Monday, 16 February 2015

Blowhard Bush & a Tomtit

As you'll have noticed on the map out the right hand side, we've now moved on to Mangaweka. I still have a couple more blogs from Kuripapango to post though.


Blowhard Bush- so named because in early coaching days the horses struggled to cross the inland ranges of Hawkes Bay- is a 63 hectare reserve just off the Napier-Taihape Road and was given by a local family, Mr & Mrs Lowry, to the NZ Royal Forest & Bird Protection Society back in 1962.


The forest grows over limestone formations which has produced many karst ridges in amongst the trees- it reminds me of the weird karst formations we saw on the Takaka Hill. The limestone has been fractured into large blocks by the surrounding active fault lines and is covered with layers of pumice ash from central North Island eruptions thousands of years ago. It is thought that this area of bush was saved from becoming a commercial pine forest because of the limestone rocks, tomos (underground holes) and caves that cover the reserve.


We decide to walk the Tui Track, the main & longest track in the reserve and one that does a circuit of the reserve taking in a number of interesting features along the way. It had been raining the day before and the morning of our walk so it was very wet under foot and with a number of steep sections, we slipped and slid as we struggled up the slopes. Grabbing trees to halt your slide gave you a free cold shower as the branches overhead were laden with water.

Some of the rock fractures we passed through were quite narrow and generally the track wasn’t that wide compared with the DOC walks we’ve been on but all the tracks were very well marked with coloured tags at regular intervals leading the way and plenty of information panels at relevant spots.


This is Patiki Cave (like the sign says) but it’s more of a large low limestone rock overhang. This was where Patiki, a Maori man lived with his family here back in the 1800s. Patiki fell in love with a woman well above his social standing, they eloped and hid here for many years surviving and raising two children, who went on to work at the Kuripapango Hotel taking on the English names of Jock & Mary McDonald. (The wooden box under the sign is a weta hotel- more on them further down)


At the top of the walk is the Lowry Shelter, obviously named after the benefactors of the reserve. We stopped outside to have our lunch and listen to the birds- it was a bit gloomy and barren inside but would have been great if it was raining with table & benches to sit at.


We hadn’t seen (or heard) much bird life on the walk through the bush but as we moved into the more open bush near the top of the track we caught glimpses of birds flying about and could hear a lot of bird song. As I stood there listening I caught sight of this little guy flying in for a better look at the intruder passing through her patch.


This is a tiny female fledgling Tomtit- Miromiro, which is probably the reason she was so confiding. She has yet to learn that the big wide world can have many dangers although Tomtits, especially the males, can be quite bold and inquisitive.


So cute! She posed for me long enough to at least grab a couple of good shots. Taking photos in the dark bush with bright backgrounds and tiny fast birds flitting all over the place deserves a medal!


After leaving the shelter we passed through a clearing and then out onto an alpine herbfield, following the sign posts to the lookout which looks west towards the Kaweka Ranges in the distance and with the commercial Kaweka Pine Forest spread out below.


Looking south west we can see the Napier-Taihape road (in the centre) weaving it’s way towards Kuripapango and the Gentle Annie on the far right.


David spies a Bellbird- Korimako, resting on a Kanuka branch, he doesn’t look too pleased to see us…


I move in for a closer shot, clicking as I step carefully forward but he spooks and takes off.


We head off through the kanuka forest and it’s all downhill from here on- very slippery downhill and tough going in some places.


At various places throughout the reserve weta boxes are attached to trees, these are hidey holes for wetas to call home, although none have taken up the option here. Maybe the rent is too high or there are too many nosey people looking in.


Near the end of the walk there’s a side track to a large cave. Passing through one of the narrow alleyways formed by the limestone I get the feeling I’m being watched by a dozen conjoined Easter Island faces.


It’s a steep slippery track down to the cave and all the way we’re thinking we’ve got to climb back out of here afterwards but we can’t come this far and not have a look. The cave is quite deep with a limestone ceiling with a split right down the centre. It’s dry & dusty inside and there’s no sign of life. I think Patiki would have been better making his home in here myself.


Once back at the car we decide to head to the summit lookout which is just a few kilometres back down the road towards Napier. It’s the closest cell phone connection we can access and where we’ve been a couple of times to phone family, upload emails and where I’ve been able to upload blog posts. This is the view we’ve had while doing our computer work, looking south east out over Hawkes Bay, this time as rain clouds pass over parched farms.




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