Great field report from Tim Prebble about his journey to Okarito, New Zealand to record kiwi sounds.
If you know anyone from New Zealand you will have likely heard the colloquial use of the word ‘kiwi’ – the kiwi is our national bird, and what a bird it is: sleeps all day, wakes about half an hour after sunset, and is rarely seen or heard…. I’ve spent almost my entire life obsessing about sound & yet I had never heard a kiwi vocalise with my own ears…. So when a friend visiting from Japan said he would like to ‘see’ a kiwi, I gently explained that unless you can see in the dark you do not usually see a kiwi & that most people who live in New Zealand have never actually seen a kiwi. He checked on TripAdvisor and discovered even people who visited a kiwi enclosure at a zoo in NZ complained that the ‘kiwis were all asleep’ – but really, what else would you expect, visiting a nocturnal bird during daylight hours?
Regardless it made me start researching: I wasn’t so interested in seeing a kiwi, but I would dearly love to hear one & preferably record it. Having suggested a field recording trip down the West Coast I was very happy to discover Okarito Kiwi Tours
I’ve made dozens of road trips down the West Coast, it may well be my favourite part of the country, but despite having driven past the turn off I had never actually been to Okarito. So I sent an email off to Ian Cooper, who runs Okarito Kiwi Tours and asked him what were the chances of us (a) doing a tour and (b) hearing & recording a kiwi. A few emails & phone calls later & we were confirmed, but with a caveat: his close relationship with the Rowi (Okarito kiwi) means he has over a 90% success rate of seeing kiwis, but hearing them was totally unpredictable. They may not voicalise at all on any given night, or they may sing once at 8pm or once at 3am… no guarantees but if we were keen he would do everything in his power to put us in the right spot to capture sound when/if they do vocalise… Challenge accepted!
Continue reading + listen at musicofsound