Kokako Log 1993 by Sid Marsh
Last December there was another possible kokako contact on the Moehau Mountain. Veteran goat hunter Ross Whiting awoke to a distinctive dawn chorus while staying at the Ongohi Hut on the 11th. The time was 0600hrs, and the conditions were misty with a light south-easterly. Ross heard the first calls from his bed and initially thought kokako were to the north of the hut, but upon going outside realised there was an echo-effect and in fact the birds were calling somewhere from the southern ridge. There appeared to be two kokako singing, but after only three to four minutes they moved off, or clammed up.
The Ongohi Hut is situated in the headwaters of the Ongohi catchment - steep country which is difficult to traverse due to its dense covering of vegetation and scree slopes that drop away into slippery, mossy streambeds. The Ongohi is real tiger country, but in recent years it has been opened up to a degree by the DOC 'Possum Busters' team based at Port Jackson. The Possum Busters have trail-blazed their way throughout the catchment to lay trap-lines which have greatly reduced the local possum population eg. 150 set traps spread over 500 metres would average about one possum every second day.
As soon as I heard about Ross Whiting's contact, I zipped up to the Moehau to see if I could confirm the presence of kokako there. Altogether, I spent four days in the field without seeing or hearing anything from kokako. However, as a distraction, there was no shortage of fascinating wildlife to check out. On the first night alone I heard three male kiwi calling - up to 15 shrill cries per call. One of these Coromandel kiwikura was about 50 metres from my tent. Kaka were also commonly heard and seen over the course of my stay, as were two or three koekoea (long-tailed cuckoo) with their unattractive rasping calls. The koekoea is an endemic NZ species that migrates to its wintering grounds in Vanuatu or east to the Marquesas Islands. The presence of koekoea on Te Moehau is interesting, as its host in the North Island, the whitehead, is supposedly not to be found on the Coromandel Peninsula.