Ike & Di took a trip to a local privately owned and protected wetland area called Ngā Manu Nature Reserve. There was a lot to take in – information huts, different ponds, green spaces and walk through enclosures allowing for close encounters of the feathery kind including New Zealand’s iconic bird, the Kiwi. Eeeek – There was a giant spider web in the Kiwi House!
Ike and his companions Diana and David Loubser accompanied him on a swamp forest walk and saw relicts of the lowland swamp forest that used to cover large areas of the Kapiti Coast:
The huge 400-year-old Kahikatea or New Zealand White pine trees were majestic! Maori used these trees to make carvings because the soft wood is easily carved across the grain and holds a sharp edge, although few have survived. These trees were also used to hollow out canoes and soot as a tattooing pigment. The leaves have medicinal properties that can treat urinary, other internal complaints and bruising. The berry is a food source for people and birds.
In the centre of one of the lawns is an Oamaru stone carving of a heron symbolising stillness and tranquillity. The significance between this Kōtuku, or white heron, and the wetland is interesting. This bird is shrouded in Maori myth as it is rare, beautiful and only visits occasionally. For us mere mortals, it signifies determination and gives one a sense of independence. Populations are declining because of habitat destruction, predation and human impact.
Ike enjoyed the ‘Butterfly Garden’ although we did not see any flitting about as it was the middle of winter. He particularly enjoyed reading about the life cycle of the monarch butterfly, something he first learned about with Julia earlier this year. Another rather slithery attraction was the eels being fed. Ike did not go too near for fear of being mistaken for a piece of meat!