Endangered Native Birds – Whio
While corresponding with the Howick Tramping Club, I received information on their proposed Labour Weekend outing to an exclusive bush camp in the Whirinaki Forest Park. One of the HTC members was acting caretaker at the Robert Collins Bush Camp, which was set up ten years ago by DoC concession, to accommodate paying overseas tourists who are helicoptered in and after a two day stay at the camp, guided out along a well graded track through very pleasant bush, following scenic rivers.
We duly arrived at the Whirinaki Forest Park Lodge, east of Murupara, on the Friday night, and met members of the HTC as they drifted in. The next morning a party of 20 was transported to the roadend of the Okahu Stream. We had light packs, carrying only our lunch, clothes and sleeping bags, as food supplies were taken in by helicopter. It was a damp trip in, as we caught the edge of the Gisborne storm. The rivers were swollen, but the track was in good condition, with several substantial bridges. We were told DoC had spent over $120,000 upgrading the route to encourage tourists.
While walking alongside one river in the late morning, I heard a distinctive high pitched whistle, and spotted a lone Blue Duck moving downstream rapidly. What a thrill!
It was an easy four hour tramp into the camp, past two DoC huts in picturesque settings at river junctions. The camp comprised 10-12 two person tents with stretchers and mattresses, a large mess tent set up with a kitchen, hot water from a wood fired boiler, two hot showers and two fl ush toilets. We enjoyed the spectacle of a helicopter coming in to return two guests to civilisation (we had passed one party on their way out along the track). The afternoon was spent settling in, bringing in firewood, and showering by some.
The HTC people were very friendly, and of course we found connections as you do in any group of New Zealanders. One member was in the same year at the same college as Diane. We got on famously and after dinner enjoyed some very professional guitar playing and sing-along around a blazing fire. Strange how memories go blank and it can be difficult to come up with songs to sing!
Next morning one group elected to go further up the track a couple of hours to the next hut, while the rest “rested” around the camp. The bush is beautiful, and we only got lost once, just for a little while. While eating lunch beside the river we met (as expected) another group from the HTC. They were doing the fi ve day loop tramp, and had planned to spend the Sunday night at the camp with us. We ambled on to inspect the Mangakahika Hut, which had a hind quarter of deer hanging from the verandah.
On the return trip to the camp we met up with the rested group, who had spotted a pair of Whio. These ducks posed for photographs on a log, then demonstrated their swimming and feeding techniques, and generally entertained the group for quite some time before proceeding on their leisurely way upstream.
After dinner we again enjoyed the fi re, and this time we had two great guitarists, one specialising in Beatles songs and the other in American folk music.
On our way out on Monday we were all watching for more ducks along the rivers, and yes, at Roger’s Hut, after stopping for snacks, we wandered down to the river’s edge, and there, just up stream over the other side, were the Whio family – mum, dad and four ducklings possibly about a week old. They had very white breasts, and brown and white markings on the rest of their bodies. We watched them being led by mum and dad along the far side of the stream – a wonderful sight.
We want to thank the members of the Howick Tramping Club for welcoming us into their Labour Weekend activities. It was great, and to see so many Blue Ducks made it very special.