fly, like the long-lasting kiwi. Any mammals you meet listed below are launched, and most are thought-about pests. The worst are Australian possums, stoats, weasels, feral cats, rats, mice, and even canine.
In truth, it’s estimated that about 25 million native birds are killed by mammals right here yearly, placing many susceptible to extinction.
However as a result of it’s a small island (mixed with different components) New Zealand is combating again towards predators. And it makes an actual distinction. A lot laborious work goes into defending this ecological paradise. And the wildlife we do have is not like anyplace else on the planet.
That’s why I at all times say that, sure, the views are nice, and the adventures are unforgettable. However attempt to look previous that and soak in simply how ecologically particular now we have it right here.
For those who hear a pointy whistle on a mountain river, it may very well be the decision of the whio/blue duck; there are solely about 3,000 left and they’re in decline. At daybreak, the pitter-patter on the metallic mountain hut roof is likely to be a curious kea, the world’s solely alpine parrot. The heavy woosh-woosh you may hear within the forest may very well be a fats kererū/wooden pigeon retreating.
That is what makes New Zealand really extraordinary in my eyes. And it’s a great reminder to guard what now we have left.
There may be nowhere higher to soak within the untouched native bush and wild calls of uncommon birds than on Rakiura/Stewart Island.
Simply an hour’s ferry experience throughout from Bluff, New Zealand’s third island is one in every of my favourite locations in all the world. In truth, I really feel like I’d find yourself residing there in the future, simply me and the birds. Although Rakiura is the place the place I had the worst expertise of my life – discovering 150 beaching pilot whales – it’s gotten underneath my pores and skin, and now each time I go to, I don’t wish to depart.
Whereas there are numerous components that contribute to this, I’d say the most important one must be the spectacular native bush and wildlife. 85% of the island is nationwide park. And solely about 400 individuals reside there together with a shit-ton of birds. Appears like heaven to me!
Stewart Island hasn’t been as ravaged by launched predators as mainland New Zealand.
In truth, it’s freed from mustelids (stoats & weasels); these guys are public enemy #1 right here. They’re homicide machines, killing heaps and heaps of birds all of the whereas reproducing like rabbits. They’re notoriously sneaky and laborious to catch. Stoats can swim, and so they’re opportunistic killers like cats – they don’t even eat all of the birds they kill.
Mixed with some unimaginable conservation initiatives like Predator Free RakiuraStewart Island is the place to go for wildlife and birdwatching. And there’s no the place higher on Stewart Island for this, than on Ulva Island/Te Wharawhara, a predator-free open island sanctuary in Paterson Inlet.
A tiny island off of a much bigger island, which is of two very large islands.f Like it.
I’ve been fortunate sufficient to go to Ulva Island three or 4 occasions over the previous couple of years. And I can’t wait to return.
Ulva Island is a predator-free open island sanctuary, one of many few pest-free sanctuaries in New Zealand, and one of many solely ones open to the general public. Smaller offshore islands are the very best locations to attempt to save birds as a result of they’re simpler to away from pests, permitting the native birds to thrive.
Ulva Island is fairly unimaginable. For those who solely do one factor on Stewart Island, come out right here. For those who’re restricted on time and don’t take into account your self an insane birder like me, hop on an Ulva Island guided tour with RealNZ. You’ll see a lot greater than you’d by yourself and study quite a bit.
Lots of our rarest birds name Ulva Island dwelling, just like the tieke/saddleback, mohua, Stewart Island robin, kakariki, and loads of kiwi.
Ulva Island can be distinctive as a result of it was by no means milled for timber, not like different locations on Stewart Island. Right here you possibly can see mature native bushes and beautiful foliage; it offers you a style of what New Zealand used to seem like earlier than us people got here alongside.
Predator-free since 1997, minus the occasional rat incursion, Ulva Island is among the finest locations to go birdwatching amongst pristine native bush. With lovely white sand seashores, on a sunny day, it’s straightforward to overlook you’re on the backside of the world – subsequent cease Antarctica.
As a result of it’s so near mainland Rakiura, rats can nonetheless swim over and reproduce shortly. In truth, whereas we had been wandering round, we discovered a pile of neon inexperienced feathers, what was left of a kakariki (red-fronted parakeet). Possibly a local chook like a karearea/falcon predated it, or it was a rat. A grim reminder that what now we have right here is fragile.
On my final journey to Ulva Island, it was raining on and off on a relaxed autumn day. Whereas the rain makes it tougher to listen to rustling within the rainforest heralding birds, it did create an ethereal, otherworldly vibe.
As we had been heading into autumn, it meant that mushroom season was in full swing. A brand new pastime of mine this 12 months has been mushroom, partially impressed by my good friend Liv who simply wrote a tremendous e book: Fungi of Aotearoa: A Curious Forager’s Area Information. There have been loads of lovely electrical blue Entoloma hochstetteri mushrooms, aka werewere-kōkako, native to New Zealand.
However maybe the very best half was coming out at one of many coves solely to have a child sea lion attempt to chase us off his seaside. I’ve spent loads of time round seals and sea lions on my travels, and infrequently the infants are bluffing, doing little dummy prices. This man was no exception.
Perched on the steps, we snacked and watched him eyeing us suspiciously from the water. Curious little wekas tried to steal our lunch. Wildlife mecca, for positive.
You’ll be able to stroll all of the tracks round Ulva Island in a few hours. Simply bear in mind, if you happen to stroll shortly, you’ll miss out on quite a bit. Rambling, pausing, and listening is one of the best ways to expertise the wildlife right here. We noticed nearly all the things minus kiwi (nocturnal), which was wonderful.
Ulva Island is the sort of place that reminds us to decelerate. Right here you possibly can breathe within the rattling earthy smells, and hear for the haunting calls of almost extinct birds. It offers us a uncommon glimpse into what New Zealand used to seem like and what it may seem like once more in the future.
This distant wilderness will get underneath your pores and skin and keep some time.
Have you ever been to Ulva Island? Is that this a spot you may see your self visiting? Share!