If you go out in the woods today you’ll be hard pressed to find our iconic bird. In fact even if you go out in the woods tonight, you’ll be a very lucky stalker indeed to be rewarded with the sounds of a kiwi rustling in the undergrowth.
But that’s exactly what I did (or tried to do) on Northland’s Kauri Coast a few weeks back. Getting up close and personal to a real kiwi bird (as opposed to the people or the fruit, for you American readers) is tricky business. Most New Zealanders who have seen a live kiwi have only done so through a glass window at the zoo with such low lighting that one could mistake that rock for a foraging brown kiwi, or vice versa.
Kauri Coast Top 10 Holiday Park in Northland (very near Waipoua Lodge – see previous blog) is where we assembled for our Guided Night Walk. About 10 of us gathered, paid our $20 each ($12 for children 6-14 years. Under 5’s are not suitable – you have to be very quiet!) and climbed into the mini-bus for a short journey into the kauri forest.
The walk is a gentle two-hour meander through native forest that is looked after by DOC. There are walkways and bridges and just a pair of trainers (our guide wore jandals) is fine. Torches were provided to most of us (there weren’t enough for more than one per couple) and you can’t use your own because invariably they are too bright and will send any nocturnal creatures scurrying back into the dark.
Our guide had had a migraine all afternoon, she told us, and I don’t think she was particularly happy to be taking the tour, although once she got into the woods her obvious passion for the flora and fauna came out. First we learned about the pests that steal kiwi eggs and pillage the forest, and of DOCs plans to try and eradicate them, then off we walked in single file. It was just on dusk and in our silence it was a surreal experience. Just moonlight and the occasional flash of a torch to ensure no one fell over.
Moreporks, shiny black kauri snails, eels in the shallow creek, wetas and little glow worm cities were all happy to show themselves, but I wanted to see a kiwi! We’d stop every now and then when our guide heard some rustling, and stand so quietly you couldn’t even hear a breath. Then finally, just as we were near the end of the walk and had been slowly creeping towards the foraging sound, I saw the bum of a kiwi shuffling off in the distance. Brilliant.
Kauri Coast Top 10 Holiday Park Trounson Park Road, Kaihu, Northland