Spit in the River

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.

3 Responses to Spit in the River

  1. goodbear says:

    i have the coolest landlord in the world, and i think this for many reasons: one because he has lived in/continues to visit each year…new zealand. i’ve always wanted to go! and it sounds like e.g. has a nice set of relatives!

    great birding pics!

  2. livingisdetail says:

    Lol. I have a photo of a pukeko that I took a while ago near Flowerdale in Victoria. I had no idea what sort of bird it was but I was really taken by it’s stunning colouring. I put the photo aside thinking one day I will work out what sort of bird it is and post about it. Funnily enough I saw it in my tea cards just yesterday and now I see it on your blog. Amazing serendipity.

  3. lavenderbay says:

    Save up your pennies, Goodbear, and make it as long a vacation as possible! In our three weeks we got a pretty good look at the South Island, but saw relatively little of the North Island. And of course, Livingisdetail will want you to drop in while you’re down that way.
    Yes, e.g. does have nice relatives. Some of the older generation has had to struggle hard to become more gay-positive, and I was actually dreading having to stay with Uncle and Aunt Three; but Uncle Three and I were both, I think, “surprised by joy” as we found how much we had in common…naturalism, writing, music…kind of a kindred-spirit thing.

    It’s the Power of the Pukeko, Livingisdetail! This entry was muchly inspired by our recent comment-exchange on birding, but it’s still fun to hear of your two Pukeko-picture sightings in as many days.

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