Thursday, January 31, 2013

Zealandia

What a marvelous day we had! It turned out to be a bit windy for the ferry ride, so we changed our plans and went to Zealandia today.

Zealandia (www.visitzealandia.com) is a nature preserve right in Karori (just outside of Wellington) that has been specially fenced to keep out predators. Visit the website for more information about this fantastic preserve.

We saw many small birds flitting about the place as soon as we entered. We were heading towards the Takahe feeding area so that we would catch them being fed. There is one older pair of these flightless birds living in the sanctuary - they are no longer successfully breeding so have been moved here. They are the rarest birds in the world so we were really lucky to get a good look at these two. Much bigger than chickens, and with longer legs and large beaks they are very prehistoric looking - it is not hard to believe that birds are descended from dinosaurs when looking at these birds.

As we continued along the path we passed an area known to be home to Tuatara - ancient "lizards". We saw 3 sunning themselves on the cliffs and in the leaf litter. I don't have Shenna here to remind me of all the interesting things about these creatures, but they do grow (slowly) to a length of 60cm, and can live up to 60 years.

We saw many native birds as we continued along the route - Tui, Bellbird, North Island Robin, Hihi, and finally a Fantail.

Finally the bird that I'd been waiting to see - New Zealand's native parrot the Kaka. They are large (bigger than Grace), brown parrots with a reddish underbelly. We had just missed the main feeding, but there were still a few hanging around gorging on the liquid in the feeders. They were also fed some parrot pellets imported from America (I should have asked which brand!) in special feeders that were geared to open only when a 500+ gram bird sat on the perch. We stayed around and watched them until they disappeared into the forest.

I missed seeing the Kakariki which is a shame as they are cute little parrots. I think their feeding had been earlier in the day.

We walked and walked along the paths (some of which were marked too steep for mobility vehicles, and seriously some of the paths that weren't marked that way seemed too steep for them too!). We counted the steps up to a viewing platform - 98 + the two flights on the platform itself. We walked up to the entrance to the gold mine, but it wasn't open for viewing (Kirsten got her iPhone to light up and went partway into the tunnel so that we could see the Cave Weta, creepy big insects). We walked over a suspension bridge, and over the top of the dam.

The dam was built on a fault line (bad idea), so recently they decided to drain it for safety sake. It wouldn't be an ideal spot to be standing during an earthquake.

We also spent some time in the excellent exhibition where they had videos, stuffed creatures, etc.

By the time we got home, after our 4 1/2 hours of walking around, we were all beat. The girls mustered enough energy to go ride their ponies (!), and Kirsten got supper going and then headed out to go for a walk with the ponies and do the chores. Me? I stayed back and did a few little things and wrote this blog post (with my feet up!). We plan on going on the ferry ride tomorrow, but who knows how we will really feel as we've had day after day after day of activities. I don't think I've spent a whole day anywhere since I left home.

Happy Tails!