Following kokako

Nest siteKokako follow – Day 16 – Fine & Calm – Overnight rain.

Following kokako is one of the most frustrating exercises you can be involved in. When you’re looking for a nest, you find a promising spot and sit and wait….. and wait….  for at least an hour because if a bird is sitting on eggs she will feed hourly….ish. When you hear calls down the track you think ‘Should I be there?’ but you’ve only been waiting 45 minutes and something might happen any minute now so you stay put when just meters away the birds are probably having a party.

All around you the sounds of the bush keep you on edge, ‘what was that, or that?’, the stream hisses over rocks, wing beats pass over head, ‘was that a kokako, a tui?’ Birds call, planes and helicopters pass over, a distant dog barks, the neighbour drives his tractor down the road and into a paddock and wakes up the cows who demand breakfast.

Your bum gets sore so you shift your weight but you don’t want to take your eyes of the spot you’re watching…… just in case. You note everything in your book, there might be a pattern.

5.50 song opposite, intermittent
6.05 song opposite, still intermittent
6.10 Quiet
6.15 Song closer, 50m north

Sitting waiting, you begin to doubt your decision. ‘Have I chosen the wrong place? Just because I saw them here yesterday, does it mean anything?’ Then you see one, climbing the ridge like a squirrel, hopping from branch to branch and he passes right in front of you, then…. gone. Like a ghost he has vanished. It’s taken less than 10 seconds from first sight to losing him. You scan the trees but there’s nothing, not even a sound. So you sit and wait for another hour. He might come again.

Kokako are big birds, almost as big as magpies and they should be easy to spot. But they are furtive and spend most of their time at the top of the canopy; above ferns and small trees, above supplejack and clematis vines and above all the epiphytic plants clinging to the outstretched branches of the forest giants. Countless times I’ve followed a call around but never laid eyes on the caller.

After another hour of waiting, you move to a new spot hoping you haven’t shifted just a few minutes too soon. And so it goes on. You wait, you get excited, you’re disappointed, you wait some more, you move. The last five minutes of any hour are the hardest to bear. You get twitchy, you check your watch, shift your weight, stretch your legs, rub your neck. Finally, you go home, dejected but the next day, you’re right back out there, doing it all again.


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