On Sunday we visited Pukaha Mount Bruce with our SLG friends. Mount Bruce is the National Wildlife Centre for threatened species, is run by the Department of Conservation, and has a very successful captive breeding programme. The Mount Bruce Forest is the last surviving 1000 hectares of the ancient “70 Mile Bush”, that originally stretched from Masterton to Norsewood.
While enjoying our lunch we could see several Takahe outside through the cafe windows. In 1958 Elwyn Welch, a Wairarapa farmer and keen ornithologist, took four Takahe chicks back to his farm to safeguard the species from extinction. The Takahe had been rediscovered in Fiordland 10 years earlier, after being thought extinct for more than 50 years. The chicks were successfully fostered by bantam hens. The New Zealand Wildlife Service took over Welch's work in 1962, setting up a native bird management reserve in the Mount Bruce Forest. Takahe are a sturdy bird (about the size of a domestic hen) with beautiful blue/green feathers and a red beak.
As we followed the pathway through the reserve, we came to an enclosure with Kakariki, a small green parrot. Once flocks of these pretty birds ranged through the forests but are now sadly “in gradual decline”.
We were entranced with the antics of the Hihi, or Stitchbird. They are one of New Zealand’s rarest birds and we had not seen one before. These busy little birds with their distinctive yellow stripe were quite a challenge to photograph as they flitted around and around their enclosure. Robin waited patiently with his camera ready for action and finally managed to snap a few photos. Hihi reared at Mount Bruce are now breeding on offshore islands.
With intensive pest control to eradicate possums, rats, stoats and ferrets, (all introduced pests) the bird life in Mount Bruce forest will continue to increase. It was a pleasure to walk along the well kept pathways and enjoy the birdsong of the native birds.