Grand Junction, Colorado

Organic Farm & Wildlife Area

   Information regarding the Grand Valley living experience
Birds II



 In Search of the Wild Kiwi
(More than a quest in the organic aisle of your local grocery store

In 2002 on trip to New Zealandt, the hope of sighting a rare Kiwi also came to mind. Returning to New Zealand had been well planned and greatly anticipated for six months and the four days to acclimatize in Christ Church had made us long for the next phase of our trip, some time in the bush. The previous year the Milford Track had provided beauty, peace and the illusion of Hobbits but no sightings of Kiwis. Rare, shy and a favorite meal of feral cats; this odd bird would not easily be enticed from its reclusive niche. With 25,000 Kiwis on Stewart Island we thought there would be little trouble adding its name to our bird watching life-list.
No 747 behemoth lumbering out of LAX is our ride today, for the series of airports since our trip’s start have stepped down in size paralleling that of the planes. After our backpacks had been stored on the bottom of our small plane, we departed from the beach near Riverton. The beach at Mason Bay awaited us, but our arrival had to coincide with its low tide to borrow the briefly exposed wide sand for our landing strip. The awareness that our exit by water taxi on the other side of the island will be dependent on tide and weather but not the clock is exciting.
On Stewart Island, a trip to the Gutter was our first side trip, for here the Tasmanian Sea plays archeologist and exposes Maori campfire contents and other remnants hundreds of years old. Our archeological pursuits were interrupted by hope. There in the sand only a hundred feet from our departing plane's tracks were prints, Kiwi foot prints casually winding around a log and disappeared into the undergrowth. During the rest of the day, among the flotsam and jetsam and the crunching sound of hiking boots on muscle shells inches deep, more Kiwi tracks appeared. The hope seemed to turn to promise as we discover first Kiwi scant then feathers on the track leading to the Chocolate Swamp. We trusted our guide’s word, as the feathers appeared more like fur to us. After climbing a great sand dune, we made the final discovery that seemed to confirm a sighting was assured. There in the dirt were a series of small deep holes. Kiwis had stuck their long narrow beaks deep in the soil looking for food.
After a quiet camp-stove dinner and a hot cup of tea, the declining light signaled the time for serious Kiwi pursuit. As we left camp the gentle rain increased. Our guide whispered that the rain was good luck in our search. For the next several hours the sky provided enough good luck to soak the trails, vegetation and us. The Kiwi style (the inhabitants of New Zealand not the birds) of hiking clothes for this type of weather is a set of insulated underwear with shorts and light jacket. Of course the ensemble would not be complete without a pair of sturdy hiking boots. Although quite effective, the sight must appear as a ballet troop prepared for a heavily muddied stage. The weeds along the narrow trails bowed as they became heavy with water that is soon deposited on the group’s variedly colored legs coverings. As time passes and the rain increases, everyone’s enthusiasm decreased. Finally only the two of us are left in the quest. Numerous buildings from the island’s failed sheep raising times of the late eighteen hundreds provide us shelter from the rain as we wander the local trails. We wonder what the 19th Century inhabitants would have thought of a rain soaked couple spending hours to see what they would have considered an over-abundant nuisance - the Kiwi.
Finally, we must admit defeat. The night will soon turn to early morning. The sky was now clear with bright stars. We must find our way back to the hut. The wet weeds have covered many trails. In other locations the stars have pointed our way, but our Northern Hemisphere knowledge provides little assistance here. Certainly no Polaris - North Star. Unfortunately not even Hokela - Arcturus. The three canoe paddlers, Orion’s Belt, brings comfort and ease after we slowly understand our upside down view of the hunter and his dogs.
Now as we tramp the last dark trail near our camp, we are startled by a moving brown shadow. The Kiwi suddenly appears. The long list of rules posted at our camp floods our minds: no flash photography, no shining flashlights directly at the birds, do not pursue. . . but this Kiwi pursues us! We hold still. It walks directly into our light! For the next several minutes the Kiwi appears to glide around our feet stopping only momentarily to peck at Patricia's shoe strings to make sure they are not some easily eaten worms.
Later as we snuggle into our sleeping bags we agree that this was one of those magical times in our life that if we had gone to bed earlier, would have only been a warm, cozy New Zealand dream.


More: "I don't think we are in Grand Junction anymore"

Kea: The Mountain Parrot

Not nearly as hard to find as a Kiwi, this bird will find you or more particularly you lunch or boot. The are notorious for opening a backpack to steal your lunch or taking one of your boots and flying away to drop it somewhere in the forest. Story's of them killing sheep and even destroying cars are also common.


Frogmouth Owl Australia

This Frogmouth (not realy an Owl) observed on a hike on a small island near the Great Barrier Reef in Australia was shy, but tolerant of our attempt to photograph it at dusk.



Osprey eating a fish


On a recent trip to Florida, we shared our outdoor restaurant with this Osprey. 
Its table manners did not include the use of a napkin, but it did not drop a bite.



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