After picking up a rental car in Auckland, New Zealand, Bob set about driving us to our first accommodation in Karekare at the edge of the Waitakere Ranges Regional Park in the Waitakere Hills. What a warm welcome we received at Lone Kauri Lodge and what a nice touch to see the Canadian flag flying proudly from their flagpole.
The proprietors, Keith and Ann, make it a practice to fly the flag of their guests’ home country as a way of making them feel welcome.
We had a little trouble finding the Lodge. The GPS guided us to a walking trail down a very steep forested mountainside. Obviously, we couldn’t drive down that so had to find an alternate route.
Driving in a different direction, basically following our nose, we came upon an inviting roadside park adjacent to Karekare Stream.
Seeing an unfamiliar bird on a sandy point, Bob and I decided we needed a break so would check out the bird.
After being cooped up on a jet plane and biding our time at airports for the past 30 hours, we were eager to stretch our legs and make use of our cameras. The two of us were like kids in a candy shop!
Of course, every bird that we saw was a new one to us whether or not it was common in New Zealand. The bird that originally caught our attention was a Little Pied Cormorant more commonly known in New Zealand as a Little Shag.
It soon became apparent that there were several different species of birds at that one location, and with a trail and boardwalk that skirted the stream, the local park warranted more than just a few minutes of our time.
As we walked a little further, our eyes were drawn to the edge of the Karekare Stream where several ducks bobbed on the water near the bank. As they came into the clear, it was possible to discern two or three Pacific Black Ducks, also known as Grey Ducks, and one that appeared to be a Grey Duck Mallard Hybrid.
A Pacific Black Duck was also seen resting on shore with two fledglings nestled in the dry grass nearby.
Next coming into view was a larger duck waddling on a sandy spit. It couldn’t be missed! The duck was about the size of a goose. It turned out to be a Paradise Shelduck that was grazing on fresh shoots near the water’s edge. These large ducks are endemic to New Zealand.
While focusing our cameras on the Paradise Shelduck, a small black fuzzy head popped up from the thick mass of fresh grass. No idea what we were looking at, but the little fledgling kept our interest, and then one of its parents came around to shepherd this offspring and another back towards the flowing water.
In all, there were two babies and three adult Australasian Swamphens that are more commonly known as Pukekos by the local people.
As if to command a little attention of its own, a Common Myna bird flew into the area and lit at the top of a nearby tree. Although I was pleased to see the bird, which is native to Asia, it is considered one of the most invasive species worldwide.
We managed a few record shots of a male Yellowhammer that was foraging along the stream bank. This member of the bunting family is another species that has been introduced to New Zealand, this time from Eurasia.
Bob and I were exhausted by this time so had to make our way back to the car and proceed with finding our accommodation. A rest was in order! Still, a pair of Welcome Swallows on the opposite shoreline justified a couple of record shots so we could add them to our list of new birds.
Even the cultivated grass next to the parking lot rewarded us with another pair of Lifers. A Eurasian Blackbird male…
and a female Chaffinch.
As we drove the back roads trying to find our lodgings, opportunities presented themselves around every corner. A Sacred Kingfisher sat on a utility wire near Karekare Falls,
and a sheep pasture was home to a couple of Spur-winged Plovers,
while a Yellowhammer oversaw the comings and goings of the same farmyard from its perch atop a fence post.
After several misguided attempts to locate our lodgings by consulting with a couple of residents and driving a couple of gravel roads into the mountains,
we finally found Lone Kauri Lodge.
Our bedroom looked out onto an intimate patio wrapped in lush tropical vegetation within steps of a secreted hot tub. We had arrived!
After getting settled and having a restorative cup of tea, Bob and I set off for the Arataki Visitor Centre, the official gateway to Waitakere Ranges Regional Park.
Protecting the ancient kauri trees from a disease known as kauri dieback is taken very seriously in New Zealand.
It is necessary to clean your footwear before and after hikes so that spores of the disease are not spread. Cleaning stations provide stiff bristles and disinfectant spray for the soles of your shoes.
The Arataki Visitor Centre is the hub for a number of trails, so Bob and I elected to follow an easy, short trail in light of our exhaustion.
It was refreshing to be out in the rainforest soaking up the sights and smells.
A very vocal Tui kept to the shadows in the treetops,
and back at the parking lot, we were kept occupied for a good 45 minutes trying to keep up with a Tui…
that was sipping nectar from the flowers of the Rewarewa Tree and New Zealand Flax.
Bob and I had to go out again that evening for dinner in the nearby village of Piha, and as dusk settled quietly over the land, a Kereru or New Zealand Pigeon prepared to roost for the night. That roadside sighting was the last for our first day on the North Island. We were off to a good start.