The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 13, Issue 9 (December 1, 1938)
The Morning Chorus of the Birds
The Morning Chorus of the Birds.
Probably nowhere else in New Zealand can the morning chorus of native birds be heard in as great a volume as on Kapiti, and one can count it as a privilege indeed to have listened to it when several hundreds of tiny throats offer their benediction to the dawn. The time to hear it is early in October, before the bellbirds begin to breed, and on a fine morning, after rain. Just as the sky is beginning to grow light, from the bush come a few tentative notes from a tui, followed by a full-throated volume of music from tuis on adjacent trees. The lovely liquid notes of the robin swell the chorus, and this is the signal for the bellbirds to chime in as a lead for the blackbirds, thrushes, whiteheads, tomtits, and fantails, with the chattering notes of the parrakeets, to aid in the harmony. Once more the bellbirds, with ringing notes, as though silver bells were chiming in every tree, carry the song till all the bush seems throbbing with glorious music, each little chorister seemingly endeavouring to rival its neighbour. For about half an hour this wonderful woodland orchestra continues its harmony, and then the harsh, screeching call of the long-tailed cuckoo, and the not unmusical call of the kaka, seem to act as a reminder to the songsters that dawn has come and that the practical needs of life must be attended to.
Most numerous of the birds are the graceful little songster, the North Island robin, tui, pigeon, silver eye (tauhou), whitehead, fantail (pi waka waka), tomtit (ngiru ngiru), pipit (pihoihoi), and morepork (ruru). Mut-tonbirds in thousands arrive in the spring, and nest in the peaty soil on the lofty range on the western side, and Kapiti is also a favourite breeding-place for the little blue penguin, which have been seen in the early morning hours waddling in single file along the bush tracks from the beach.
Regular visitors are the shining cuckoo, which arrives (allegedly from the Solomon Islands) in the spring for the sole purpose of laying its eggs in the nest of the grey warbler, and the long-tailed cuckoo, another parasitic migrant which selects for its egg-laying the nest of the whitehead. These tiny birds are thus saddled with the job of incubating and feeding the voracious offspring of casual visitants.
Grey and paradise ducks, petrels, that handsome shore-bird the banded dottrell, and two varieties of seagull also find Kapiti a haven free from disturbance in their mating; and it is a tribute to Mr. Wilkinson's vigilant supervision of the island that even the shags are increasing because they are free from molestation.
At one period cattle, sheep, goats and cats were numerous on Kapiti, but at the present time only a very few cats, rats and opossums remain, the other animals having been destroyed. Opossums and rats are regarded as inimical to certain kinds of birds, and in order to get rid of them the Lands Department employs a trapper all the year round. Efficiently to police the rugged hills is a tremendous task, but the trapper is doing a very good job, and the days of the ‘possum are numbered, while continued and successful warfare is waged on the rats.