Today is almost impossible to describe. We were on Ulva Island leaving here at 8:00 and getting back a bit before 5:00. It’s a water taxi over. The morning was in a bigger group and it was on a chat track with sides, steps, bridges, etc. Very well maintained. The afternoon was only four of us plus our guide and was over an historical trail that was mud and roots and tree limbs … not open to public and you can see why. I took notes on my iPhone as much as I could on trees, plants, birds, history, but know I could not keep up. Tried at least to key notes for pictures as to what was what.

When we landed, we were on a very small part of the island that is privately owned. There used to be a small colony of people who lived on the island, a post office, etc. All closed down many, many years ago. Some of the early settlers planted some non-native trees which are all on this private piece that we walked through to get to the public trails. Some of these are 160 years old and older. In the forest itself, it’s all native flora and it’s never been commercially logged. The top soil is very thin, only about a foot deep, so the trees cannot put down deep roots and they blow over with the high winds that the island experiences.

Every 100 meters there are markings and flags and rat traps. They are maintaining this as a predator-free island and have to kill off any rats or similar animals who eat the birds. And they have introduced birds here and keep track of them. The Stewart Island Robins, Saddlebacks, and Rifleman were all put here given depleted stocks. And the rats have caused poisoning techniques that have killed off birds, so they keep changing how they manage the rodents so the birds can thrive.

Saw lots of Kaka Parrots and glimpses of a few yellow head parakeets. Saw kiwi tracks but no kiwi. There were Tui, lots of robins that would almost come up to your fee, the flightless Weka (and we saw some young chicks), brown creeper, etc. I could hear most of the calls, but not all since some were too faint for me.

We saw many different types of fern and learned which are self-propagating and which need male and female. We saw the difference in the foliage of the male and female rimu trees. There were several tiny orchid varieties. Mosses. Many different tree varieties. Sea animals along the beach (sea anemone, tiny crabs, rock oysters, mussels (not green lip), chiton, etc. Ate some native celery leaves … about the size of parsley. We learned about the medicinal qualities of some trees and plants and what the Maori ate, used to make baskets, used for walking sticks, how things were named by the early Europeans who settled. And this just scratches the surface.

Val and Pat left the group at the end of a half day as did some who had only booked a half day. We had a lovely lunch, just the five of us including the terrific guide, Furhana, under a shelter on Sydney Beach. Yes, hot coffee … just Nescafe and not plunger coffee. Ah, well. While the morning was fast paced given time constraints and the larger group (and the tendency of some of us to stay too long at one place taking pictures), the afternoon was more strenuous clambering up and over things and being on a muddy track given yesterday’s rain.

Rested just a bit when we got back. Dinner at the South Seas Hotel then back here. The women got their cameras and went down to the harbour again to try to see some blue penguins at dusk. I stayed here … too tired to climb our hill again. Kayaking tomorrow!

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