It was at the feeding station on the Kawerau Track, which is a long and lovely boardwalk through rejuvenating coastal bush. The feeding stations which provide nectar-water inside special cages are intended for the stitchbirds/hihi but the bellbirds join them in equal numbers. Their favoured feeding stations are a hubbub of activity and noise with dozens of birds of both species flitting to and fro, ducking into the cage to suck at the flower shaped feeders, chasing eachother around and hanging about singing lustily. As I stood there, less than a metre from the feeder, enjoying the visual and aural feast all around me I noticed more and more bellbirds chiming in with the same few liquid notes until about ten of them were all singing in unison, with the rest providing a counterpoint of clucking and trilling.
This weekend was the first time I'd ever seen bellbirds close up and my first ever sighting of the extinct-on-the-mainland stitchbird so even without the chorus I would have been thrilled. Not to mention personal first sightings of kokako with stunning blue wattles; takahe, like oversized and muted pukekos; North Island robins/toutouwai; saddlebacks/tieke and whiteheads/popokatea. One robin in particular was so fearless that I almost stood on it as it was the same colour as the damp leaf litter on the track. Despite this near death experience it stayed close to me for ten minutes or more until I walked on.
Other birds were delightful to see closer, fatter and in far greater numbers than before including tui, fantail/piwakawaka, kakariki/red-crowned parakeet, and quail. I find quail completely irresistable: something about their shape makes me want to hold them in the palm of my cupped hand. Sadly, no quail has ever allowed me to get remotely close enough for that to happen.
Unfortunately, the only penguin I saw was dead on the beach. I didn't join the night walk and so missed out on nocturals like live little blue penguins/korora, lap-landing petrels/oi and two tuatara!
Photos of takahe, kokako, saddleback and robin courtesy of Al.