Volunteering on Tiritiri Matangi Island

With our last week in New Zealand, we are volunteering on another pest-free Island called Tiritiri Matangi Island, or Tiri for short. This island has much more history as being a pest-free island for endangered birds, and is slightly larger than Motuora Island, where we volunteered a few weeks ago. It also sees quite a few more visitors.

Day 1:

We got to Pier 4 in Auckland early in the morning to collect our ticket for the ferry. The ferry is a large commercial ferry which could seat several hundred people – quite different from the little water taxi to Motuora Island. We had a quick biosecurity check – basically they want to make sure that you aren’t bringing over any animals, seeds, insects, etc. so the island can remain pest-free and not acquire any new invasive animals or plants.

The ride on the ferry was over an hour, and although the ferry was mostly empty, we did share it with quite a few other volunteers who come over to the island every Sunday in order to lead guided hikes. It seemed like there were more volunteers than tourists.

When we got to the island, we put our bags in a vehicle that would transport them to the bunk house, and we were given a guided walk by one of these volunteers.

The walk was wonderful. We saw more birds in just an hour or two on the island than we had in months of trekking. Some of the birds we saw included: Kokako (which sound AMAZING!!!), Saddleback, Stitchbird (Hihi), Tui, New Zealand Wood Pigeon (Kereru), Parakeets (Kakariki), Robins, Fantails, Bell Birds, Pukeko, and even a Kingfisher. I’m sure I forgot a few.

The most exciting for me was the Kokako, which we hadn’t yet seen. These are really amazing birds – quite large with blue wattles dangling next to their beaks. Like many birds in New Zealand, they are bad at flying because they have somewhat stumpy wings, and so they climb into trees and then glide down to the ground.

We got to the bunkhouse around lunch time, and got settled. There were tons of volunteers hanging around the kitchen eating lunch. It kind of seemed like this island was their club house. They shared their photos and gossiped about some of the local birds all of which have names. Here’s what the gossip might sound like: “Lucky got chased away from his former territory by Chad and he hasn’t been seen with his old lady Becky in a while.” (Sorry to those who know the birds personally, I couldn’t remember the exact names and events.)

We got a quick tour of some of the tasks we would be doing from the Ranger, Vonny. We would be cleaning out some troughs, which contain water for the birds to drink and bathe in, and pruning some of the flax and other bushes from some of the trails. That’s all we know about so far.

Then Vonny needed to see the ferry off, and so she gave us the green light to explore the island with the rest of our day.

We quickly packed up some food and our headlamps and headed right for the other end of the Island – not knowing how much time we would get on any other day, we figured we should try to hit the hardest to get to tracks first.

It took less time than I had imagined for us to reach the north end of the Island. One of the birds we haven’t yet seen on this island is the Takahe (we’ve seen a few in other bird sanctuaries). They are large, blue flightless rails – like a Pukeko (if you know what one of those is), only bigger and even less able to fly. We were hoping to see one in the wetlands at the end of the island, but they were nowhere to be seen. Hopefully the ranger will let us know where they hang out; apparently there are only 5 of them on this island (and only about 300 in the world).

Picture of a Pukeko

Picture of a Takahe

We brought our headlamps in hopes of seeing two nighttime birds: the Blue Penguin and the Kiwi. In the bunkhouse they had red cellophane that you could put over your flashlight so as not to spook night animals. On this island, they have Little Spotted Kiwis, which is a different species from the Brown Kiwis we saw at Motuora.

I didn’t have high hopes for seeing Blue Penguins because it’s not their nesting season, but we hung around the beach until after dusk just to see. We had familiarized ourselves with their calls, which are quite loud and sound slightly like someone snoring loudly crossed with a baby’s cry.

Darkness started to fall, and I felt like this was probably just a huge waste of time. As dusk turned to darkness, I decided we should walk over to the wharf, which was on the way back to our bunkhouse. My jaw practically dropped when suddenly, seemingly only feet away from us, we heard the loud snoring sound of one of these elusive penguins. Our headlamps were quite dim, and we couldn’t see anything, but we sat a while listening and heard several more over the course of a few minutes. We decided that we really needed to change the batteries in our headlamps, and we would come again the next day to the same spot and look a little harder.

I was quite happy with our little adventure scoping out the island, and I wanted to get back and cook some dinner before we became too exhausted. We made our way back to the bunkhouse, not trying in the slightest to be quiet, when we saw a big fat kiwi in the middle of the road in front of us. It didn’t seem too bothered by our presence, and we spent a minute watching it snuffling around, looking up at me as it slowly shuffled off. I couldn’t believe it. I wasn’t even finished being excited about how lucky we had just been when a second kiwi appeared in front of us! Again, it didn’t run, but rather slowly shuffled off. We wondered whether these kiwis were just more used to humans, or if their docile nature was because we were using the red cellophane, or perhaps they were just happier being out in a new moon. In any case, I already feel really ridiculously lucky.

Day 2:

I woke up around 6am. It could have been the dead of night by how dark it was. I decided to jump out of bed and get dressed so as to try to catch the “dawn chorus” that everyone has been talking about. This is the collective singing of all of the birds waking up to serenade each other at dawn, and I wanted front row seats.

I grabbed my headlamp and we headed down one of the trails in search of a good spot to sit and wait. We found somewhere suitable, but I soon really had to go to the bathroom. I didn’t feel like I could wait, and I ran down to the wharf to get to the toilet. Unfortunately, the wharf was further than I thought, and by the time I got there, dawn was practically breaking, and by the time we were walking back up the trail, the birds were awake. I kicked myself for not hitting the toilet before leaving, but I knew we had another 6 days to listen to the birds, so it wasn’t a huge loss.

Our working day started with cleaning out water baths for the birds. Every other day we are taking out the leaves and feathers, and every other day we throughly clean them and replace the water. Today we were only clearing out any debris. While we were clearing them out, we saw several Kokakos, which are one of my favorite bird to watch on this island. We watched one glide from the top of a tree info the middle of a nearby bush. They’re so elegant for being so bad at flying.

We caught up with Vonny back at the house, and she showed us how to clean the visitor’s center, which is open Wednesday through Sunday. We cleaned the windows, swept and mopped the floors.

After lunch John was given an induction on the John Deere ATV vehicle, which we were then allowed to use to get to the other side of the island more quickly.

There is a track on the other side of the island that needs to be widened. We started cutting back bushes and hacking away at flax leaves.

Before dusk we walked back on the last trail we needed to cover to have done all the trails on the Island. Now we can say we’ve covered the whole place.

We quickly scarfed down some food and ran down to the wharf just after dusk to try to find some penguins. New Zealand has quite a few varieties of penguins, but up here they have Little Blue Penguins. Near the wharf there were a few man made penguin nesting boxes that had little covers that you could lift and peer inside.

We waited a while to hear the one that we believed lived under the wharf, but when we didn’t hear anything, we decided to investigate the nesting boxes. The first two were empty, but when I opened the third one – which was the best disguised and closest to the beach – we saw two little penguins inside looking up at us. It was delightful, but we didn’t want to spook them, so we quickly put the cover back on their box.

I was quite happy with our find, but felt a bit like we had cheated since they were in the man-made boxes with a way to look inside. I decided to shine my headlamp back down towards the beach one more time, and to my surprise, there was another penguin on one of the rocks fumbling around looking for a way to jump in the water. We watched it until it jumped in and swam out of view. Now we felt like we really saw a penguin.

We walked back to our bunkhouse, and before long a kiwi ran in front of us on the road. I was practically expecting to see at least one along the road since we saw two here yesterday. I tried to take a video of it, but it was much too dark out, and the video wound up just being black.

It’s so nice to be able to see such awesome wildlife so reliably right outside our bunkhouse.

Day 3:

We got up before sunrise again, and I wanted to try to hear the dawn chorus, but this time John had to poop right before dawn. I waited for him outside and when he emerged, I figured we could still make a mad dash to a good spot on the Wattle Track. We made it there just as it was getting light, and I was surprised that the birds weren’t up and making a racket yet.

The dawn chorus is supposed to be best in the spring, and it’s now fall here, so I’m not sure how much different it is this time of year.

We sat in silence until the first note rang in the forest. It was a series of gentle notes that sounded almost like a xylophone. This beautiful melody continued as a few more chattery birds woke up to chime in. Soon we heard bellbirds and tuis, which sound somewhat alien in their call (seriously, if you don’t know what a tui sounds like, google it. I think they’ve got to be aliens trying to communicate with us through birds).

The dawn chorus was lovely, and I hope to hear it again before we leave.

Then we started with work for the day. We cleaned and changed the water in the bird baths, which took quite a bit longer than we had anticipated, and then a Department of Conservation boat arrived at the dock, and we he helped unload supplies including large gas canisters, huge bags of sugar (for feeding the birds), and a ton of wood. We piled these things in a cart to bring them down the pier, and then onto a vehicle to bring them up to the work shed.

After lunch we headed out to clear more of the trail that we had been assigned to widen.

By mid afternoon I was quite exhausted and we made our way back to the bunkhouse. We decided not to go out looking for wildlife after dark, opting to take it easy for a night and stay in.

Day 4:

We knew that today the ferry would be arriving, and so we needed to have the visitor’s center ready for visitors. We had cleaned out the inside earlier in the week, but there are many tables and chairs outside that needed to be wiped off (they get covered in leaves, dew and bird crap), and we were also given a leaf blower in order to clear leaves from the front and back of the visitor’s center. This all took surprisingly long.

Tuis at one of the bird feeders

As we saw the ferry pulling into the wharf, we decided to head for the other side of the island so that we wouldn’t be possessive of our bunkhouse or upset at the mess people were making in the visitor’s center that we had just cleaned out.

So, we headed for the track that we’ve been clearing, and made quite a bit of headway. Again, this work was exhausting, and a couple of hours later, we headed back to the side of the island with all the buildings.

There were people everywhere. The visitors center was full with a school group that was getting taught about the local birds. Attached to the visitor’s center is a small gift shop and we wandered in and bought a few small souvenirs. All these things are being run by volunteers that show up to the island with the ferry. When the ferry comes, it just brings people around 10am and then takes them off again at about 3pm. Just one ferry a day.

We went back to the bunkhouse for lunch, and saw that several people had moved in.

After lunch we headed out to clear some drains from several tracks, and wound up coming back to the bunkhouse around 5:30pm. We’re only supposed to work 5-6 hours a day, but it’s really easy to work more than that. I’m not at all complaining – I think I’d be bored if we didn’t have enough work to do, and we have quite a lot of control over our schedule.

We made dinner and met some of our bunk-mates. There is a researcher who is sharing a room with us named Jess, and I think she’ll be here until we leave.

Then there are two couples who are in another two rooms who are here just for one night. One of them is German, the other Swedish. The Swedish couple are biologists – and the man is a herpetologist. The man Mats was very keen to see a tuatara. Tuataras are an endemic order of reptiles (large group of reptiles found only) to New Zealand. Tiri is one of the few places to find these nocturnal reptiles in the wild. After talking to him and seeing his excitement we decided it would be fun to show him where we had seen a tuatara before.

We headed out after dark to find that the island was very active with penguins. We heard their calls as soon as we got down to the water. We were surprised to see them swimming in the water and watched as they stood on the beach recuperating from their long day at sea, standing there catching their breath. Mats had a great camera and took a lot of great shots of the penguins. We continued on to see a number of other penguins resting in the woods but no tuatara. We turned back in hopes of seeing some on the way back. No luck. The goal for the evening was clear: Mats was only on the island for one night and must see a tuatara!

We waited a few minutes to go back on the same track and looked at the collection of penguin photos Mats had a accumulated.

(Penguin photo credit: Mats Höggren)

Then we headed out on another journey down the track where we had seen the lizards previously. Even more penguins! This time we saw them even climbing steep slopes. One penguin was huddling right next to the track and I resisted the urge to pet it on the head. Another penguin was actually ON the track and we had to be careful not to trip over it. These penguins seem pretty uninterested in the fact that we were there.

Finally Mats caught a quick glimpse of a tuatara scuttling away from him, and we decided at that point to head up the hill back to the bunkhouse. On the way, we expected to see a kiwi but instead we saw a penguin well into the interior of the island. Weird. We didn’t get back until after 10pm, which was way past when we’ve been going to sleep.

Day 5

We slept in since we had stayed up late the night before, and woke up to thunder storms. We took our time getting ready for the day, since there was no point in going out in a storm.

It quickly passed though, and before long the sun was out. Today was a good day for clearing drains since the rain water would still be sitting in any clogged drains making it obvious. We walked around several of the tracks clearing leaves from drains before returning to the bunkhouse for lunch.

With the afternoon we finished clearing the track on the North End of the Island, and finished fairly quite early. Vonny was busy with some people that had come on the ferry, so we decided to take the rest of the afternoon off and have a little nap.

The Swedish couple emailed us a few more pictures from their morning: one of a tuatara they saw during daylight, and one of a Kokako (these are obviously taken with a nice camera and a big zoom!):

Photo credit: Mats Höggren

We also didn’t go out in the evening, but rather made dinner and listened to some podcasts before falling to sleep obscenely early.

Day 6:

We woke up early to listen to the dawn chorus for perhaps the last time while on this island. The birds started waking up a bit earlier than usual, and I’m guessing that’s because there were practically no clouds in the sky, so the sky lit up quite fast. As I listened to the chorus of birds waking up for dawn, I decided to make a point when we get back to the USA to do the same there. I’d just be curious to sit with the birds and listen to the morning songs back at home.

I think what makes the dawn chorus here so special is the fact that there is basically no such thing on mainland New Zealand. There are so many birds that have gone extinct or have become endangered that the forests of mainland New Zealand are almost like a ghost towns for birds. Keep in mind, birds were the primary native animals – the only mammals that existed here before man arrived were a few species of bats. So, when rats, mice, stoats, cats, dogs, etc. were introduced, the population of practically all the native birds when from millions, to, in many cases almost 0. It’s almost hard to imagine how full of life these forests used to be. But here at Tiritiri, you kind of get an idea.

After we got done with our regular bird bath cleaning duties, we went for a drive with Vonny to feed one of the pairs of Takahe on the island, and along the way, she pointed out another track that she wanted widened. The Takahe came running up when she shook her little container of food.

We also helped Vonny pick some seeds off a few native bushes that they are going use to propagate.

After lunch we headed out to clear the new track, and Vonny leant is a couple of her folding saws that weren’t dull under the condition that we return them to her cabin before we left. We got to work clearing back trees and branches and we were surprised when we finished the whole track by about 4:30 in the afternoon.

Vonny left the island on the 3pm ferry. Rangers typically work 10 days on, 4 days off.

When we got back to the bunkhouse, tons of people had moved in for the night. That’s because it’s Friday night. Tomorrow even more people will be coming to spend the night. I think we’ll perhaps want to leave the island when we see how many people come here for the weekend.

We decided to head out for a last night time walk, and headed down to the beach to see the penguins first. As usual, they were making a racket. In case I haven’t described their call before; it sounds like a cross between a crying baby and someone snoring.

We left the beach to head up a track towards the ridge to look for kiwis. As we headed up past the toilets near Hobbes beach, we saw something in the middle of the track not moving. “What the heck is that?” I asked to John. We walked up to it and realized that it was a penguin. It just stood there. “Don’t trip over the penguin!” I joked. We heard a bunch of other penguins calling off to our left and it parked up and waddled in that direction , tripping over a large clump of grass along the way.

Only a few yards further we heard a rustle and saw a tuatara heading for a culvert. It stopped and looked at us.

We continued up the track and onto the ridge track and along the cable track and all the way over to the lighthouse, and no kiwis. We didn’t feel the need to persist further since we had seen kiwis on previous nights, so we headed back to the bunkhouse to call it a night.

Day 7:

In the morning we intended on cleaning the water troughs early, but the work shed was locked. We spent some time wandering around the island. By the time we got back we were able to get into the workshop and got the supplies for cleaning the troughs. Walking the Wattle Track to clean some of the troughs, we stumbled upon a pair of kokakos and I got a really good look at them. They were in a branch right overhead. I think these are my favorite birds on this island.

After finishing our chores, we remembered that we needed to return the folding saws to Vonny, but again the workshop was locked! I guess the other ranger prefers to keep it locked, something we hadn’t anticipated when we made the promise to return the saws.

We spent a little bit of time trying to find the last couple of species that we hadn’t yet seen: a fern bird and a giant weta (I believe these are actually the largest insects in the world). We sat by a pond for half an hour and heard a fern bird but only got about a quarter second glimpse of it as it flew past.

Finally we got into the workshop and grabbed the saws and returned them to Vonny’s little house on the other side of the hill.

Then we went searching for the giant weta. We got a tip from one of the volunteer guides and went looking for a particular tree that one apparently lives on.

It took us a few minutes to locate which tree we thought it was, and I circled around it a few times before looking far enough up it. But when I did see it, I practically stumbled backwards in shock. The thing was beyond huge. It’s body was maybe two inches long and it’s legs were each maybe two to three additional inches long. So all in all, it was at least a foot long. Definitely bigger than my hand. It looked like a gigantic tarantula. We spent some time trying to get a picture of it, but it was probably 10 feet up the tree in bad lighting with leaves and branches in the way.

On the way back to the bunkhouse we spotted another giant weta tucked away in a flax plant, moving slowly down a leaf. There was a giant wasp’s nest in the way, but we got some pictures anyway. You’ll still have t google “giant weta” to see the scale of these animals.

We then only had time for a late lunch before catching the ferry back to Auckland.

volunteering on Tiritiri was one of the most fun and rewarding experiences we had in New Zealand. We really enjoyed working with Ranger Vonny and the Island was an amazing setting for a volunteer opportunity. I highly recommend that anyone with the time and energy come and volunteer with the Department of Conservation, especially on Tiritiri.


Volunteering on Motuora Island

While not too keen on all the road walking on the Te Araroa Trail in the North Island, we signed up to volunteer with the Department of Conservation. We got assigned two volunteer projects. The first is on the Island of Motuora, a small predator-free island in the Hauraki Gulf, north of Auckland. Pest-free means that there are no mice, rats, stoats, possums, etc. Here, rare and endangered birds can live without fear of these non-native bird killers. In another week and a half, we will be volunteering on another small Pest-free island called Tiritiri Matangi.

Day 1:

To get to the island, we took a small boat and had a wet landing on the island because there is no dock. That meant that the boat simply ran ashore and we jumped into the water, about thigh deep and dragged all our belongings to the beach while a few of us held on to the boat so that it wouldn’t get stuck in the sand (the tide was going out), nor would it float away while we were trying to unload. Once everyone and all the gear was unloaded, we all pushed the boat away from the shore and waved the water taxi away.

We spent some time exploring our new home- there was a large ranger’s house, and a “bach” which was a smaller house with four bunks, a small kitchen and bathroom.

We were supposed to live in the batch, but just after we settled in, the ranger, Dave, came over and informed us that the batch had actually been rented out during the time of our stay (a bit of a mistake on the part of the volunteer coordinator’s part), so he invited us to move into the ranger house.

Luckily, the ranger house was big enough for all of us. In terms of volunteers, it was just me and John and one other young man named James, a kiwi from Wellington.

In the ranger’s house, John and I got our own bedroom, as did James, so in fact this was an upgrade for us. After we settled in for the second time, Dave talked with us about some of the tasks we would be doing as volunteers on the island, but it was pouring with rain, so many of the tasks would have to wait for a better day.

Dave needed to check some artificial nests built for endangered petrels, as there were several young chicks that were either still in the nest, or had fledged. We followed him up and over the island to an area covered in buried wooden boxes where you could lift the lids off to look inside, and we checked the nests where the petrels had last been seen, but they were all empty. This was good news. Hopefully the birds will return after two years at sea and lay eggs here again.

After dinner, and after the sun had set, John and I headed out on a quest to find a kiwi. This island is used as a kiwi nursery of sorts – they take eggs from kiwis on mainland New Zealand, where they only have a 10% chance of survival, and raise them in the Auckland Zoo until they are about 400g. Once they are 400g, they are banded and brought to this island where they can live care-free until they are 1kg, at which point they can defend themselves against predators like stoats and rats.

Then, each year they come back to the island and capture 20 or so kiwis and bring them back to the area where they were laid as eggs. There is now a healthy population of kiwis on the island. Each year, when they capture a number of these birds to release on mainland, only one or two had bands on their legs. So, the local population of kiwis were reproducing on the island and they were mostly capturing birds that had grown up entirely on the island.

So now they haven’t released any more baby kiwis in some time because they kiwis here are doing so well. Kiwis are territorial and the island can support about 80 to 100 kiwis.

John and I headed out with our headlamps search of one. We weren’t sure of the right technique for finding one, so we just found a somewhat densely vegetated area, and stood there waiting. We could hear them calling, and we occasionally shined our light in the direction of the calls, but couldn’t see anything. We figured the light would scare them off, so we kept it mostly off, wondering when the right moment was to turn it on. We also wondered how much the kiwis would be bothered by noises we made by walking, so we tried to stay quite still. There was a ton of calling – some of which sounded like kiwis, some of which sounded like other birds, maybe pukekos, quails and other sea birds.

After an hour or two, we gave up and wandered back to the house.

Day 2:

In the morning, we were given the task of digging out a drain along one of the trails. This trail is the size of a road, and a tractor or mower or other small vehicle can be driven along it. There is no need for other vehicles on the island, as there are only the two mostly uninhabited houses plus a nursery on the one beach, and the rest of the island can be walked around in a couple of hours. There are several trails though, for accessing each side of the island.

We spent a few hours digging the ditch before we tired out and went back to the house for a cup of tea and some lunch.

In the afternoon, in order to vary our tasks, Dave showed us some weeding to be done, which we finished off in about an hour.

With the rest of the day Dave gave us a task that would allow us to investigate the island as well as get something done. We were to check tracking cards, which are placed in plastic tunnels with bait. These are monitored to ensure that the island remains pest-free. Basically, there is a piece of white cardboard with an ink pad in the middle and a small bit of bait (usually peanut-butter) is placed in the middle of the ink pad, so that anything that runs through leaves footprints that can be checked.

There were about 20 of these tracking tunnels around the island, and Dave gave us a map with their location and sent us off to explore.

We walked all the way around the island, checkin the tracking tunnels as we went. Most of them had tiny little prints from either skinks or geckos, and of course we were glad to see no other prints. Very rarely (maybe once a decade), a rat will somehow make it to one of these islands, and once they find it’s prints in the tracking tunnels there will be a massive hunt to find and kill it.

While walking around the island, we spent quite some time tide-pooling and checking out the cool rock formations on the beach, including an arch.

Again in the evening, John and I went out in search of kiwis. This time, we decided that we would listen for their calls and try to follow them around. Tonight, however, we didn’t hear nearly as many as we had the previous night, so we spent a lot of time waiting to hear one. We did finally hear a male and a female answering (they have very different calls), and we stood there waiting. Then, just in the light of the moon, we saw a kiwi come out of the forest onto the trail. I fumbled to turn my headlamp on, but the kiwi was fast. It bolted across the trail and into the dense bush before we got a good look at it. Then, it was nowhere to be seen.

We headed back to the house. We will be trying again tomorrow. I’m so glad we’re here for 5 days!

Day 3:

In the morning we got working on our ditch digging along the trail – which we thought we could knock out quite quickly, however it took us quite a bit longer than we had imagined, and in fact we didn’t finish before our lunch break.

After lunch, we helped Dave move and secure a large water tank on top of the hill, which was in a very muddy area, so that made it a bit more challenging.

We got back to the house fairly early and spent a little bit of time relaxing on the deck watching the sunset before making dinner and heading out on our third quest to find kiwis.

This time we decided to head to the northern side of the island where the forest is more mature and you can actually see through some of the undergrowth.

First we climbed up to the top of the hill and waited to see if we could hear the unmistakable kiwi call coming from a certain direction.

Before we even heard a kiwi calling, we heard something rustling in the dense grass. We turned on our headlamps and saw what I can only describe as a galloping kiwi. It looked like a chicken without wings trying to run on sponge cake. I was surprised by how quickly it got away from us. I tried walking on the grass, but it was dense and about hip deep, so I wasn’t much more graceful than the kiwi.

I wasn’t expecting to see one in the grass, so I decided to just keep my headlamp on while walking slowly and quietly towards the north side of the island.

Before I knew it there was another kiwi running away from us. I was hoping to get a closer look, but again, the kiwi was so dang fast.

John and I agreed that next time we wouldn’t try to move towards the kiwi when we heard one or saw one with the headlamp.

Surprisingly, it wasn’t long before another one appeared right in front of us on the trail. This time we froze and we had a few seconds before the kiwi became suspicious and ran off. Somehow our lights didn’t bother it too much.

Finally, we saw one more kiwi between the trees on the side of the trail. Again we had a few moments before it noticed us, but this time instead of running away, it ran head first into some grass, leaving it’s butt sticking out. I sat there staring at this kiwi’s butt for quite some time. It’s feathers were soft and layered. I wanted to reach out and pet it, but I knew better. I got a little closer, my eyes wide open, as probably my mouth was, and the kiwi realized its mistake and moved deeper in to the grass. We decided to leave it be and carry on.

On the way back, we saw the same kiwi again, and we half joked that we could probably lie down next to his grassy patch and he would probably walk straight over us.

Day 4:

We finally finished our ditch digging in the morning, along with some small gardening tasks around the ranger house.

Then, we had some extra time and decided to walk around the island to the one spot where you apparently cannot get around because there is a gut where the water came in a narrow channel into some rocks. Dave suggested that perhaps at low tide on a calm day it may be possible to either shimmy across the rock or swim. We ventured out, enjoying the tide pools, finding sea stars and strange sea slugs or perhaps they were nudibranks, we’re not at all sure, until we made it to that point. Unfortunately, the water on that side of the island seemed quite a bit rougher and the waves came crashing into gut sending water way up into the rocks. There was no way we were going to scramble across nor swim. We spent a few minutes mesmerized by the power of the waves before heading back.

We had some light work clearing leaves out of some drains and trying to make some standing pools of water drain into the outdoor shower drain before we called it a day and spent some time in the water trying to find an anchor that a boat had dropped in and lost the day before.

The sunset was beautiful and we enjoyed taking our time eating dinner, enjoying the evening and going off to bed early since we were completely satisfied with our luck with seeing kiwis the day before.

Day 5:

On the last day on the island, we spent some time cleaning the solar panels before packing up and cleaning out the ranger house and the tools we used during the week.

The boat picked us up after lunch. We watched the island get smaller and smaller on the horizon.

We got to mainland and James, the other volunteer, offered to give us a ride to Puhoi, a town close to the DOC office where we were brought back to once on mainland. We decided to get a ride to Puhoi because it was on the Te Araroa, just north of Auckland, and Martin had sent us a message that this is where he intended on getting to by that evening.

We were excited to start walking again in Northland, which hopefully will have some nice tracks and coastal walks, and we get to walk and sing songs with Martin again. It’ll be a fun last week on the Te Araroa Trail before we volunteer again with DOC (The Department of Conservation) at Tiritiri Manga Island.

Once in Puhoi we were dropped off next to the pub and found Martin at a table outside with a beer. We joined him and once darkness fell, we ventured over the bridge into the local park and found a place to pitch our tents.