Saturday, May 23, 2009

Pukeko by the stream

There was an open day today for members of the West Auckland Historical Society. Seeing as it was such a great sunny day, after several days of grey and rain, I'd get on a bus and go see them. On the way, I took photos, with this blog in mind.

Just before you reach the Henderson shopping centre itself from the east, Great North Road crosses over the Oratia Stream. Despite the privet trees growing everywhere, it's a beautiful spot. This is looking south ...

... and this is looking north, towards the Waitemata Harbour.

But, my attention was caught by this pukeko. It was way down and far along the creek, and camera-shy as anything. These four shots were taken over two intervals, during which the bird thought I'd give up if it hid in the long grass. Nope.

These three ducks like the stream as well.

To see wildlife so close to a major suburban shopping centre, and so near to a main arterial route in Auckland, is something quite cool. Things aren't perfect in the Oratia Stream, but -- where there's life, there's hope.

Update: (24 May 2009) I received this email comment from regular contributor Phil Hansen --thanks, Phil!
Although I have heard them described as the "pitbull of birds" I have a real soft spot for the pukeko. Two urban spots I enjoy visiting to see them – and a wide variety of other birdlife – are the Waiatarua Reserve off Abbotts Way in Meadowbank and the Tahuna-Torea reserve near West Tamaki Road on the edge of Glendowie. I recommend both reserves as top one-stop spots for a relaxing combo of recreational history, wildlife-watching, and exercise!

Waiatarua is said on the Auckland City Council website to be New Zealand's biggest urban wetland restoration project, its principal function being a huge stormwater treatment system that removes pollutants from the waterways via a network of drains, weirs, bunds and sediment traps. The site, of about 20ha, was according to the council once part of a freshwater lake, which was denied its source by the lava flows from the Maungarei (Mt Wellington) eruptions some 9000 years ago. Subsequent ponding, silt and volcanic ash helped create the wetlands.

Tahuna-Torea covers 25ha on a long sand bank extending into the Tamaki Estuary. The council website says it is rich in Maori history as well as native birds and vegetation. Tahuna Torea means "gathering place of the oyster-catcher". In pre-European times, it was a good gathering site for the then local tangata whenua, Ngati Paoa. Says the council site: "Their food sources included shellfish, fish and birds. Evidence of their activities includes middens of pipi shells above the beach and the dams constructed at the head of the lagoon to catch fish. It was also an important strategic site being near the mouth of the Tamaki River and the shortest route for canoes to travel between the Waitemata and Manukau Harbours". (But I've also heard this claim made of the route now basically followed by the two Portage Roads, one at the Western edge of Auckland City, the other in Otahuhu.) The reserve harbours a wide range of wildlife including godwits that gather between seasonal migrations to the Northern Hemisphere.


  1. Ahhh!
    I hadn't connected the name with these birds before, we have heaps of them here in Oz, they're quite lovely :)
    Got some shots of them at the local wetlands recently, I should post them up!

  2. Yep, the pukekos invade from Aussie about 1000 years ago, according to Wiki. Cool birds, though!