Early in October I was looking for kokako in a new, unsurveyed area two kilometres north-west of Golden Cross. In my travels I happened across a dozen or so red admiral butterflies flittering about a tall rewarewa in a sunny clearing. An insect would alight face downwards on the rewarewa’s trunk and display its colours: electric-blue spots with streaks of red and black on velvet-brown wings. As soon as another butterfly flew within sight, the displaying butterfly stopped opening and flapping its wings and immediately tore off to chase and aerobat with the other. These red admirals displayed and were pursued over and over again, the ritual only being interrupted when the sun was covered by a cloud, whereupon the displaying butterflies closed their wings, effectively merging into the tree bark due to their underwing cryptic colouration.
Two metres up this same rewarewa trunk, I found one of New Zealand’s weirder insects - a four centimetre long giraffe weevil. If you think 4cm is long for a wood-boring weevil, the male of this species with its extremely long proboscis grows up to 7.5cm in length.
On the morning of the 7th October I was on the main ridge east of the McBrinn Stream. It was misty and there was a brisk north-westerly blowing so I headed east down a slope moving through an impressive grove of tawa and emergent rimu. These trees were adorned with perching plants, lianes and the aerial roots of kiekie. Rice grass and ferns underfoot, with ponga and mamaku tree ferns and five-finger forming the understorey, gave the pre-dawn morning a primeval feel. I can’t say when I heard the first kokako song notes: they were faint, drifting with the wind and banks of mist through the luxuriant rain forest. But finally they registered and I homed in on them until I was close enough to hear a distinct ‘Foo-foo-foo-foo’ whistle at 0650hrs right on sunrise. I had the Conservation Department’s tape-recorder so I played some Pureora kokako calls and song at full volume hoping to attract this unknown bird, but he wasn’t fooled ... or didn’t hear. As well as being less complex the tempo of Coromandel kokako song is slower than that of the Pureora birds, almost like a different language.
I waited, listening for more calls. At 0708hrs I was rewarded with a single kokako whine from further down the slope, final confirmation of a new bird for me, before I set off back to the campsite.