Miniature Huts – Part three

A beautiful and breezy Wellington Anniversary summers day was the chosen time for us to complete our Miniature Hut collection. We had so far found five and only had two to go. First up was the DOC Hut located on Matiu/Somes Island and that meant a ferry ride.

We met up with Pauline in Petone and then drove out to Days Bay figuring that it was a shorter journey to the island and we have better luck with parking. The ferry arrived just a little late and it was a short and easy trip over to the island. We were greeted by the DOC ranger and a couple of volunteers from Eastbourne who took us through the quarantine checks (Any seeds? Nope; Any ants? Nope; Anything else like a mouse? Nope) and gave us a quick background on the islands history and what we might expect to see. All done we were on our own to explore.

As suggested we took the track that circled the island and walked in an anticlockwise (and more buggy friendly) direction. There was plenty of wildlife on view with gulls swooping around on the swirling wind, lots of other birds heard but not seen in the low canopy and numerous skinks sunning themselves at the edge of the track and disappearing in a flash as we approached. We also spotted (thanks to a tip from a couple we passed in our travels) a young male tuatara reclining in the shade near one of the lookout points.

A path side skink in the sun

A path side skink in the sun

The relaxed tuatara

The relaxed tuatara

A kakariki hiding in the foliage

A kakariki hiding in the foliage

We diverted to visit the lighthouse and checked out the nearby weta hotel which was fully booked with eleven tree weta all cosy and packed in tight. If we’d been a little more observant we’d have seen the DOC hut in the distance on the track as it continued around the island but it made little difference as five minutes later we were walking right by it perched on the side of the path.

There was a door on the track side of the hut which was unlocked through the use of a small sliding bolt. Inside was the usual log book and a few other bits and pieces including a book called “The Taming of the Crew” which had a nautical theme. Inside was a bunk bed and the huts had windows taking in the view over the little bay below, Wellington Harbour and the city in the distance.

DOC Hut family photo

DOC Hut family photo

A Hut with a smashing view

A Hut with a smashing view

Room for two (dolls)

Room for two (dolls)

Alayna gives the hut scale

Alayna gives the hut scale

Alayna quite liked the pictures of yachts in the Taming of the Crew book and managed to figure out how to open and close the bolt on the door after a bit of playing around. She also wanted to check out the water reservoir that would be filled with rain funnelled off the roof into the guttering if we’d had any rain recently so instead there was a green sludge which wasn’t something Alayna needed to play with.

After a family photo or two we moved on and stopped at the next picnic table in a shady spot for some lunch. Then we spent a few hours wandering around the rest of the island. Alayna’s favourite spot was the concrete fountain in a clearing on the east side of the island that was full of a ducklings taking a swim. They were very trusting ducklings and their mum was unconcerned by our presence so Alayna was able to get very close and watch her favourite birds relaxing in the water.

Alayna, Keryn and Pauline on Matiu/Somes Island

Alayna, Keryn and Pauline on Matiu/Somes Island

The view from the summit

The view from the summit

Ducks!

Ducks!

The ferry ride back to Days Bay was again short and sweet. Days Bay was a hive of activity with a constant stream of people jumping off the wharf and then swimming back to the steps to then repeat their dives. The beach was full of people sunning themselves and the boat shop at the end of the pier had a large line of people queuing for ice-cream. It was summer in a picture so naturally I didn’t take a photo, some things need to be remembered in the mind.

We now had one last hut to find and we ended up driving to an out-of-the-way corner of Aro Valley to follow a path into a leaf strewn forest, it was like entering a sylvan world transported into a corner of Wellington.

Cute Aro Valley House

Cute Aro Valley House

The otherworldly forest

The otherworldly forest

Ethereal butterflies

Ethereal butterflies

The path gently rose up the valley crossing a steam back and forth as the trees got taller and the spots of light passing through the canopy became fewer and fewer. We came to a clearing that had a single chair and a strung rope tied with ribbons and cloth hanging still as there was no wind. In a tall tree we saw fabric butterflies illuminated in a shaft of light. The path continued away from the clearing still following the stream and in a dim area nestled underneath a tree sat the Crystal Hut, we’d found the last one.

As the name would indicate the hut was covered in blocky crystal growths looking like it had grown in place from some strange blue chemistry set. There was a door with a crystal handle and this hinged up to reveal the final log book. Alayna had a go at leaving her mark and then we were done.

Signing the log book

Signing the log book

The Crystal Hut

The Crystal Hut

All I can say is Wellington needs more little artworks of wonder such as the Miniature Hut trail and everyone should visit as least one. You’ll see parts of Wellington you probably never knew existed and you’ll meet interesting people and see things you won’t expect. Kemi Niko & Co thank you very much, I can’t wait to see what you come up with in the future!

A long walk at Zealandia

Earlier in the year we had bought a hiking backpack that would allow us to go walking with Alayna and allow her to have a good view. This weekend just gone we decided it was time to test it out and see how Alayna would like it so we planned an afternoon at Zealandia. The morning was spent at home with Alayna playing around with her toys. She was a little unsettled but perked up whenever the cats came by. Cadbury and Earl are still not sure about Alayna but seem to realise that Alayna doesn’t move very fast so they’re fine as long as they keep their distance. Alayna will roll around to get where she wants but hasn’t yet figured out crawling, her attempts generally seeing her moving a small distance backwards and leading to frustration. No doubt it’ll all click soon enough and then the cats will no longer be safe, or at least will need to be even more wary.

There's a cat!

There’s a cat!

Cadbury, exit stage right

Cadbury, exit stage right

On to Zealandia and Alayna was seating in the backpack. She seemed to be happy, possibly because it was comfortable and she had something to easily suck on. Alayna is teething and currently has one bottom tooth and two eye teeth at the top coming through. As such she enjoys having something to place in her mouth and the backpack has a bumper pad at mouth height that suits her needs perfectly.

Alayna tries out the backpack

Alayna tries out the backpack

Having a forward facing view made for a very happy wee girl and Alayna was constantly checking out our surroundings. At one point while we were watching a friendly toutouwai Alayna was reaching out to a nearby plant and grabbed a leaf for sampling. Keryn was quick to spot this and the plant matter was removed before ingestion.

Toutouwhai

Toutouwhai

With Alayna comfortable we took a longer than usual walk. Keryn had mentioned on a previous visit that she hadn’t walked the round the lake track so we headed up to the dam and took started clockwise around the upper lake. The forest was lush and being autumn there were lots of plants producing berries and seeds. This meant a lot of food for birds and we had a number of great viewing experiences. Three or four times we stopped because we’s see birds nearby and then over the next few minutes we’d count three or four species in the immediate vicinity. Family groups of tieke, flocks of popokotea, toutouwai chasing each other around the trees, dozens of tui and kaka calling frequently when they weren’t seen nearby.

Popokotea

Popokotea

Tieke

Tieke

Tui

Tui

We were also entertained by piwakawaka, saw tuatara and I caught a brief glimpse of kakariki and as we left the valley there were pairs of kereru to be seen flying back into the valley. The walk went well for Alayna and she remained happy and interested so long as we didn’t stop for extended periods. She also found it funny to reach out and grab my hair when I was looking up into the canopy. The only downside was a lack of sleep, the walk just too stimulating for rest to be considered.

Stopping to look back down the valley

Stopping to look back down the valley

Tiritiri Matangi Island

I’ve been wanting to visit Tiritiri Matangi Island for a long time and our recent trip up to Auckland for the Elbow concert gave us a perfect opportunity. It’s possible to visit the island as part of a day trip but we decided to stay the night. There is a DOC managed bunk-house on the island where anyone can stay (so long as there is a bed available) and so we had duly booked ourselves in with fingers crossed for good weather.

Just another sunrisePhoto by Brendon & Keryn

Sunrise over Auckland.

The day dawned beautifully and the weather stayed great for the whole time we were on the island. Bio-security is taken seriously by DOC and we had made sure our bags were securely packed with no unexpected companions such as mice hiding anywhere. We were nice and early for the ferry from Gulf Harbour at the end of the Whangaparaoa Peninsula. It wasn’t too long before we were all aboard the ferry and heading over to the island. Upon arrival we loaded our bags into the DOC ute and were then given a welcome followed by a brief run through of what we could see and do during our visit. There were three others staying in the same bunk room as us, an Australian woman who now lived in Auckland and her parents who were visiting from Western Australia.

We had booked an introductory guide of the island and the five of us were given a guided walk along the Wattle Track from the wharf up to the Lighthouse. We learnt a few things about the island and the recovery work that has taken place over the years and got to see some of the wildlife as well. My main aim was to see and hear kokako. The last time I had heard kokako was on a Junats camp many years ago where we had gone out early one morning to a place near Pirongia where some birds had been heard. I still remember the haunting call coming out of the trees on a damp and misty morning, though I don’t recall ever seeing a kokako.

Once we had been shown around the bunk-house and claimed some beds we were off on our own to explore the island. Our afternoon walk saw us heading out on the East Coast Track, crossing back through the centre of the island somewhere around Pohutukawa Cove and then walking down the Cable Road track to Hobbs Beach and then back up towards the bunkhouse. Tiritiri is an island full of birds and we saw plenty of korimako, tui, kakariki, tieki, toutouwai and hihi. Nearer the lighthouse there were takahe slowly moving around and cropping grass in small groups, often to be found with a few pukeko nearby as well.

MG 2574Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Surprising a kakariki in the grass.

MG 2623Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Tieke were commonly seen near the tracks.

MG 2637Photo by Brendon & Keryn

A friendly toutouwai.

We got lucky as we walked down Cable Road, Keryn spotting some bigger birds ahead in the grass. We approached slowly and got to watch a pair of kokako enjoying themselves over a meal of grass. We edged closer and eventually the pair hopped off the track and into the forest, but we were thankful just to have seen them and actually get a good look as well. Further along the track we came across a small family group of brown quail, moving around in the undergrowth when they thought we couldn’t see them.

MG 2659Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Kokako chatting over the grass.

MG 2678Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Hiding brown quail.

IMG 3866Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Arriving at Hobbs Beach.

We arrived at Hobbs Beach and had a good look at the large pohutukawa hanging over the small cliffs. The sea was calm and turquoise, the sun beating down and really there wasn’t anywhere we would rather have been. Walking back up the Wattle track we stopped at each of the small water troughs set up to give the birds somewhere to wash. There were also a nectar feeding station that was frequented by dozens of hihi and bellbird that spent more time chasing each other around in territorial gamesmanship than actually feeding.

MG 2800Photo by Brendon & Keryn

A mottle faced korimako.

MG 2846Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Shaking off the water following a bath.

MG 2943Photo by Brendon & Keryn

A resplendent kereru

The sky stayed clear into the evening. We made dinner in the bunk-house kitchen and I headed out to get some sunset shots. As the evening headed towards night I started noticing the stars and this far from the lights of Auckland the milky way was clear. I started playing with some longer exposures using the lighthouse as a focus point and got some good shots. Plenty of experimentation to come I think.

Looking to AucklandPhoto by Brendon & Keryn

Auckland glows in the distance looking past the bunk-house

Tiritiri Matangi LighthousePhoto by Brendon & Keryn

The lighthouse and the stars.

We then spent an hour or so walking around looking for kiwi and eventually found one by accident. Keryn was walking ahead of me and as I swung my torch around I noticed a kiwi no more than a meter from Keryn. Unfortunately the kiwi was spooked a little and rushed off further into the undergrowth but we still got to see it wandering around for a while in amongst the trees. Our kiwi sighting was a nice end to a good day.

The next morning I was up early for some more sunrise shots, walking back along the East coast Track.

Early light in the sky.

MG 2970Photo by Brendon & Keryn

A calm morning.

MG 2984Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Golden morning light.

Heading back to the bunk-house I had breakfast and we were then off again to explore more of the island. Again there was a multitude of birds to be seen and we saw a couple more kokako, this time also getting to hear some calling. We spent time just listening to the calling, peering at the surrounding trees and waiting for a glimpse that often never came. But that was OK, we knew they were there.

MG 3062Photo by Brendon & Keryn

A kokako in the canopy.

At the north end of the island we came across some staff from Auckland Zoo researching a mysterious feather disease effecting the local kakariki population. They had a number of mist nets set up and waited for birds to fly in to the nets where they could be analysed before being set free.

MG 3077Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Checking out a captured kakariki.

We snacked on a rocky beach where three shags were sunning themselves and then continued our walk. There was a takahe family walking over the low wiry scrub, the parents being followed around by their almost full sized offspring. The youngster was charcoal black, like it had been covered in soot.

MG 3097Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Relaxing on the beach.

MG 3150Photo by Brendon & Keryn

The charcoal takahe.

We were getting tired and headed back to the lighthouse to make sure our bags were going to be loaded up when the ute arrived. We relaxed having our lunch at the visitor centre while tuis arrived and departed in flocks at the feeder positioned outside. The cheeky takahe named Greg paid us a visit looking for food scraps either dropped on within grabbing distance and left disappointed. Our last walk took us back down the Wattle Track, past the water troughs and the feeding station and the dozens of birds. I think we’ll be coming back to this wonderful island and spending more time watching the wildlife. Maybe next time we’ll see something new like tuatara or a gecko or if we’re really lucky a titipounamu (rifleman).

MG 3261Photo by Brendon & Keryn

A farewell hihi.

Before the rush

Keryn’s parents are here to celebrate their 40th Wedding anniversary and Travis and Sophie came down as well so we’ve had a busy few days. Zealandia was open for free to Wellington residents and I’ve heard it was crazy busy on Saturday (today has been strong winds and a bit of rain, so maybe wasn’t as popular) and guessing this would be the case we went to Zealandia on Friday, even though it was overcast, drizzling and with low mist sweeping through the city. There was however almost no wind and because it didn’t look nice (and being a weekday) there was next to no-one at Zealandia which made it the perfect time to visit.

We saw all sorts of wildlife, there was even one tuatara out braving the not so warm weather. Spring was in evidence as well with a couple of ducks out leading their broods of ducklings around. While visiting Zealandia on a nice sunny day may be slightly more pleasant I think that visiting on a grey day is better as there will be less people and the light is generally better for photographs of the flora and fauna.

MG 6470Photo by Brendon & Keryn

A tui feeding amongst the kowhai flowers.

MG 6425Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Mum and ducklings.

MG 6539Photo by Brendon & Keryn

One of the recently released red crowned parakeets (Kakariki).

MG 6604Photo by Brendon & Keryn

An obliging Californian quail.

MG 6607Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Kowhai flowers with a coating of water.

With the weather on Saturday much better in the Wairarapa we headed over to visit a few wineries. We had a ho-hum lunch in Martinborough before heading out to sample the vino and I have decided that next time we’ll eat at Vynfields, the location is just so lovely.

MG 6648Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Tasting at Vynfields Organic Winery.

MG 6638Photo by Brendon & Keryn

The heart of the wine.