Friday 11 November 2016

'Killer' Kaniere- West Coast


That got your attention didn't it. You may remember my 'Murder at Monowai' blog post, well now I have this one to go with it.

We're now parked at the DOC camp at another one of our favourite West Coast lakes, Lake Kaniere, just 20 kms inland from Hokitika.

The last time we were here, we were the only ones in camp for a few days and then all hell broke loose; it was the Easter jet boats champs! 

Every available blade of grass was taken by people, motorhomes, tents and boats, the noise was ear-piercing and the fish headed to the depths of the lake. We also had torrential rain for 3 of the 4 days over Easter. I think we've jinx it again, these photos were taken yesterday; today it's persisting down and it's Christchurch Anniversary day and the camp is busy. Poor people.

Behind our camp the grass and buttercups grow thick and wild, the ground is uneven and covered with great mounds of old grass clumps. There's also a dry, narrow and deep ditch running through the middle of it. 

I was standing on our steps watching a couple of pukeko pushing their way through the grass heading for the open ground around the camp. Pukeko aren't as common on the Coast as they are elsewhere in NZ and especially in the North Island. 

As I watched I spotted two pukeko chicks trying to fight their way through the grass behind the adults, one caught up but the other lost sight of his family and was stranded on the other side of the ditch.

I put on my gumboots and set off through the tangle to see if I could get some closer shots. 

It was then that I spotted a weka popping its head out of the undergrowth and making a stealthy beeline for the lost chick. The chick must have spotted it too as it disappeared under the grass. 

As I got closer the weka appeared again right beside me, launched itself across the ditch dived into the grass and started madly attacking the hidden chick. 

The noise from the chick was terrible, I thought the pukeko adults would have flown back to fight for their baby but no, they just let out loud squawks too. 

I wasn't sure what to do, I had my camera in one hand and I was on the other side of the ditch so I started jumping up and down, shouting like a banshee woman at the weka and throwing clumps of grass that I was ripping out of the ground beside me at it. There was nothing else nearby to throw.

It must have decided I meant business because it stopped the attack and disappeared into the ditch to hide under a clump of fern growing there. I jumped the ditch and looked for the chick but couldn't find it, I hoped it had made a hasty retreat back through the nearby fence. I saw the other one making a dash back across open ground.

The weka kept trying to return to the spot and I kept shooing it away. It wasn't scared though, they are a very crafty bird, it tried a few different routes to get to where I was standing. After 10 minutes or so, just when I thought all was good and the adult pukeko had returned over the fence, the weka launched itself across the ditch stabbing its beak into clump of grass and grabbed the chick again! They must have super hearing. The chick had been hiding right beside me all along.

This time I was able to flail my arms and legs at it, aiming and missing with a couple of kicks as the chick screamed in protest. The weka let go and jumped out of the way and I managed to grab the poor chick in one hand (I'm still holding my camera in the other, nowhere to put it), it continued screeching and next minute a whole pukeko posse, about 6 birds, came flapping from up the back towards the fence at me. Like I was the problem!  Pukeko chicks do fly, 'cause I had to quickly throw the chick over the fence towards an adult as the weka came in for another go. It landed in the soft grass where it disappeared. I watched a while longer and saw it weaving it way back towards the others, safe at last. 

Back at the van, a juvenile weka was doing the rounds, scrounging for scraps and digging in the mud. His mother was still hiding in the grass, I have no doubt she would have brought the chick back to feed to her chick if she'd been left alone. They do prefer bugs and grubs etc and now I know for sure they hunt and catch other birds too. Weka are in my bad books for now, I've seen a nasty streak.

And Mrs Paradise Duck better keep a close eye on her duckling when she's in camp...


  1. We have seen pukekos fighting over a live duckling, running around with the poor thing hanging out of it's beak, while the others were all trying to pull it out and make off with it themselves. The poor little (mallard) duckling didn't stand a chance.

    1. Poor duckling. Yes, it's tough world 'Out There', I've seen pukekos chasing bigger ducklings but haven't seen any caught. It's no wonder ducks have big broods- they lose so many to eels, rats, stoats and other birds. Mind you they lose them by leaving them behind too. It's a wonder any reach adulthood!

  2. I am an enthusiastic lurker here in the UK where I just read the terrible news about the East Coast Earthquake. I hope you are ok. I am thinking about you and your beleaguered country men and women.

    1. Thanks Kathy for your concern, it's very much appreciated.
      Yes, it certainly was a big one. Not only big but very long (over a minute) with lots of waves and a rolling motion. We're on the West Coast, south of Hokitika, but it was still a good shake followed by many aftershocks. We hadn't unhitched so felt very safe connected to the back of the ute, no chance of falling off our blocks, but I've had no sleep all night, feeling the aftershocks, listening to the radio and getting updates. It is quite bad on the top half of the east coast of the South Island with roads blocked and broken and a couple of fatalities.
      Thanks again for thinking of us.
      Best regards

    2. And just as I posted that reply, we had another good aftershock! I think living with wheels underneath us sometimes helps with 'quakes, it sometimes feels like one of us is just moving about the van.

  3. Goodness, I didn't know that Weka were such hunters. Some would say that you are just an observer and should just let nature take it's course without interference.
    I'm not one of those! Glad you stepped in and saved the pukeko chick, hopefully not just a temporary reprieve.

    1. I'm afraid I think it was Lisa, I never saw the chicks again although a few adults came to visit on a regular basis. The grass was just too thick and tangled for them to get through. And yes, I'm definitely not an observer! Although sometimes I wish I could turn a blind-eye- the pickles I get us both into, saving various animals :) Nice to hear from you too.


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