Record Mission: January 21, Pureora Forest, Mapara – Hunt for the Kokako day 1

Record mission day 6, wow, it’s nearly been a week already.
We visited a DOC site,(Department of Conservation), and got ourselves a good tip on where the best place to record Kokako is nearby, Mapara it is. Kokakos are one of NZ’s rarest birds with one of the most beautiful songs ever…
So off we go. We find ourselves a lodge in the middle of the pine plantations, just a stones throw from the Pureora forest. Packs loaded with gear, we set off up the hillside in search of a Kokako.
So, Mount Pirongia was just a warm up. This place was intense! Some of the steepest hill I’ve ever seen, and it kept on going up and up and up. I’d say, “I can see the top, we’re nearly there…” But sure enough…there was always more up, up, up, still ahead.
As with the Pirongia climb, I decided to make journal entries as I went.

Location 1

6pm – we’re trying our luck at recording the elusive Kokako. Very rare and endangered. But this is one of the few stands of forest where conservationists are having a bit of success with them. We thought we heard one earlier down in the valley, so hopefully, as it gets closer to dusk, we might just catch one singing it’s mournful tune. We have both only ever seen one and it was caged in a zoo. Tragically, the rich tunes embodying the stories and tales of his ancestors were lost to him.
Like so many rare birds, when their numbers diminish, they lose their song. Without the social diversity of a communit, their songs become simplified and less poetic, especially when there is no competition and no partners to impress.
This one had been taught by humans to wolf-whistle and that was about all we heard him do.
Regardless, the wind In the trees is marvellous. No cicadas and just a light breeze through the tree ferns.
Oh wow, some amazing bird is making a weird noise right by us. Oh, it’s a tui, those cheeky tricksters.

Location 2

7:17pm – No dice so far. We have moved past a section that I already regret not recording, not for it’s birds, but because of the stunning air and lack of insects. We may go back tomorrow though.
We are at the top of the canopy and we just saw several kokako on the path so we’re hopeful, but the bugs here are going nuts and it’s getting late. I know it will he darkish by 8:30 and this mountain was hell climbing up with our packs, so I’m not too keen on doing it in the pitch dark.
A Bell bird just showed up in front of the mic. Good on you little fella.
Come on kokako where are you? At least there is definitely some good wing-flap action up here.
We’ll we only have a day before we have to head home and I’m starting to get a bit tired. My feet are both aching. I rolled an ankle last night and slashed the big to of my other foot on some blackberry bush.
What time do you wanna wake up to come back and get the dawn chorus Dave?
That’s just what I was thinking, Dave.


Location 3

8:10pm – So that last spot might have been great, had we not forgot to press record. Lesson number one….always push record. Lesson number two, sometimes everyone forgets to press record.
We still have yet to get a definitive kokako but there is always tomorrow. The great thing is that I’m here in this lovely place, with my love.

Location 4

9:10 – Well and truly dark. We reached the bottom and have come back up the hideous path of doom a little way, to get any last scraps out of this dusk. I have to say, the birds either started earlier than dusk and we missed most of the action, or they simply put on a bit of a lame show. The worst thing is the magpies and blackbirds kept popping up to ruin the action.
We got some great Long-tailed Cuckoo, a little Kaka and even a nice e Ruru (Morpork) screech, so not a total loss. The cicadas are done finally and the huhu bugs are back. I can hear the river from here, so not totally ideal, but well, there it is. Oh boy, some dogs are barking, I hope it’s not hunters…very scary when you don’t have a hi-vis vest. Lets call it a day and see how we go at dawn.

When you can’t get enough of a good thing, why not stay up till 2 am recording pine at night? Again…


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