Kokako Lostkokako

 

Images by Sid Marsh

Copyright © Sid Marsh August 1995

 

Crow Chasing Tui

Crow Chasing Tui

On a number of occasions I have witnessed kokako/tui confrontations. Sometimes a mob of up to three tui would hound a singing crow, following its every movement, imitating its songnotes and generally behaving like avian hoons. One November day in 1991 a tui doing this over-stepped the mark and Te Taniwha, emitting a loud aggressive chitter, half-flew/half-ran through and over the low towai, tawheowheo, katote canopy after the smaller bird which fled. This drawing is a birds eye view of the chase. Providing a sombre backdrop is the highpoint, Whakamoehau, at the base of which is an opencast goldmine. Another notable kokako and tui conflict in the headwaters of the Maratoto Catchment, involved a morepork. Right on sunset I followed a singing kokako that was moving about to shake-off a bothersome tui, which was itself being stalked by the morepork. At one point the last two birds dashed past within two metres of me while the kokako bounded up a nearby miro tree.

Kokako Lost
Crow Chasing Tui
Archey’s & Hochstetter’s Frogs with Kokopu

Archey's & Hochstetter's Frogs with Kokopu

On the flanks of Te Moehau these three species can be found within metres of each other. Within the Hanging Valley kauri grove in the Ongohi catchment the two different species of frog were actually found under the same rock in 1993. This sketch is based on that discovery: a rock is being lifted away exposing both frogs. The Hochstetter hops away in the direction of the banded kokopu while the tense Archey's frog freezes. Meanwhile several noisy kaka are overhead, screeching and flying from kauri to kauri.

Kokako Lost
Archey’s & Hochstetter’s Frogs with Kokopu
Kiwi in Burrow 309 Road

Kiwi in Burrow 309 Road

On New Years day 1993 a male brown kiwi was caught in a leg-hold trap at Stoney Bay, Te Moehau. This bird later had its injured leg amputated and was rehabilitated at the Otorohanga Kiwi House and the Coromandel Kiwi Halfway House (run by Carol and John Feast) before being released back into the wild again near the 309 Road. Sidrick, as the bird was named, is seen here as he was found one June afternoon near the Feast household The burrow is located in a damp re-entrant close to a small creek and adjacent swampy area. There are tree-ferns throughout and small saplings, boulders and literally heaps of dead wheki fronds carpeting the forest floor. Sidrick is sleeping about 50cm in from the entrance which is covered by fallen fern fronds.

Throughout the North Island the brown kiwi is in serious decline. If left to its own devices the bird could face extinction on the mainland just a few decades into the 21st century. Responsible for this decline is the continuing loss and degradation of the bird's habitat due to clear-felling manuka/second growth forest and inadequate boundary fencing on farms, leading to livestock and feral goat browse damage. Introduced mammalian predators are a major factor too: ferrets, cats and especially killer dogs - from otherwise docile pets through to ruthless pig-hunting breeds. In the Coromandel region kiwi still persist in low-to-moderate numbers. The densest concentrations of the bird have been found along the east coast in stands of manuka, mature native forest and even pine plantations from Whangamata northwards.

Kokako Lost
Kiwi in Burrow 309 Road
Kaka, Kereru, Kokako

Kaka, Kereru, Kokako

All these species were encountered together on a kokako territory in the headwaters of the Maratoto on the 24th April 1992. Within a 30 square metre area - just as the morning sunlight was hitting the highest branches, I watched a single kaka drinking nectar from rata blooms, four fat kereru feeding in an emergent miro, and two kokako singing and gliding from tree-to-tree. By the 1990s this was a rare congregation of large forest birds in the Coromandel Ranges.

Kokako Lost
Kaka, Kereru, Kokako
Te Taniwha and Goldmining Adit

Te Taniwha and Goldmining Adit

'The Monster' named by Dave King. This bird was the most vocal of the Waitekauri kokako. Probably a male, Te Taniwha had absolutely no fear of humans. At dawn or dusk, after whistling out and clicking my tongue, this bird would appear, dropping down to headhigh branches within three metres of me and then craning downwards in search of the 'other bird'. Te Taniwha had distinctive white 'eye brows' and is seen here in a tawa tree. There are several old mining drives scattered throughout Te Taniwha's territory, sheltering creatures like glow worms, weta and Hochstetter's frogs.

Kokako Lost
Te Taniwha and Goldmining Adit
Two Kokako

Two Kokako

In late 1979 I was part of a group tramping in to see an old kauri dam in the headwaters of the Paton Stream. This particular log-driving dam was rediscovered by the Pauanui tourist guide Doug Johansen in the mid-seventies. These old structures were used extensively last century up to the 1930's, to drive kauri-logs from rugged high country down to the coastal booms for milling.

On a razorback ridge several hundred metres southeast of the Paton Stream Dam our party had an unexpected contact with two kokako, hearing the birds call to each other until they moved on out of earshot. Shown in this drawing are those two birds - shadowy, feathered blurs - as they fly through the alien-looking neinei. Behind is the Paton Stream kauri dam.

Kokako Lost
Two Kokako
Whakou Feast

Whakou Feast

Whakou is the Maori name given to the tawari flower, the blooms of which can be unbelievably profuse on tawari trees in the early summer. In this case the black silhouette of a kokako 'working' such a tree in the Maratoto catchment is almost completely hidden by bunches of white petals and long stamens. During this particular 1991 encounter the kokako didn't make a single noise, unlike a tui that later 'topped-up' on the whakau nectar. Emerging from cover, in the above picture, is a male giraffe weevil, one of Aotearoa's sizeable and bizarre insects. Giraffe weevils are found in Coromandel kokako habitat.

Kokako Lost
Whakou Feast
Wing-Clapping Display

Wing-Clapping Display

The Waitekauri kokako frequently used this display as they sang their dawn chorus from the crown of emergent trees, be they podocarps, or hardwoods like this towai. Pictured is one of the Grace Darling catchment birds - Te Taniwha - as he typically appeared silhouetted against a burnt-out sky: dark-coloured, almost black with the slightest hint of brown around the edges of his feathers. Greys and blues were usually not apparent in the gloom of the bush.

On any number of song-posts Te Taniwha would fan tail feathers and sweep his wings up-and-backwards, ritualistically flapping them while singing the onomatopoeic 'ko-ka-ko' song-notes. On a still morning these display wingbeats quite apart from the bird's song, could be heard through the dense forest vegetation up to 50 metres away, as the lonesome bird responded to taped kokako calls or even human whistles.

Kokako Lost
Wing-Clapping Display