Spit in the River

April 13, 2008

Pied Stilts with chicks

Pied Stilts: two adults and two chicks. Tahuna Torea wildlife reserve, Auckland. The reflection shows the length of the bill.

In January 2006, e.g. and I spent three weeks in New Zealand. E.g.’s grandfather moved to Auckland from England as a young man, and established a highly successful family business. When e.g. and I came from Canada to visit, one of her uncles “shouted” (paid for) our airfare; another uncle spent the day with us at Tiritiri Matangi bird sanctuary; and a third uncle hosted us at the beginning and end of our trip.


The beautiful, comical Pukeko, scouting for breadcrusts near the car park garbage can.

This third uncle is a volunteer ranger at the nearby Tahuna Torea wildlife reserve. Like Tommy Thompson Park, Tahuna Torea is, in part, a spit — this time a sandspit into the Tamaki River Estuary. Also like Tommy Thompson, Tahuna Torea is an area saved by a group of local residents from various proposed forms of destruction. In the 60s and 70s, the group successfully dissuaded City Hall from using this Crown-owned riverside area as either a marina or a rubbish tip. E.g.’s Uncle Three was, I believe, part of this original group — the Tamaki Estuary Protection Society — and has kept a hand in the care of this 25-hectare sanctuary ever since.

white ducks

Pekin Duck escapees have found a good home.

The name Tahuna Torea is a Maori expression meaning “gathering place of the oystercatchers.” Uncle Three and I share an interest in birdwatching. I had been very careful to include as many important birding sites as I could in our travel itinerary, and Uncle Three was impressed at my final list of 79 species. But I’m just as impressed that a full one-seventh of them were seen within a block of his driveway.
Oyster Catchers

Some eponymous Toreas (Variable Oystercatchers), gathering on the ball field that flanks the north side of Tahuna Torea reserve. Across the water is Bucklands Beach.