snooze buttons and avian melodies…

The quiet morning was disturbed by a ringing alarm. Instinctively, my hand rose from the warmth of subterranean covers to straighten a lazy finger and hit the snooze button. The role of the forefinger plays a crucial part in satisfying any snoozeaholic’s habit. Just five more minutes I thought.

From the association of darkness and vestibulo-cochlear stimulation came the reminder of what the real world is like; schedules, deadlines, and parcels of block booked minutes ticking away, like the world the Mad Hatter inhabits in the Lewis Carroll classic.

After all, today was the first day we’d been woken up by a mechanical source like this, after six months on the road, and somewhere during the soporific state between sleep and awakening, the reminder of rising for work warranted another digital postponement.

But then realization – and relief.

Relief because today was our long awaited trip to an open island bird sanctuary in the Hauraki Gulf. Today we were all off to Tiritiri Matangi, assuming we could make it through motorway traffic for a 9am ferry departure from downtown Auckland!

goodbye auckland

Even before I had any idea of what Tiritiri Matangi was, I’d wanted to go there. The name alone is enough to fuel intrigue and stimulate a desire to explore more. Its seven syllables seem to slosh and roll around the tongue, much in the same way a vintage wine would at a Marlborough wine festival. To the senses it suggested adventure and a hint of excitement. Ti-ri-ti-ri ma-tan-gi.

With thanks to our eldest son’s native bird project through Te Kura Correspondence School we’d gained more insight into the valuable role bird sanctuaries like these play in preserving the continued existence of several of N.Z.’s native bird species, as well as capturing what can best be described as an ornithological blueprint, of what mainland Aotearoa used to be like.

As a rodent free island, ‘Tiri’ offers a sanctuary to the rare birds that call it home, and with thanks to the ‘Friends of Tiritiri’ volunteer group, populations continue to grow as a result of the planting of 280,000 native trees over a decade long project from the mid 1990s.

Acknowledgement must also go to the team at 360 Discovery ferry cruises, who, in running trips to the island, allow volunteers to continue their great work of imparting knowledge about conservation efforts there, by way of the informative and comprehensive guided tours on offer for a nominal fee.

In the five hours that flew by, we walked through regenerated bush to reach the island lighthouse and spent time at the interactive science display adjoining the gift shop.  Whilst rambling the island, we saw stitchbirds, takahe, red saddlebacks, red crested parakeets, before finally, on our second to last turn prior to arriving back at the ferry, catching sight of two kokako, munching away on a feed of delicious berries in the branches above our heads. Magic!

As the ferry cut its way back to the city in the late afternoon sun, the only sound competing with the noise of sea water slapping against the bow was that of the four of us yawning. Salt air, bush walks and an early start had us all spent. Not that it mattered much, tonight the alarm would most definitely be turned off!

the sloshing sound of Tiritiri


  1. Awesome Helen, nice to hear from you. enjoy life up north. It was hard case cacthing up having worked together at good old blenheim hospital !

  2. Sounds fantastic; enjoying life on our little island of Aroha and magical living in the bush and with kiwis calling at night. Must have been awesome to see all those birds… just added that to our to do list.

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