Archives For

Skrraaaarrk! When it comes to choosing which bird to back you’ll never go wrong putting your money (or in this case vote) on kākāpō. However, in my official role as Spokesbird for Conservation, I thought I should be a little less biased. So today, filled with benevolence, I’m going to profile some of the lesser contenders for 2012 Bird of the Year.

And what better place to start than the native birds on that rare species – New Zealand’s bank notes…

Yellow-eyed penguin/hoiho

A New Zealand $5 bank note featuring a Hoiho/Yellow-eyed penguin.

Yellow-eyed penguin/hoiho

Kākāpō and hoiho are more similar than you’d think: We’re one of the world’s rarest parrots and they’re one of the world’s rarest penguins. We mostly live on small islands around the south of New Zealand, and so do they (although they’ve got a colony on the Otago Peninsula just out of Dunedin too). We’re also both flight challenged, but make up for it with dashing good looks.

Blue duck/whio

A New Zealand $10 bank note with the Whio/Blue duck.

Whio/Blue duck

Kākāpō aren’t the biggest fans of water (although I have been known to take a dip), but whio are built to swim. While the fast flowing mountain streams are too rough for most ducks, whio love these hectic habitats and can easily negotiate rapids, boulders and logs in these swift currents. Whio are reluctant flyers, but I say flying is overrated anyway!

New Zealand falcon/Kārearea

A New Zealand $20 bank note featuring a Kārearea/NZ falcon.

Kārearea/New Zealand falcon

I may hold the title of New Zealand’s biggest show-off, but kārearea aren’t far behind. They can fly, and love to rub it in, with acrobatics and speeds of 230 km/hr. Boom! And with vision six times more powerful than a human and a terrifying scream, usually executed before descending on its prey, kārearea are a force to be reckoned with.


A New Zealand $50 bank note featuring a Kōkako.


Even I don’t mind admitting, kōkako are beautiful singers. Once upon a time kākāpō and kōkako use to run into each other all the time, but the introduction of pests saw both our species start to disappear – the South Island sub-species hasn’t been seen since 1967 – skrraaaaarrk!


A New Zealand $100 bank note featuring a Mohua/Yellowhead.


Like many of us natives, a few hundred years ago mohua were quite common. They weren’t built to survive rats and stoats though, and now this beautiful, bright bird is counted among New Zealand’s threatened species. Luckily, they’re quite good at reproducing (unlike a certain large, green, flightless parrot :<>) so, if we can get rid of the nasties that have caused their decline, then mohua have a good chance of recovery.

Mohua in a tree: photo from the Department of Conservation.

Mohua/yellowhead in a tree.

So there you have it, a quick profile of some of the competition that kākāpō are up against for Bird of the Year. Remember to vote before October 10 and let me know in the comments what your favourite New Zealand bird is (after the kākāpō of course!)

Skraaarrrk!  You’ve probably already noticed that as the Spokesbird for Conversation I’ve been running a photo contest to celebrate people and parks for Conservation Week 2012.

Well, after a frenzied voting period on my Facebook page to get our top ten photos, my pal (and internationally recognised nature photographer extraordinaire) Rob Suisted has chosen the winner. Boom-roll please…


Congratulations Jill Hoffman from Invercargill!

Photo of three children tramping in the Iris Burn Valley, Kepler Track, Te Anau with a rainbow in the background.

Early morning in the Iris Burn Valley, Kepler Track, Te Anau

Rob says…

“To me this photo captures a great interaction with one of our National Parks and wild places – a beautiful location, well framed, lots of interest, great lighting and mood. Well done”

DOC says…

“The Kepler Track is a a great track for you and your family, especially if you love the outdoors, want an adventure with a bit of a physical challenge that is not too hard to get to and has excellent facilities. The scenery is just spectacular as evidenced by this beautiful photo. Good work Jill.”

So, a big boom to you Jill! You are the winner of the amazing Fiordland adventure.

Rob also chose two other photos that he thought deserved honourable mentions.

Honourable Mentions

Greta File, Napier

A beautiful early morning view from the long drop. A cold winter morning in the Kaweka forest is greeted by the early morning sun melting the frost atop of the Makino Hut.

A beautiful early morning view from the long drop. A cold winter morning in the Kaweka forest is greeted by the early morning sun melting the frost atop of the Makino Hut.

Rob says…

“I think this image has the strongest pure photographic qualities of the selection – It has strong composition, is bravely shot into the light, slightly mystical, and it doesn’t fully reveal its subject, there by allowing the viewer to ponder it.”

DOC Says…

Kaweka Forest is a backcountry park that offers everything from rafting, canoeing, and fishing to hot springs, hunting and tramping. An array of huts are on offer – like Makino Hut which has been gloriously captured by Greta in this shot”

Christel van Krieken, Gisborne

Harakeke in flower, Punakaiki; the gateway to Paparoa National Park.

Harakeke in flower, Punakaiki; the gateway to Paparoa National Park

Rob says…

“I liked the textures and colours with this. If the photographer had have lifted the camera a little the mid ground would have revealed itself more and given a stronger sense of depth, something that’s important when shooting in high sunlight in the middle of the day when less shadow reduces form to an image.”

DOC Says…

“Limestone cliffs and canyons, caves and underground streams, and an absolutely spectacular coastline, are all packed into Paparoa National Park. Paparoa’s luxuriant coastal forest is on display in this image from Christel.”

A corkboard with the other photos, in polaroid format, that made it in to the top ten.

The other photos that made it into the top ten of the photo contest

So, that’s the end of my competition, but that doesn’t mean we should stop enjoying New Zealand’s great parks. So keep taking those photos and share them with me.

Rob Suisted with a South Georgia elephant seal pup.

Rob Suisted with a South Georgia elephant seal pup resting on his legs

A big thanks to Rob for lending us his time and expert eye to help us find our winner. Rob has a passion for the parks and the wild places of New Zealand and was therefore a great choice to judge our contest.

Rob is an internationally respected wilderness and nature photographer. He has published many books and calendars, and his photos have featured on countless magazine covers.

Rob also runs a very successful image library of over 50,000 of his own NZ natural images. You can learn more about his work and view some of his beautiful photos on his site

Image of Sirocco with a camera.

Vote for your favourite photos in my photo contest

Update: Voting is now over. The winner will be announced soon.Skrraaarrrkk! To celebrate the 2012 Conservation Week theme of “Love Your Parks” I have been running a photo competition on my Facebook page asking you to submit your best “people loving parks” photo.

As a parrot of the night I don’t get many opportunities to see New Zealand’s fantastic parks in the day light – except the undergrowth – but this photo contest was a great way to change that!

Amongst the great snapshots I have received from all over New Zealand are people enjoying glaciers, beaches, mountains, and even our tussock grasslands. The entries reflect how much you all love getting out and using our parks.

Image of Sirocco's Facebook page and the photo contest tab.

Head to my Facebook page to cast your vote

Entries for the competition closed on Sunday, but there is still time to head over and vote for your favourite photo, so wing it on over to my contest page and get voting. To cast your vote head to the competition tab on my Facebook page. You’ll need to have logged into your Facebook account and “liked” my page. Voting closes this Wednesday night.

Voting in my contest will make sure that the very best photos make it into the top ten. These top ten photos will go to my photographer pal Rob Suisted, for professional judging, and he’ll pick the winner.

Sirocco's "Show Me Your Parks" contest banner image.

My photo contest celebrated the theme for Conservation Week 2012,
“Love Your Parks”

Boom! Didn’t get your entry in? You can still share with me your amazing photos on my Facebook page – or check out my photography tips on the DOC website to learn how to get the perfect snap!

The giveaway is now closed. The lucky winner is Margaret Brown from Wainuiomata. Thanks for your comments everyone.

Skraaaaarrrk! Sirocco: The Rock-Star Kakapo book will be launched on Friday and, thanks to Random House NZ, I’ve got a copy to give away.

“Aimed at children, but equally appealing to adults, Sirocco: The Rock-Star Kakapo by Sarah Ell, tells the story of the remarkable parrot who has become a worldwide sensation.” 

Did you read that? I’m a remarkable parrot! I’m a worldwide sensation! Boom! Truthfully, we already knew that though, didn’t we? 

“Following his journey from sick chick to conservation superstar, the book also features more specific information about kakapo and the recovery programme.” 

I’ve always said, “No kakapo is an island”. It’s nice to know that my kakapo mates, and the recovery programme, get a shout out in my story. 

“With royalties from the book going to Kakapo Recovery, readers can enjoy Sirocco’s story whilst also knowing they are playing their part to aid his species’ recovery.”

So, even if you don’t win a copy, you should probably buy one. Kakapo Recovery, and your coffee table, will thank you for it. 

To be in to win a copy of Sirocco: The Rock-Star Kakapo, leave a comment on this post before 12 noon, Thursday 6 September 2012, telling me why you want the book. A winner will be selected at random and contacted by email. 

The giveaway is open to everyone, except employees of the Department of Conservation, Random House New Zealand, and their immediate families. 

Good luck! 

Sirocco: The Rock-Star Kakapo is valued at $24.99 and will be available from all good bookstores nationwide.

Join Sirocco as he lends a beak with frog monitoring on Maud Island.

Continue Reading...

Voting has closed. Read about our winner.

The judges have chosen the top five entries. Now it’s up to you to pick the winner!

The judges – Sirocco the rock star kakapo and Simon (the mad morepork) Owl – have chosen the top five entries

The grand finale

This is it. The grand finale of “Remix my mates during NZ Music Month and make me a bona fide rock star!”

At the end of this week long voting extravaganza our winner will be crowned.

The judges say ‘In the woods’ by Matt Oliver has a slight edge, but we all know these things rarely go the way the judges expect.

It’s going to be a spectacle of epic proportions – and the decision is in your hands.

Bird call

First up, let’s welcome to the page, Shayne Burrows of New Plymouth with ‘Bird call’.

Shane mixed the bird calls from the DOC website with his own music to create this mellow groove.

Bird call, Shayne Burrows (MP3, 2,733K)

The judges say:

“Best performance of the night, so far”

“Dawg, we got a hot one!”

In the woods

Now, please give a warm welcome to London based New Zealander Matt Oliver with ‘In the woods’.

Except for the tui all the bird song came from the DOC website. Everything else is composed or sampled by Shane. There is a track of cicadas and wood hammering noises heard and recorded from his mum and dad’s place in Auckland – the definitive sounds of New Zealand perhaps?!

In the woods, Matt Oliver (MP3, 4,034K)

The judges say:

“This guy is in it to win it!”

“I am in awe. Very hot dope cool track.”

King Kakapo & the Waipoua Posse

Next, let me introduce Wellingtonian Joey Hobbs!

Joey (aka Absalom) drew inspiration from the sound of desperation in the kakapo call. He gives us some pretty heavy, low key dubstep using bird song from the DOC website. So, without further ado, let’s get into ‘King Kakapo and the Waipoua Posse’!

King Kakapo & the Waipoua Posse, Joey Hobbs (MP3, 5,654K)

The judges say:

“You slayed it dude”

“Well, hellfire, save matches, love a kakapo and see what hatches!”

Moimoia (dream/memory)

And all the way from sunny Nelson, please put your hands together for Liiiiiiaaaaaam Rryaaaan with ‘Moimoia’, remixing the sweet, sweet sounds of New Zealand’s only surviving native owl, the morepork/ruru.

Moimoia (dream/memory), Liam Ryan (MP3, 6,118K)

The judges say:

“Love when you break into your morepork/ruru what-it-is-ness.”

“From my melodic sensibility, it was really delicious.”

Sirocco’s theme

Finally, to finish off this perfect page of performances, let’s hear it for another Liam. Heeeere’s Liam White, with ‘Sirocco’s theme’. And, with a title like that, there is nothing, nothing, more to say. Take it away Liam!

Sirocco’s Theme, Liam White (MP3, 5,460K)

The judges say:

“It’s a work of art, a thing of beauty… and I will finish that off with a double helping of ooh-yeah.”

“You slammed it.”

The unique melodies of the tui proved to be popular with our remix artists

So, there you have it folks. Your top five!

Both Simon Owl and my good kakapo self were completely blown away by all the entries. People have done amazing things in a very short time. And we weren’t only impressed because so many people featured the morepork and kakapo!

We’ve got something special here folks. Our birds, our music, our identity – be proud.

You’ll be able to check out all 14 entries after the winner is announced on Monday 20 June but, right now, you need to vote for your favourite!

Who do you think is worthy? Let us know in the comments and be sure to cast your official vote over on

Voting closes Friday 17 June at 12.00 pm New Zealand Standard Time.

Read my ‘Remix my mates during NZ Music Month and make me a bona fide rock star!’ post.

It’s time to vote. Check out my lastest blog post!

Skraaark! To celebrate New Zealand music month, and to raise the profile of New Zealand’s avian songsters, I’m putting out the call for the musically talented to remix the wonderful sounds of New Zealand’s unique birds. It’s a competition people!

tr. v. re·mixed, re·mix·ing, re·mix·es
To recombine (audio tracks or channels from a recording) to produce a new or modified audio recording:
remixed a popular ballad and turned it into a dance hit.

New Zealand birds obviously have charisma and good looks (especially us kakapo), and everyone knows we’ve got a unique sound, but nothing’s really ever happened with our music… and we don’t want to have to go out and get real jobs. Sitting in trees sounding awesome is just fine by us.

As I dwelt on our undeniable greatness, the reason for our failure dawned on me – we are yet to release a really great track. It’s not that we don’t have anything to release, New Zealand birds have been recorded time and time again, but something that Simon Owl said to me recently has just stuck in my head. He said to me, “I think we need to get with the times Sirocco”.

I pressed him for more information, but all he could say when he took off his headphones was “dubstep, dubstep, dubstep”. I thought he was a little mad until I did some research and my eyes were opened to the possibilities! I reckon that my booming, and Simon’s hooting, would go really well with a bit of ‘wob-wob-wob-wob’ dubstep… what do you think?

We need someone who can take our sounds and turn them into something banging! Are you that person? If you think you’re up for the challenge why not dust off the MPC, or that Stratocaster that’s been sitting in the corner of your room, and do your worst?!

Sirocco the rockstar kakapo. Photo: Mike Bodie.

Sirocco the rockstar kakapo

Feel free to draw on any member of SAVE – the Society of Avian Vocal Entertainers – and even a bit of yourself if you like too!

Get your remixes in to me by the end of New Zealand Music Month (31 May 2011) and, together with our very special guest judge – the mad morepork Simon Owl, I’ll choose the track most likely to make me (and you if you’re lucky) a star!

The top entries will be posted on the Department of Conservation website and our adoring fans will have an opportunity to vote for their favourite.

The remix that is voted the best will be showered with gorgeous gifts* and forever benefit from the profile afforded them as a result of their close association with famous, cuddly, adorable, sexy me! And who knows, the television appearances, radio play and recording contracts might just start rolling in… bona fide rock star status achieved! Winning!
So, email me

  • Your contact details
  • The title of your track
  • A great sound file (video optional):
    • No longer than 5 minutes
    • No bigger than 10 MB
    • MPEG4 for video and MP3 for audio
  • An acknowledgement of the people/organisations who contributed to your remix – we need to share the glory.

Here are some resources to start you off but, feel free to cast your net wider:

I feel this is the start of something great! Be a part of it.

* Okay, showered with gifts might be an exaggeration but you will receive a copy of the brilliant Unnatural History of Kakapo DVD and a copy of Alison Ballance’s amazing book Kakapo: Rescued From the Brink of Extinction. Oh, and did I mention the glory?

Read the competition terms and conditions