Saturday, 12 March 2011

a night under the stars

We spent seven hours last night listening for Kiwis on the estate. Patrick Stewart from Coromandel brought his call gear and we worked our way through the estate from south to north (top of the estate near lot 22 via lot 6 to Lot 2. It was one of those absolutely magical nights with zero wind, a partial waxing moon that set fairly early and a starscape that had to be seen to be believed. There were some spectacular falling stars including one incredibly bright one that shot horizontally across the sky leaving an impressive trail. It appeared to be just above the trees! Another abiding memory of last night will be the way sound travelled in the still air. There was a party going on at lot 11 and we could hear music and general hilarity throughout our walk from the top of the estate to near the gate!!

Judi, Bruno, Patrick and I started at about 8.30 with a morepork watching us at the gate to lot 22. We had selected a number of spots along the estate road that gave us good line of sight into the various catchments. Patrick played a tape of male and female calls and then we would spend ten minutes listening for reply calls.The highlight for me at the top of the estate was two kaka flying over calling. They looked to be making their way back to Manaia. It is always a treat to see and hear them as they are relatively infrequent visitors to the estate. Plenty of morepork and concentrations of crickets were the main features as we made our way down to lot 19 where Bruno left us. We heard weta at many locations - short bursts of what sounds like a soft comb being drawn across the edge of a piece of paper.
A brief stop at lot 12 for snacks and a warm drink and then Judi, Patrick and I set off up to Tim and Jude's drive. As soon as the tape was played a male kiwi called back which was incredibly exciting. We heard him call several times close to the drive above Sebastian and Karen's house. Apart from this male bird no other kiwis were heard during the night but as Patrick explained that does not mean there are no other birds present. He will provide a report once he has completed a second visit in a few weeks at which point we should have a better feel for what the kiwi situation is on the estate at the moment.

I had hoped that we might hear long tailed cuckoo which are preparing to return to the islands in the tropical Pacific (J and I saw large numbers wintering in Vanuatu). One flew over the picnic area a couple of days ago and last year I heard one at night flying over the estate. They have a very distinctive call described as a long-drawn-out shriek!

We saw/heard a few possums particularly in the northern (lower) parts of the estate. My own personal possum battle at home has had its ups and downs - one trapped, one sitting on a trap and another rat bait station  !! A hedgehog (the same as reported in my last blog?) clearly lost its game of 'chicken' with a passing Pirelli on the road above the picnic area!

Patrick found a specimen of Kawaka (Libocedrus plumosa) a New Zealand cedar that has a very limited distribution on Coromandel. Judi and I will go and see if we can find any others later today. 
After several glorious days we have had light rain today which the plants will enjoy.

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