On our recent short holiday, which now feels as if it happened a long time ago, one of the highlights for me was a visit to Pukaha, Mt Bruce. This is a wildlife centre for threatened species on the state highway north of Masterton.
Going into the NZ native bush is something that I love to do and to see our wonderful, unique native birds in their natural environment brings me great joy. So visiting Pukaha was a place I eagerly anticipated visiting.
I was not disappointed. The day was clear and sunny and the bush provided some shelter from any wind that was blowing. I could hear small birds tweeting above us and looking up into the canopy I could see some small white headed birds. We had been given a map of the centre and a guide to birds in the bush when we paid the admission, so I was able to establish that these birds were named “Whiteheads”. Their Maori name is much prettier and suits them nicely – Popokatea. They were in groups and cheeped and chattered as they fed on tiny insects amongst the leaves.
I was constantly aware of the heavy wing beats of our native pigeon, the Kereru. A staff member told me that something in the bush that the Kereru liked to eat had come into season which accounted for the numbers we saw or heard fly over our heads.
Kereru in a Kowhai tree at Pukaha, August 2011
I also heard the noisy squawks and screeches of our native Kaka, a species of parrot who were returned to this area in 1996. The great news was that numbers of Kaka had increased so much in the centre that they now all flew freely apart from two kept in an aviary due to past injuries. This pair in their aviary was lively and highly entertaining and was readily accessible for educational purposes. I will post more about the Kakas and my remarkable and memorable experience with some of them.
Cheeky, inquisitive Kaka and our camera case
We were privileged to interact with a staff member as she fed the group of Long fin eels that live in the clear, fast running water of the Bruce stream. I knew a little about these eels after viewing the films about the Pauatahanui Inlet that I posted about here. However their special story warrants a separate post too.
Our national bird the Kiwi has its own house in the bush and once our eyes grew accustomed to the dark we all enjoyed watching him forage for food and run about, at some speed at times, in his enclosure. Kiwis are endangered in the wild and much is being done to ensure this unique species is kept alive and numbers increased. Pukaha is not a predator free centre so Kiwi must be kept in the enclosure.
Within the Kiwi house we were also able to search for and find native skinks and geckos in their temperature controlled displays, native fresh water crayfish (or crawlies as I knew them in my childhood) and view the incubators that they use to hatch Kiwi eggs.
Other extraordinary birds I saw that I will post about separately were the Kokako and the Takahe and I need to write about the magical energy I felt amongst the stand of Californian Redwoods that is also part of this wonderful centre.
While much has happened since we visited Pukaha I am still enjoying remembering what I saw there and I have many photos that chronicle this special experience.