Saturday, June 14, 2008

Kawau Island

Pohutakawa Tree



Kawau Island in the Hauraki Gulf of New Zealand which I posted about in the Kowai Coast is a good place to see birds up close. Catch a boat from Sandspit Wharf near Warkworth to Kawau Island. The Island has kiwi birds and also two thirds of the North Island wekas. Another chunky flightless land birds, wekas have reddish brown feathers and walk with a flicking tail. Wekas are nosey, so it’s not too hard to spot one. The wekas and birds in For the Birds are all native birds.

New Zealand has a lot of tourist over-stayers– people that like New Zealand so much they hang around after their visas expire. They also have many feathered and furred tourist over-stayers. When the Maori arrived from the Society Islands in the 14th century to escape food shortages and war, they found plenty of food, though not much good red meat. Other than two species of bat, there were no land mammals. The flightless Kiwi birds and wekas dug around on the forest floor for their dinner.

In 1862, Sir George Grey, Governor of New Zealand, bought Kawau Island and remodeled the existing mine manager’s house into the Mansion House and surrounded it with botanical gardens and a zoological park. Grey also brought in five species of wallabies. Cute little pests, they tore up the native vegetation along with the not so cute possums, another pest. The wallabies destroyed baby pohutakawa trees so there can never be any mature trees. In many areas, the ground is also often bare, leaving the birds without food or shelter. Even the surrounding marine water has silt carried across the bare ground by rainwater.

Pohutakawa Blossum



Pohutakawa Trust New Zealand is an attempt by the private landowners to reverse the damage by reducing the number of wallabies and possums so more native birds can survive. Pohutakawa’s, which the trust is attempting to save on Kawau are the bright red "New Zealand Christmas Trees" you’ll see in bloom if you visit New Zealand in the holiday season.

Lyn Harris

RV in NZ: How to Spend Your Winters South in New Zealand

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Looks like the Martians are landing over that Pohutakawa tree. Interesting photos.