Monday, November 7, 2016

A day on Ulva Island

A day off and a late-morning low tide make a great combination for visiting Ulva Island. Add a warm, sunny day to the mix for a guaranteed perfect experience. I hadn't been to Ulva since March so was especially looking forward to this special place.

Post Office Bay - looking west

Post Office Bay - looking north
Ulva Island, Te Wharawhara, is one of three open island sanctuaries in New Zealand, with the other two (Kapiti Island and Tiritiri Matangi) off the North Island coast. Ulva is the largest island in Paterson Inlet and is easily accessible by a 5-minute water taxi ride from Golden Bay. Reserved under the Land Act in 1899 it became one of the earliest 'native game and flora' reserves in the country and is a must-see place if you are down this way.

Striding along the well-maintained paths isn't recommended; the best way to see the birds is to stop often and wait for them to come to you. The excellent $2 self-guided booklet produced by the Ulva Island Trust presents information on the birds, plants and history of this predator-free island.

Enough talking! Come with me on a slow walk...

The inquisitive toutouwai, Stewart Island robin

Boulder Bay at low tide

Weka parent finding food for her chicks

Weka chick looking for crab

Boulder Bay - looking south across Paterson Inlet

Lovely rock formation on Boulder Bay

A seaweed 'heart' at low tide

Post-lunch visitor - a male sea lion

Hmm... where does this track go?

Lichens, mosses, koru and a young lancewood

A bank of spider orchids (lighter green heart-shaped leaves)

Spider orchids galore

Close-up of a spider orchid in flower

Slow-walking weka
The sea lion encounter was a bonus! I had finished my lunch and was wandering along the beach when I noticed a fast-moving disturbance on the surface of the water. Was most surprised when a sea lion poked his head up out of the water and looked around, then proceeded to drag his weight out of the water and lumber up the beach. He chased the weka and eyed us with suspicion (we were standing on the rocky outcrop) before he headed up the track - glad I wasn't walking down it! After a while he came back on the beach and although he stretched out on the sand at times, it was never for long - he reminded me of a bear with a sore head.

My 7 hours on Ulva went far too quickly. The birds I saw were Stewart Island robin (toutouwai), bellbird (korimako), brown creeper (pīpipi), tūī, yellowhead (mohua), saddleback (tīeke), weka, bush parrot (kākā), New Zealand parakeet (kākāriki), oystercatcher (tōrea), fantail (pīwakawaka), rifleman (tītipounamu), morepork (ruru), native pigeon (kererū). Most of the time I was walking I was accompanied by constant birdsong - thanks Mother Nature for a magical day.