The flight of the bellbird
The bellbird and its melodious song are renowned throughout New Zealand and around the world as a very special little bird, and once you learn more about this species, you’ll realise just how incredible they really are.
Similar to the greenfinch in appearance, the bellbird typically measures approximately 20cm and is found in all sorts of native and rainforest areas, as well as in the occasional garden, scrub area, or urban park.
Yet this hasn’t always been the case. The bellbird was in fact absent from many northern areas on the mainland since the 1860s, due to both predators and disease. For some time they only lived on islands such as Tiritiri Marangi and Little Barrier.
It came as a great – and very welcome – surprise when the bellbird was later found on both Motutapu and at the Tawharanui Open Sanctuary Society (TOSSI).
In Tawharanui, they were spotted soon after the completion of the predator-proof fence that now cuts off a section of land and allows such birds and wildlife to thrive without pests such as rabbits and possums.
It has been more than 10 years since that fence was built, and in that time, the bellbird has truly thrived. In fact, TOSSI workers have even been able to translocate some of the strong bellbird numbers into other locations for further repopulation.
Again in 2010, the bellbird surprised everyone by turning up on Motutapu Island on its own accord after not inhabiting this piece of land for more than 100 years. This was just one year after a massive effort was made to eradicate the island of pests, and is also in part thanks to the volunteers who helped plant more than 500,000 trees that would welcome the bellbird and other native species to the island.
The bellbird is one of the many special species we often see on our day tours to Tawharanui, so don’t forget to bring your camera!
World record breaker finishing up with Habitat Tours here in NZ!
The world of global birdwatching has been taken by storm this year with one individual smashing the world record for the most bird species sighted in a single year. The previous record of 4321 was broken as early as September will continue with each new bird a new world record till the end of the year.
With 2 months to go, Noah from Oregon USA has already reached a staggering list of over 5000 species and is keen to find some of his final world record-breaking birds here in New Zealand!
Noah will be coming with us for only a few days in late December on an intense birdwatching mission with Habitat guide Harry Boorman. The pair will be aiming to sight some rare and endemic New Zealand species in order to produce an unbeatable bird list that will hold for years to come.
I spoke with Noah while he was on a lunch break in Malaysia and he told me of his excitement about his trip to New Zealand saying that although has only spent a few days here ‘it’s a place that feels like home’.
Noah has put North Island Brown Kiwi on his top priority list amongst a variety of endemics we hope to show him. He also talked of his passion for exploring more of New Zealand stating it was going to be his first ever time in the North Island and that he had always been amazed at the friendly Kiwi people he had met around the world.
Noah plans to have visited over 70 countries by December 31st and will no doubt be a little tired after 365 days birding and it’s our aim to ensure he enjoys his short stint in New Zealand.
On January the 1st, Noah will return home and says that he has planned a full week of sleep to recover form a year of full on birdwatching before he then starts to write his second book which will describe his magnificent year long adventure.
An insider’s guide to Auckland's natural wonders
Even in a country known for its ‘long white cloud’ and ‘100 per cent pure’ scenery, Auckland still manages to sparkle as a precious natural jewel amongst New Zealand’s landscapes.
Where else can you find endangered wildlife, dormant volcanoes, untouched marine reserves and idyllic golden beaches all within a short drive of one another?
We’ve turned our passion for Auckland into a tour company that introduces many of the regions best assets to visitors from far and wide. Come with us to discover Auckland’s best-kept secrets.
Islands, beaches, and marine reserves
Auckland is known as the City of Sails for a reason. It is a place where land meets water in innumerable ways, and each one of them as glorious as the last.
The beaches offer diversity of black and gold sands, extensive shorelines and tiny inlets, and forest-lined shores or grassy knolls perfect for picnics. Take a look at Whatipu Beach in Manukau Harbour, Long Bay by the Hauraki Gulf, or any of those in the Waitakere Ranges. The islands of Rangitoto, Motutapu, Motuihe, and Waiheke all offer their own fantastic beaches as well.
New Zealand is home to 44 marine reserves in total, and you’ll find a few of the best of them in Auckland. Visit Goat Island, Tawharanui, or others in the Hauraki Gulf such as Te Matuku (Waiheke Island) or Motu Manawa.
Rainforests, coastal forests and wetlands
New Zealand’s rainforests, coastal forests and wetlands are unlike anything else on the planet. The Department of Conservation estimates that as much as 80 per cent of our flowering plants, ferns and trees are endemic, which means you won’t find them anywhere else in the world!
We are home to approximately 200 species of fern (about 40 per cent of which only grow in New Zealand), and our kauri and totara trees are amongst the largest in the world.
Large portions of Auckland were once wetland areas, and now there are roughly 18,000 hectares of wetlands, plus 10,000 kilometres of rivers and 30 lakes in the region. Lake Wainamu in the Waitakere Ranges is just one example.
Auckland would be a completely different place without its explosive volcanic activity that has shaped the city as we know it today. There have been 48 active volcanoes in the city’s past, all of which lie dormant today, and many of which can be visited on day tours from Auckland.
Rangitoto is arguably the most iconic as it sits majestically on the skyline of the Auckland Harbour, and it is the youngest as well, having erupted just 600 years ago.
Mt Eden is another famous volcano, and is also the tallest, reaching 196 metres to pierce the suburban Auckland skyline. Then there are the Waitakere Ranges, which were formed from volcanic activity 15 to 22 million years ago!
The Waitakere Ranges, Tawharanui and walking tracks
Two of Auckland’s finest locations (and the two where we take our visitors) are both only a short drive away from the city centre.
The Waitakere Ranges are the result of volcanic activity millions of years ago, and now are covered with 16,000 hectares of rainforest with exceptional coastlines and wildlife. Tawharanui is a much smaller - but stunning - 588 hectares of New Zealand’s best scenery with an open sanctuary on the peninsula and a marine reserve on the coast.
Both of these spots include the choicest walking tracks around Auckland. There are roughly 250 kilometres of walking tracks around the Waitakeres, and a good selection of tracks at Tawharanui for stunning coastal views and wildlife.
There are many things that make New Zealand special, but our wildlife is a chief among them. We are a place where international scientists come to research our fantastic species, and we are a place where our wildlife is fascinating, stunning, and often rare.
The kiwi is the most iconic in the country, but we are also home to the rare stitchbird, the kereru, 70 species of weta and two species of bats that are New Zealand’s only endemic mammals.
We’ve also got an array of native species that are very special to us, and can often be seen on our forays into nature.
Habitat Tours operates small-group trips out to Tawharanui and the Waitakere Ranges so you can get up close to these incredible attractions. Our guides are extremely knowledgeable and make the entire experience easy, fun, interesting, and most importantly – unforgettable!
Tristan Cullen - Passionate Conservationist