As alluded to in May's instalment, guiding has taken a back seat for the winter season so to keep the wolf from the door, I work 2-4 days a week on the ferry service between Stewart Island and Bluff. As I've mentioned, it does have its advantages. In the last few weeks we've encountered Southern Right Whale, a huge pod of Bottlenose Dolphins including youngsters, Yellow-eyed Penguins, and Royal and Wandering Albatrosses.
My commute to and from work is in darkness. Kakas have always been fairly abundant in the township, which we do take for granted somewhat (it's my most common garden bird and definitely the noisiest!). I've noticed this winter that Weka have become much more vocal in the dawn chorus and many island locals are seeing them around the township. A lot of this is due to the success of SIRCET and its volunteers trapping cats, rats and possums.
My commute last Saturday though, involved something a wee bit more special. It's a ten minute walk to work and within a couple of minutes of leaving the house I could hear tapping footsteps behind me, similar to a small dog. I turned around (with head torch on) and looked down to meet my stalker. A kiwi! At 7.10am in the middle of the township. I stepped back, gobsmacked. I've seen a fair number of kiwi on Ulva Island and in the bush, but would never expect to see one in the township, and certainly never this close. I attempted to observe the guidelines of keeping my distance from the kiwi, but as I walked backwards viewing the bird, it tagged alongside and actually ran to keep up with me! It began feeding on the grass verge so I stepped back and knelt down to watch. The bird then moved towards me and started to probe around my feet and seemed very relaxed. It continued its pre-dawn ramble, walking across the main road into a neighbouring garden to melt out of view. Pretty much guaranteed I was the only person on the whole planet that day to encounter a wild kiwi on their commute to work. Awesome!
On a recent day trip to Ulva Island I had great encounters with Yellowhead, Rifleman, Brown Creeper, Saddleback and was lucky enough to catch a roosting view of Morepork. The disadvantages of winter birding is that the birds are a lot quieter, however the plus side for the seven hours I was there is that I had the island to myself!