Saturday, 6 December 2014

Zealandia

Our last stop in New Zealand was Wellington. I had two days of work to prepare for but we managed to squeeze in a trip to Zealandia today, a place I've wanted to visit for years but despite being in Wellington many times over the last few years I had never managed to get there.

Zealandia is an eco-restoration project on 250 hectares of land around two now disused reservoirs in Karori, a suburb of Wellington. Relying on water collected right on the major fault line running through Wellington was deemed to be a less than sensible idea and when new reservoirs were constructed the land was acquired by the Karori Sanctuary Trust in the early 1990s to re-establish a pre-human ecosystem. The land was fenced and predators systematically removed. In the 20 years since its inception, the sanctuary has created viable populations of a range of threatened species of birds that are now re-establishing themselves in the Wellington area.

Zealandia, Karori, Wellington NZ
Pentax K-3, Pentax 16-50mm f/2.8 @ 16mm, ISO 400, f/11 1/400
Zealandia, Karori, Wellington NZ
Pentax K-3, Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 70mm, ISO 400, f/11 1/400

Almost immediately inside the gate we heard Tui calling loudly and a few hundred metres along the track found two in the open.

Tui, Zealandia, Wellington NZ
Pentax K-3, Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 70mm
ISO 800, f/4 1/1600
Tui, Zealandia, Wellington NZ
Pentax K-3, Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 70mm
ISO 800, f/2.8 1/2000

There are three species of shags roosting in various locations around the lower reservoir, including nesting Pied Shags (=Pied Cormorant) within easy viewing.

Pied Shag, Zealandia, Wellington NZ
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8, ISO 800, f/5.6 1/1250
Pied Shag, Zealandia, Wellington NZ
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8, ISO 800, f/5.6 1/800

New Zealand Scaup are also breeding.

New Zealand Scaup, Zealandia, Wellington NZ
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8, ISO 800, f/4 1/1600

One of the reasons for coming to Zealandia was to see a Takahe. These giant gallinules are highly endangered and very difficult to find in the wild. Zealandia has a pair and we managed to find this one at one of its feeders.

Takahe, Zealandia, Wellington NZ
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8, ISO 800, f/5.6 1/1250

The Brown Teal is one of the rarest ducks in New Zealand. They are normally nocturnal but can easily be seen around several bird feeding areas in the Sanctuary.

Brown Teal, Zealandia, Wellington NZ
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8, ISO 1000, f/2.8 1/640

The Kaka was another target for the day. These large forest parrots were extinct in the Wellington area but have now re-established since the population was introduced into Zealandia. They could be heard flying throughout the forest and seen at a distance flying over the tree-tops but it was quite a while before I found one close enough to photograph, albeit through branches and in very dark conditions.

Kaka, Zealandia, Wellington NZ
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8, ISO 3200, f/5.6 1/500

A little further on we came across the Kaka feeding area where food is provided for the birds so we got some much better portraits of these majestic birds. Supplementary food is provided for several re-introduced species as there is insufficient habitat to sustain a viable population size just within the sanctuary. As traditional food trees are being planted and mature in surrounding areas, it is hoped that eventually this supplementary feeding can stop.

Kaka, Zealandia, Wellington NZ
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8
ISO 3200, f/5.6 1/1000
Kaka, Zealandiai, Wellington NZ
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8
ISO 400, f/3.2 1/1000

The Red-crowned Parakeet is another re-introduced bird to the Sanctuary and is now thriving.

Red-crowned Parakeet, Zealandia, Wellington NZ
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8
ISO 1000, f/2.8 1/1000
Red-crowned Parakeet, Zealandia, Wellington NZ
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8, ISO 1000, f/2.8 1/125

I spotted this New Zealand Dabchick on the upper reservoir, as I was crossing the dam wall. There was no way to get any closer but I later learned that this bird had only been recorded for the first time in the Sanctuary a few days before so it was especially pleasing to have come across it.

New Zealand Dabchick, Zealandia, Wellington NZ
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8, ISO 800, f/2.8 1/5000

The Stitchbird (or Hihi) is a small honeyeater-like bird and another re-introduction that seems to be thriving. They are a real challenge to photograph because, like many small passerines, they are almost constantly on the move and most frequently found among forest under storey.

Stitchbird (male), Zealandia, Wellington NZ
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8, ISO 1600, f/2.8 1/200
Stitchbird (male), Zealandia, Wellington NZ
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8, ISO 1600, f/2.8 1/100

The last planned stop was to find a Tuatara. There is a wild (re-introduced) population of these amazing reptiles in the Sanctuary but they can be more easily seen in the enclosed research area next to the main track. We were not disappointed.

Tuatara (juvenile), Zealandia, Wellington NZ
Pentax K-3, Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 122.5mm, ISO 3200, f/5.6 1/100
Tuatara (juvenile), Zealandia, Wellington NZ
Pentax K-3, Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 200mm, ISO 3200, f/4 1/400

The adults in the research area are all marked with beads to enable easy individual identification.

Tuatara, Zealandia, Wellington NZ
Pentax K-3, Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 122.5mm, ISO 3200, f/5.6 1/320

On our way back to the visitor centre and exit, we checked on the Pied Shags again and found this one calling loudly,

Pied Shag, Zealandia, Wellington NZ
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8, ISO 640, f/2.8 1/500

another preening itself

Pied Shag, Zealandia, Wellington NZ
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8, ISO 640, f/4.5 1/80

and another supervising bath-time.

Pied Shag, Zealandia, Wellington NZ
Pentax K-3, Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 107.5mm, ISO 640, f/2.8 1/400

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