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!