Yesterday I tried my hand at bird photos on Tiritiri Matangi Island, where I saw several critically endangered and fascinating birds. The island is an open bird sanctuary and scientific reserve. It is predator-free and maintained by the Department of Conservation along with a fantastic team of volunteers. Calling it a Silver Celebration, the supporters of Tiritiri Matangi offered five guided walks (for birders, botanists or photographers). I jumped at the opportunity to be on the first of two guided photographic walks. Our leader, an expert photographer and volunteer on the island, gave us pointers about better bird photos in general, as well as information about the fascinating birds of the island.
The number one thing I learned: I am not a bird photographer. Yet, I still enjoyed every moment on Tiritiri Matangi, learning about the birds, attempting to shoot the birds (with my camera, of course), hiking, fresh air, and the ferry ride.
The birds are all wild and free. Many have bands for scientific study. The island has many rare and critically endangered species. As I was without a zoom lens beyond 300mm, I took most of my shots at the water troughs stationed near the trails. Here is the best of my day:
Red Crowned Parakeet
- Maori name: Kākāriki
- Conservation status: At risk – relict
- New Zealand Mainland Status: Rare on both North and South Island
- Conservation status: Endemic. Not threatened
- New Zealand Mainland Status: Common throughout NZ
- Conservation status: Endemic. Nationally critical
- Only about 200 remain throughout New Zealand.
- Takahē were thought to be extinct until their rediscovery in 1948.
- We also saw at Takahe at Zealandia in Wellington (North Island), and at Orokonui Ecosanctuary in Dunedin (South Island) and our daughter found takahe tracks at Tawharanui Regional Park while camping with friends.
- Maori name: Hihi
- Conservation status: Endemic. Threatened, Nationally vulnerable
- New Zealand Mainland Status: Extinct, but re-introduced to a few protected mainland sites including Tiritiri Matangi
Also not endangered, I thought I would include this colourful, chubby bellbird.
- Maori name: Korimako
- Conservation status: Endemic. Not threatened
- New Zealand Mainland Status: Common throughout NZ south of Waikato
TiriTiri Matangi Ferry
Unless you have your own boat, the TiriTiri Ferry is the only way to get to the island. Best of all, with the ferry, comes the option for a guided tour of the island. The additional cost is nominal, and the benefit is huge. The park rangers and volunteer guides spot birds that I would never otherwise notice.
Practical Information for Visiting Tiritiri Matangi
- Tiritiri Matangi is an open bird sanctuary, which means the birds are protected from predators, yet still wild. They can come and go as they please. This is similar to the nearby Shakespear Park at the end of the Whangaparaoa Peninsula on the North Island.
- The Tiritiri Matangi ferry leaves Auckland in the morning and returns in the late afternoon, making it an 8-hour adventure.
- The ferry stops in Gulf Harbour before continuing on to the island. It is possible to take the return ferry just to Gulf Harbour.
- Tiritiri island is protected, and visitors are expected to take all their trash off the island.
- There is a small gift shop with some food at the lighthouse, however, we always bring a bagged lunch. You can request one to be included with your ferry ticket, but you will still be responsible for carrying it and bringing out the rubbish. We generally find it easier to purchase a ready-made sandwich before getting on the ferry.
- Like everywhere in New Zealand, the weather is subject to change unexpectedly. We always bring a light jacket in the summer and wear layers in the winter.
- Bring a camera with a zoom lens if you want to get better photos of the Tiritiri Matangi birds.
- If you have more time, visit other nearby islands for more fascinating bird life, hiking, relaxing or adventure.
Why am I not a bird photographer?
It’s all about equipment. As a travel photographer, I switched from DSLR to micro 4/3 a few months ago for the advantage of smaller size and lighter weight. With my new Olympus OMD-Em5. I am still getting phenomenal photo quality, yet I am carrying half the weight. The necessary lenses for outstanding bird photos are heavy and cumbersome.
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Have you seen any of these Tiritiri Matangi Birds before? Have you been to an open bird sanctuary or to New Zealand?
This is NOT a sponsored post. I paid full price for my ferry and guided walk. All information on birds provided by Tititiri Matangi Open Sanctuary.