The Mystery of the Eleven Eggs

Eleven eggs in one nest?  A puzzle!   

We were tramping (the New Zealand word for “hiking”) in the Central Otago region of NZ.  This area has many cave-like tunnels created during gold mining in the 1800’s.

 

                         Central Otago Region, NZ 2/1/19

My husband was exploring inside these dark tunnels and he was  encouraging me to go in there with him.  I was adamant that I was not going into a manmade tunnel in an isolated area, especially in a country known for it’s earthquakes. It was not a good idea for him to go in there, either.

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                         Central Otago region, NZ 2/1/19

As he was coming out of a tunnel he caught a glimpse of a nest.  It was well hidden behind brush on the side of a wall.

We were surprised to find eleven eggs in this concealed, camouflaged home.

These eggs were large.  Much bigger than robin’s eggs, yet smaller than chicken’s eggs.  What bird is capable of laying eleven eggs?

At that moment, we saw a rabbit running over a hill.   Neither one of us wanted to consider the possibility of The Easter Bunny.  How foolish.  Yet, my husband and I just looked at each other, scratching our heads.

 

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                               Rabbit, Hokitika, NZ 2/5/19

One of the first things I noticed about NZ is the numerous, diverse birds and waterfowl native to this region. 

What kind of bird and what size of bird would lay these eleven eggs? 

We had no access to wifi so I couldn’t ask google questions. 

We did not disturb the eggs, spending a brief amount of time taking  photos.  One of the eggs appeared to have a crack in it.  This egg may have been damaged or a chick was ready to hatch.

 

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Central Otago region, NZ 2/1/19

We came across very few people on these trails, spending our day tramping in the desert-like hills.  When we met a couple of hikers, we did not share information about the nest or the eggs. We wanted to keep this bird’s secret hiding place safe. 

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                         Central Otago region, NZ 2/1/19

For the rest of the day we carefully scrutinized the different birds we saw.  We couldn’t imagine how any one of them could carry eleven  eggs.

In the evening we did have access to 100mb of wifi.  It was a faint, slow, inconsistent signal. Sometimes we could see words.  Other times we could see photos and words. We were hoarding our wifi mb and using them sparingly. 

A quick check into Messenger to see whether any new family news.  Then, our priority was to google “what bird in the Central Otago region of New Zealand lays eleven eggs?”

We compared our photo of the eggs to other pictures online.  We are quite certain that the eggs we found are from a Pukeko bird and more likely Pukeko birds.

 

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                       Pukeko Bird, Aukland, NZ 2/24/19

The Pukeko bird is very common and widespread in NZ.  Pukeko birds have a complex social life and a highly variable mating system. The birds may nest as monogamous pairs, polyandrous (one female, two or more males), polygynandrous (the male and the female have multiple partners) and polygynous (one male with multiple females, although the female will mate with only one male).  Are you still with me? 

 

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                       Pukeko bird, Aukland, NZ 2/24/19

Each female will usually lay four to six eggs.  A nest can contain as many as eighteen eggs. Multiple breeding females will all lay eggs in the same nest.  All group members contribute to chick care. Weblink    Link      

The eggs in this nest likely belonged to two or more Pukeko birds sharing the nest.

We learned Pukeko are very territorial and aggressive, especially when defending their offspring.  We didn’t see any birds near this nest. 

Even though Pukeko birds are abundant and widespread  throughout NZ, they are new to us. It was interesting to learn about their complex social groups with multiple breeding males and females. We were very fortunate to uncover this nest which prompted us to learn more about the native birds of NZ.  

We have solved The Mystery of the Eleven Eggs. 

As for us and our tramping adventures?  After 42 years I have learned that I cannot tell my husband what to do, even if I want to protect him and prevent any serious mishaps. 

I can only stand by, capture the photos, and be prepared to seek help if necessary. 

If any unfortunate predicaments do occur I will continue to be a caring, supportive, loving wife.

I will not say “I told you so.” 

 At least not out loud.

 

fullsizeoutput_7433                      Central Otago region, NZ 2/1/19

What do you do when you love Mussels as much as I do?

 

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You visit Havelock, New Zealand, the Green-lipped Mussel capital of the world. Definitely one of our favourite days exploring NZ!

This area is in the spectacular Marlborough Sounds region on the South Island of NZ.

 

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We left early on the Pelorus Mail Boat out of the town of Havelock.   This boat delivers mail, supplies and people to remote coastal areas.  There are no roads, ferries or cruise ships.

Living out west on Vancouver Island, we have had the opportunity to spend the day on mail boats.  It is a nice way to let someone else do the navigating and spend a relaxing day enjoying the scenery.  We were looking forward to a break from driving the challenging NZ roads.

 

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It was a gorgeous day, some areas calm, some windy with stunning scenery in every direction.

 

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The captain and guide were very kind, fun and knowledgeable about the history and wildlife in this area. 

The Green-lipped Mussels are endemic to NZ.  The name comes from the distinct emerald green colour of the shell.  They are sometimes called Green Shelled Mussels or NZ Mussels.  They may have anti-inflammatory health benefits for some people. (weblink)

We saw many mussel farms in the inlets of Marlborough Sounds.  Up until now, I have enjoyed eating mussels, although, I had no idea how mussels grow in the coastal waters.

 

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Spat (juvenile mussels) are collected, where they wash up attached to clumps of seaweed.   Spat arrive at a mussel farm and are transferred to ropes in seawater until about 6 months of age.  They are removed and then reseeded onto long stretches of rope, and grown for another 9 to 12 months.  They are then harvested. 

Most aspects of farmed and wild mussels are identical. The mussel farms are located in the same areas where wild mussels thrive.  Mussels require sheltered areas. There are over 600 mussel farms in NZ and they cover thousands of hectares of marine space. (weblink) (link)

We saw some boats go by carrying huge white bags.  Each of these bags contain over a ton of mussels.  These boats were obviously very low in the water.

 

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We stopped at a remote lodge for lunch.  Of course, we ordered the mussels. 

I bit down on a mussel to the sound of a crunch.  Was it a piece of shell or my tooth?  Hiding underneath the mussel was a pea-sized crab.  More on this later in a future story.

 

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We stopped for a hike on a secluded beach.  The only access to this area is by boat or helicopter.

 

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We came across colonies of beautiful, big seabirds called Gannets.

 

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We were introduced to a huge insect endemic to New Zealand called a Giant Weta.  It is described as a relatively harmless insect.  Only a few of them bite.  I didn’t know which side of the fence this Weta belonged, the biting or the nonbiting side.  And using the term “relatively harmless” does not make me feel better. 

 

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A highlight towards the end of the day was to have a large school of Bottlenose dolphins swim around us.  Even, Trish, the guide became very emotional. Although she travels these inlets every day,  she had never seen this many dolphins stay as long to play. 

 

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We have been surrounded by breathtaking scenery and incredible natural beauty in NZ.  Every day has been an adventure.  We have learned about the history of the Islands.  We have been fortunate to witness the diverse marine life and wildlife native to this country.

Exploring the Marlborough Sounds region on the Pelorus mail boat was definitely a highlight for us. It was one of our best days in New Zealand!

 

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And what will I continue to order for my favourite meal?  Mussels, of course!

 

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How much do you rely on Wifi, the Internet, Google?

 

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No wifi again.  This time for 5 days. 

The past few weeks in New Zealand have been filled with amazing adventures, exploring and long road trips.

 It was now getting to the end of our trip.  We arrived at Cook’s Lookout Motel, Paihia, an area called the Bay of Islands, the very north part of the North Island.

 

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The information about this motel had indicated access to wifi.  I had planned a couple of days of catching up.  Messenger and FaceTime with the family.  Surfing the internet.  I wanted to read the blogs I follow.  I was planning to research some information to add to my stories. 

The owner of the motel had a complicated story about major wifi glitches in this area the past few weeks.  No wifi for guests right now.

It was slightly disappointing.   Although, not unexpected.

Over the last two months in New Zealand we often have had minimal or no access to wifi.  Sometimes, we were allowed only 100mb of use. 

 

I really didn’t know how much I rely on the internet until it was no longer available:

  • Researching my husband’s spider bite:  symptoms;  should he see a doctor?
  • The weather forecast each day
  • Sending birthday wishes to friends and family
  • Is the Giant Weta harmful?
  • Names of bird species we encounter
  • Booking excursions
  • Opening times of attractions
  • Prices
  • Restaurant open/close times
  • Restaurant menus
  • Checking emails
  • Confirming our flights
  • World news
  • Who won best actor category at the Oscars?
  • What would you add to the list?

 

Version 2Giant Weta – “New Zealand’s most recognizable creepy-crawlies”   weblink 

 

Version 2Kea – species of large parrot found in the forested and alpine regions of the South Island of New Zealand  weblink

 

What did I do without wifi for 5 days?

  • I finished reading books I had started at the beginning of this trip.
  • I went swimming.
  • I did more tramping (New Zealand’s word for hiking).
  • I wrote stories.
  • I took photos.
  • I watched the sunrise and sunset.
  • I sat outside, breathing in the fresh sea air, truly enjoying the scenery.

 

 

Version 290 mile beach – North Island, New Zealand

Version 290 Mile Beach – North Island, New Zealand

 

Do I miss not having wifi?

We have gone camping in areas on the west coast of BC and in the Yukon where we were truly unplugged.  I plan for it, and I actually look forward to the respite from the online world.

 

Version 3Long Beach – Vancouver Island, B.C. Canada

 

My stress level and angst significantly decline when I am oblivious to the daily news, fake and otherwise.

Wifi affects almost every part of our lives now.  It is how we communicate, surf for information and often do our shopping and our banking.  Our entire vacation was researched, planned and booked using the internet.

 

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I did not miss access to wifi while we were on the Bay of Islands.

We were there for only five days.

The first thing I did when I arrived home?

I plugged in my computer. 

 

Postscript:  I wrote this story about one week ago while we were still in New Zealand.  We experienced a wonderful, life-changing adventure.  Everywhere we went we met kind, thoughtful New Zealanders.  I am deeply saddened by the tragedy in Christ Church this week.  My heart goes out to the victims, the victim’s families and all of New Zealand. Unfortunately, this is not fake news.