The last day of 2012 saw some nice weather so Keryn and I headed off to the Wairarapa for the day. We had a good brunch at Wild Oats in Carterton, pancakes for myself and French toast for Keryn. and then headed out to Pukaha, the National Wildlife Centre situated at Mount Bruce north of Masterton.

Pukaha is set at the bottom of Mount Bruce in some nice regenerating forest. The visitor centre has a small introductory area with displays and information and then its out into the forest to walk around well maintained tracks. The immediate area has a number of medium to large aviaries set up that hold native birds, many being prepared for release into the wild. This was the first time we had seen orange-fronted kakariki and whio (blue ducks), just a pity they were in cages. There was also a very curious and friendly female kokako who was a highlight.

MG 1513Photo by Brendon & Keryn

A lovely kokako.

MG 1278Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Tuatara basking.

There is also a kiwi house that contains geckos and tuatara in addition to kiwis. Pride of place in the kiwi house is Manukura, an all white (but not albino) bird. We saw Manukura on a second walk through the kiwi house.

There are various events throughout the day and we arrived in time to see the long finned eels getting fed. Dozens of long, thick eels squirmed and jostled in the water for the food, joined by a couple of large brown trout and a few ducks that got close but not too close in case they ended up as food themselves.

MG 1289Photo by Brendon & Keryn

A large long finned eel.

We bumped in to Catherine and Paul at the eel feeding, a strange coincidence given none of us had been here before. We walked on with them through the nearby swamp area, watching the grey duck keeping an eye on her brood of ten ducklings. We parted ways after visiting the whio in their rather rough looking enclosures, Keryn and I heading up a hill on the loop track to a viewpoint. We spotted a few more birds along the track. There were groups of riflemen flitting through the trees around us, a few that stayed close so we could watch them heading up trunks and along branches. There were large kaka nest boxes attached to some of the larger trees and we saw one kaka flying through the trees. We also heard cuckoos, youngsters haranguing their poor surrogate grey warbler parents for food.

MG 1307Photo by Brendon & Keryn

A rifleman passing by.

MG 1364Photo by Brendon & Keryn

A fantail in the forest.

The view at the top was good, though we realised we were not going to get back down in time to see the kaka feeding at 3pm. We got to the feeding area at least 30 minutes after the scheduled feeding but luckily there were still a number of kaka feeding so we got to spend some time watching them flying around between feeders.

MG 1428Photo by Brendon & Keryn

A kaka at the feeders.

So we had a good time, but probably won’t be going back anytime soon. Its easier to get to Zealandia and we tend to see more on a visit there. There is further native birdlife in the forest on the mount, including kokako, and there is also some interesting flora like the flowering rata we saw at a distance. There was at least one other, longer walking track at Pukaha so maybe we’ll go back on day to walk that and see what else we can see.

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