On a surprisingly cold May morning in Warkworth our group of nine volunteers (Paul, Jenny, Peter, Anthony, Mary, Robin, Fiona, Jamie and Melanie) plus group leader Lyn Wade met outside DOC, apprehensive following the postponement of our trip from the previous weekend, to begin the quarantine for what would be the first visit to Hauturu for almost all of the group. A couple of hours later, after a moderately rough crossing, we arrived at the WestLanding, at which point intrepid volunteers Jamie and Anthony swam to shore to help rangers Richard and Nichy carry the inflatable boat down the boulder beach.
After introductions, a cup of tea, a change of footwear and a thorough health and safety briefing, our afternoon’s work commenced. Members of the group assisted with a variety of tasks including laying rat bait, replacing pitfall traps and weeding in the tuatarium – tasks that gave volunteers a unique insight into the maintenance and pest management procedures on Hauturu. Other volunteers, who had spent the afternoon checking first aid kits, got a surprise visit from a group of eight kokako, who spent about half-an-hour hopping around the lawn outside the ranger’s house.
Cold and unstable weather ruled out having the traditional barbecue but a pot-luck dinner in the bunkhouse accompanied by the usual fancy dress (not to mention Fiona’s three-litre cask of wine) more than compensated. After dinner Nichy tested our knowledge of not only Hauturu but also a wide range of New Zealand plants, birds, natural history and geography. Lyn’s encyclopaedic knowledge of all of the above gave her team a narrow victory over Richard’s. This was followed by a night walk searching for kiwi and weta, both of which were found, with kiwi in particular providing considerable entertainment. Some managed to see eight individual birds, returning to the bunkhouse (exhausted) around 11pm knowing that they would need to be up early to hear the dawn chorus.
Hauturu’s capacity to inspire visual artists is well-known, but on this occasion the dawn chorus on Sunday morning was a particularly valuable opportunity for our two composers, Anthony and Peter, who set out before dawn with their recording equipment to capture samples of birdsong to use in future musical projects. Jamie had less luck with his fishing, but displayed remarkable perseverance despite the apparent absence of fish.
After breakfast the group set out for a walk up the Thumb Track and back down the Waipawa Track, providing opportunities to see some of the island’s magnificent native flora, including epiphytes (Hauturu’s predator-free environment allows these to thrive at ground level), blechnum ferns, kidney ferns and green hood orchids. Sunday afternoon provided the opportunity to explore individually before a quick tuatara feed and back to the West Landing for departure.
Those who had hoped to catch a glimpse of the reintroduced kakapo will need to wait for another occasion (likewise those who had hoped to see dolphins on the boat trip back to Sandspit!) but the incredible variety and abundance of indigenous wildlife provided a memorable and enriching experience for all attendees, many of whom hope to return to Hauturu. Our thanks go to the Hauturu Supporters Trust for providing this wonderful opportunity, to Richard and Nichy for welcoming us to the island and involving us to such a full extent in their activities, to Dave Wade for getting us safely there and back, and most particularly to Lyn for her outstanding leadership and expertise.