For those of you reading this (and thanks for popping in to check out my blog!!!) who don’t understand the heading it is te reo/Maori for ‘The Birds’, but this is not to be confused with the famous Hitchcock thriller movie of the same name! It is, in this instance the name of a wonderful nature reserve in Waikanae, a retirement community on the Kapiti Coast just north of Wellington, NewZealnd.
The property is quite unprepossessing, really, and you might just be a tad pessimistic about what you might be entering into as you drive in and alight from your car in a car-park that is bordered on one side by rolling grazing land. As you walk across the car-park you get first views of the pretty lake pictured above, and then enter through a simple wooden building. Here we got our first little surprise! There was an incubator just inside the door and signs telling us that the tiny balls of fluff that were huddled in the warmth were 1 or 2 day old Japanese quail. And tiny they indeed were- little bigger than a decent sized thumb-nail!! And VERY cute! There are several other displays to prick the interest, including other ‘babes in waiting’, if you’re lucky, as well as various static displays. Before you move outside do pick up a bag of food because there are plenty of expectant feathered friends, even though they might well be accused of ‘cupboard love’!If you don’t get way-laid by the ducks (of many different kinds) the first call will make your day even if you don’t see anything else! The kaka aviary isn’t huge, but I guess it must be of a suitable size to house a few birds, and what characters they are. They don’t talk although I am sure many who visit them will argue that they have had a close-up conversation!The nice thing about the kaka is that they are happy to befriend you without expecting a hand-out! They are a wonderful bird with as much character as their somewhat maligned cousins, the kea. This is probably because the kaka have remained in the bush and aren’t the opportunistic scavengers their alpine cousins are. The colouring of their plumage is quite beautiful with many subtle muted shades of browns and greens as they are bush parrots (although the kaka doesn’t have the brilliant red under-wing feathers the kea have.)The kaka climb over your shoulders and nuzzle your neck, snuffle a bit and seem to be transferring their essence to you- it’s quite a magical experience, really.
From here there are several ways you may go because the whole refuge has well-formed tracks wending all through it.I don’t know the acreage of the reserve, and I don’t particularly care- suffice it to say that it is large enough to enable you to spend a leisurely afternoon just meandering, discovering, spotting, resting to watch free birds as well as visiting the various aviaries that house imported species (imported from elsewhere in NZ- there are no ostriches here!!!)There are ample places to have a seat to quietly wait glimpses or encounters with the numerous free-flying residents and visitors from ‘over the fence’.Of course the native bush itself is worthy of time even though this is effectively regenerating bush- it should be truly spectacular in 2 or 3 hundred years!!!
Expect the unexpected. You are almost guaranteed to have ‘close encounters’ and as the years go by and this reserve becomes better known in the avian world as a place where residents can feel safe and the upright visitors don’t pose any threats, the ‘close encounters’will be closer and more rewarding and memorable. (Yes, this tui was in an aviary but come back in five or ten years and I’m sure his children will get just as close out in the reserve!)
If you’re in the Wellington region, whether living there or just visiting, Nga Manu is worth a visit.I’m sure you won’t be disappointed. Thank you, Darling Daughter for the neat birthday present!