A few of these northerly huts have had a notice asking people to keep an eye out for the South Island kokako.

Seeing one would be a surprise, they were declared extinct in 1986, the last confirmed sighting at Mt Aspiring in 1967. There’s still a few of the closely related North Island version around, mostly in the remote Urewera. They are an ancient species, probably more than 70 million years old and there’s nothing like them in the rest of the universe. They have two distinguishing features, the North Island version has blue wattles on the throat, the one I’m looking for has bright orange. The second characteristic is a half hour morning warble of memorable kind, similar in scope and tune to the tui so it’s quite the songbird, although some aspects of their tune are described as melancholy. Suddenly I dream of hearing one, I guess there’s a sample on the internet somewhere, have to track it down.

This afternoon, ever vigilant, I was struggling up another incline, they aren’t particularly long, you are either clambering up or down on this trail, a burst of sunlight and immediately above I hear a gorgeous bird tune, could this be the elusive bird?

I stop, it doesn’t take much for me to indulge in the hill climb procrastination, and listen for ten minutes as the unseen bird goes through quite the repertoire, all manner of tuneful contortions, musicians should take note for inspiration. My head is wandering around trying to spot this otherwise dumpy relic, short wings, long tail, it mostly hopped up in the trees, not well adjusted to introduced predators, rats and cats, or those on the mainland, stoats. Still going it’s the full symphony, you could sell tickets, if there was anyone else out here except I haven’t seen other humans for five nights, back in Christmas Village.

I finally sight the musician, no orange wattles, it’s a white tufted throat. Just a tui getting stuck into some miro berries. Oh well, maybe it will be spotted someplace else.

Extinction is so forever.

+++++horizontal rule+++++

A guide to the night’s accommodation: Big Hellfire Hut

Big Hellfire Hut, North-west Circuit, Stewart Island
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