Hamilton, September 11, 2001
Tomorrow we leave New Zealand and bring to an end to our year-long journey. We sadly say goodbye to all the Kokakos. Keas, Kakas, and of course the Kiwis.
Birding in New Zealand was very different from birdwatching anywhere else. Firstly, it was very strange to see so many introduced British birds all over the country – if you were to judge cities by birdsong, you’d think you were in England. Secondly, most of New Zealand’s endemic species are severely threatened and can only be found on protected, predator-free off-shore islands. It’s very sobering when you spot a bird and then find out there are only sixty individuals left world-wide. Finally (and significantly), the native birds are often unbelievably tame - the Takahe, a bird once thought to be extinct, casually rambles around the island of Tiritiri Matangi; on Steward Island a Kiwi came right up to us and sniffed our boots. Truly a David Attenborough moment.
New Zealand may be short on birds, but the scenery is spectacular! On the South Island it was hard not to jump out of the car every few kilometers to take pictures. Our biggest problem was the weather – we’ve made up for all those dry months in Asia. We arrived here in the middle of a drought, and within six weeks we were listening to the radio to see if the road out of town was still flooded.
(Note: New Zealand is 17 hours ahead of the east coast. When Doreen uploaded the above, the world was a different place and the 11th of September was just another day of the year. Obviously, we were unable to leave on the 12th as planned, but eventually we made it back home. - Bill, October 8, 2001)