A beautiful day dawns as we head into the Kaharoa Conservation Estate, almost too excited to breathe!
This particular patch of native forest is special not only for its endangered bird species, but also its rare flora; home to our unique King Fern
- whose jurassic-looking fronds sometimes reach five metres tall - these plants are also in serious decline due to being ravaged by introduced mammals. The intensive pest-control carried out by the Kaharoa Kokako Trust
volunteers is ensuring these gentle giants survive in this environment too.
We watch and wait with ears wide open for any telltale signs of the elusive "Grey Ghost". We don't see any of the resident birds, but a haunting and melodic chorus slowly begins. It rises in crescendo, sending tingles down our spines. Trust Secretary Margaret says hearing their song is the closest thing she has ever experienced to being in prayer.
Hear the call of the kokako here.
Trustee Graeme plays a recording of the local kokako dialect to attract the shy birds closer, while Teresa records their responding calls. This bush recording will be ready for your ears soon - so you, too, can experience the thrill of listening to these gorgeous birds in the wild.
Learning about the history and vision of the Trust while in the forest, it finally sinks in for us what an amazing legacy these dedicated volunteers are leaving for future generations of New Zealander's. Will there be others to continue the hard work of protecting this forest and its precious inhabitants in the future? Who will carry the torch for the Kaharoa Conservation Estate? Will these birds and their babies be able to continue flourishing free from predation? Will kokako even still exist in the wild in the future? Not without intensive human intervention, that much is certain.
These are worrying thoughts and exactly what this Trust is hoping to combat with their current fundraising drive. By collecting a small "nest egg" fund, they hope to be able to guarantee the pest-control work in the Kaharoa Reserve for the next fifteen years. In our eyes, a truly admirable goal and one we are very glad to have been able to support.
While spying on the kokako, someone little was spying on us! A nosy robin hopped on over for a closer look and sang us a wee song. It's because of our very first conservation project in 2010, restoring the South Island Robin to Chalky Island eco-sanctuary
, that our fierce desire to do more for our precious environment has emerged. Our hearts gladden to see his cheery wee self!
After our heartwarming (but early!) excursion into the beautiful Kaharoa Forest, quite frankly we were famished! To our delight, Trustees Anne and Margaret have whipped up a substantial "bush breakfast" for us - hot coffee, bacon and salad sammies, fresh fruit and scones with jam and cream - YUMMO!
To nicely round off our visit, we present the trustees with a cheque - the first instalment of the funds that together we have raised from the sale of "Our Hearts Beat For Kokako" badges for...$10 000!
Reflecting upon the remarkable success of the Kaharoa Kokako story so far, we are reminded of the quote by famous Anthropologist Margaret Mead...
"Never doubt that a small group of committed citizens can make a difference in the world.
Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."
The passion, dedication and sheer bloody hard work of the Kaharoa Kokako Trustees inspires and motivates us to think more about what we can do to save our natural environment and unique creatures. This wont be the last conservation project for us - of that you can be sure!