The end of an era
Birders around the world dream of seeing iconic birds such as Spoon-billed Sandpiper, Cock of the Rock, Kagu, Steller's Sea Eagle, Andean Condor - and Kiwi is probably in there as well.
New Zealand has five kiwi species and here on Stewart Island we have a sub species of the Southern Brown, Apteryx australis lawryi. The Stewart Island Brown Kiwi is the largest of all kiwi species and is diurnal. Females are larger than males, weighing in at around 4.5kg. The total population of all kiwi species is thought to be around 70,000 with almost a quarter of that number being on Stewart Island.
A lot of bird watchers come to Stewart Island to try and get this iconic bird on their list and most go out kiwi spotting with Phillip Smith's Bravo Adventure Cruises. For almost thirty years, Phil has been taking people out kiwi spotting, forging the way of seeing these wild birds in a way that disturbs them as little as possible. Thousands of people have been on Phil's trip, including professional photographers and film crews. In the 1990s, the BBC filmed the equally iconic Sir David Attenborough with kiwi for "The Life of Birds".
I've had the great fortune to guide for Phil's kiwi spotting trip for the last few years as relief guide to Greg, the main guide. A while ago Greg moved onto new pastures and I've been guiding with Phil full time for the past couple of months. This came to an end on 31st October as Phil decided to hang up his kiwi spotting torch. Maori TV joined us for the last few nights and I had the pleasure of showing them one of the young male kiwis on Ocean Beach, that we call "Speedy".
Huge thanks to Phil for sharing his knowledge and experience with me over the years and having me guide for him, it really has been a pleasure and never a chore. Phil mate, I hope you enjoy your evenings at home!
From 1st November the kiwi spotting on Stewart Island will be run by the ferry company and I'll be handing over the guiding baton so-to-speak, to help train their guides. I hope that they take note of Phil's recommendations, which is that the kiwi always come first. It's something he instilled into Greg and myself and something we always respected.
During the past weeks we've had some amazing day time sightings of kiwi on Ulva Island, including a female and male fighting - and this photo of a male taken on my phone. There have also been great views of South Island Saddleback, Yellowhead, Yellow-crowned Parakeet and lots of fluffy Weka chicks.
Pelagics have started for the season, notable birds include Broad-billed Prion and Grey-backed Storm-Petrel and in a few days time I head north to start leading a 21-day Wrybill Birding Tour of New Zealand.