Sunday, 17 November 2013

Pukaha Mount Bruce


Pukaha Mt Bruce is a wildlife centre that runs an active breeding programme for New Zealand's rare & endangered native birds & reptiles. As avid birders we wanted to visit the centre on our way south, it was the main reason we choose to take SH2 to Wellington. The 942 hectares Mt Bruce reserve is the largest remnant of ancient forest that once stretched stretched  from Masterton to Norsewood. An extensive & continuous pest control programme had dramatically increased the population of birds in the forest including many of our endangered species; this involves over 130km of trap lines through the forest, 1000 bait stations for possums & rats and 500 traps for stoats & ferrets.

A pair of kakariki (red crowned parakeet) cosy up in one of the flight aviaries; they have already fledged five chicks this season & from this display I would say there will be more before the summer ends.
We arrived at 10am and even this late in the day the forest was alive with bird song. There are numerous large flight avaries near the entrance to the park along with a kiwi house. Many of  Mt Bruce's captive bred birds are released at other pest free sanctuaries around New Zealand, including Boundry Stream in Hawkes Bay & Tiritiri Matangi Island in the Hauraki Gulf.

One bird I was very keen to see was Manakura the rare white North Island Brown Kiwi. Manakura is two years old & is not albino, she is white because her parents have a rare recessive gene. In fact there have been two white kiwi hatched at Mt Bruce & there are likely to be more. Manakura was feeding in the kiwi house but spent quite a bit of time aggressively chasing a normal brown kiwi around the enclosure. No flash was allowed in the darkness of the make believe night time forest floor so this is what I got. A little more than what I heard a Canadian wife telling her husband he captured- “It’s totally black, you’ll have to go back & try again!”

We stopped by the tuatara display to watch a keeper feed the male & female a locust each, their only meal for the next 3 days. Tuatara spend most of their day staring into space hence the reason why they live to such a ripe old age & don't need much to eat. This pair are around 65 years old & all going well will live to be at least 150 years of age. Tuatara are rare, medium-sized reptiles found only in New Zealand. Most New Zealanders know that the tuatara is as ancient as the dinosaurs and a species that hasn’t changed in over 200 million years.

Next we watched one of the latest batch of kiwi chicks being force fed his dinner. This little guy has held out for 64 days, he is yet to get the hang of how you do it by yourself. Any day now the keepers are hoping that he’ll work it out so he can join his fellow new season chicks in the pre-release aviary in preparation for being moved to one of the numerous kiwi sanctuaries around New Zealand when he reaches one kilo in weight. At this weight he will be able defend himself against most predators & stands a good chance of reaching adulthood.

Isn't that the most cutest fluff ball you ever did see?
David decided to do the hour & half walk to a lookout at the top of the reserve but because of my feet I decided it might be a bit too much for me to cope with so I stayed behind to watch over 30 kaka fly in from all over the reserve to a feeding station. The kaka is a large parrot similar to the kea and just as destructive & comical. They are a beautiful dark glossy olive brown colour with a hint of iridescence and bronze with a splash of beautiful deep red coloured feathers under their wings.


The kaka have a wide vocal range, the bush & sky filled with their squawks, clucking & shrieks. Their keen acrobatics kept me entertained for nearly an hour as they swooped in low and long through the paths scaring a few people who were unaware of how close they were to their heads. They also chased each other through the bush & from branch to branch, some even ended up tussling on the ground.



We both enjoyed the visit although I think we’ve been spoilt a little by visiting so many other sanctuaries that aren’t quite so commercialized & involve avaried birds albeit for a good purpose. The kaka were the highlight for me & I was thrilled to see Manakura & the kiwi chick being fed. Hopefully somewhere down south, either Stewart Island or on the West Coast we will see a kiwi in the wild.

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