Kokako Log 1993 by Sid Marsh
Over late August/early September I conducted a three day kokako survey that took in the Waitekauri, Maratoto, McBrinn and Grace Darling catchments. Only one kokako was found. The August 26th entry in my journal has this to say about the encounter:
'A big surprise to strike a bird several hundred metres south-east of Alby's territory. I initially heard kokako wingbeats well on the Golden Cross side, then heard a bird calling at 0651hrs (about sunrise) from the north-east. I then proceeded to whistle the kokako in, first sighting the bird at around 0658hrs. The bird skipped and vaulted through the sub-canopy, and about this time the mining trucks, with reverse beepers, started up. The bird was singing the standard Maratoto dialect, and was in and out of sight up to 0756hrs. It squirrelled overhead once, coming to within about 15 metres. Bird was also feeding while searching for the 'other bird' (me). Had a couple of real good views of him through the binocs, when he paused to display on a branch. Had to break off the contact in order to get back to Waihi on time.'
Over the next few weeks I will re-survey the above catchment areas, as it is possible I missed some of the hard-to-find creatures. As opposed to kokako 'monitoring' which involves the study, taking records and following of individual birds or bonded pairs; a kokako 'survey' is literally a walk-through census in an area. Birds can be located by their song or calls, which can be stimulated by playing taped kokako calls. Survey work is done most effectively from ridges. Beginning at first light one fights his/her way through supplejack and bush lawyer etc, along a ridge or a spur and stops to listen every 200 to 300 metres. If, at these listening stations, no birds are heard spontaneously singing/calling, then tape-recorded kokako song is used to solicit a response.
Coromandel kokako keep a notoriously low-profile within their bush enclaves: to the point where seasoned trampers and hunters frequenting kokako-inhabited forest over the course of several years, will never even suspect the presence of such a large and beautiful bird - so different from any of the other more familiar natives. The definitive example of this was a local bush-basher I bumped into one winter's day in 1991. It was about eight in the morning. I'd just broken off a kokako contact in the Grace Darling, and was back at my campsite having a brew when along the track came first a pack of snuffling dogs and then five minutes later their master - a grizzled pighunter with a Winchester slung over his shoulder. He looked a bit surprised to see me, and lifted an eye-brow when I told him about the resident kokako. This joker booted one of his dogs up the posterior, then told me straight: 'I've been hunting this here valley for 25 years, regular-like, and I ain't never seen anything like that up here.'