A good walk for birders. Lake Tutira captures your attention with its picturesque beauty and overwhelming serenity. Take your time here.
Tracks are closed for lambing during August and September.
Lake Tutira is 45 km north of Napier along SH2.
The start of the track is signposted from the campground and parking area by the entrance to Lake Tutira. There are toilets and large grassed areas with shade.
Following the lake edge, this circular walk is pleasantly shaded by the lake edge vegetation and is a good opportunity to witness the resident birdlife.
Together with its diminutive neighbour, Lake Waikopiro, the lakes covers nearly 500 hectares. They were formerly joined by a swamp, which became indecipherable when lake levels were high. Trout were released in the early 1900s, but numbers dwindled with the growth of oxygen weed in the 1960s. Plankton blooms as a result of aerial top dressing further deteriorated the water quality. Massive initiatives to reoxygenate the water focused on stirring up the lake bed sediment to encourage the propagation of native rushes, sedges and reeds. These have met with some success and today the waters are relatively clear and pristine.
Some of the birds which may be encountered include:
These elegant birds are numerous on the lake and are perfectly harmonious with their setting. Their red bills with a white band near the tip contrast with the coal black feathers. They are fiercely territorial. Be wary in the July to October nesting season, as the boisterous males are particularly protective over their grey furred signets and may charge you amid wing flaps and neck gestures. Give them a wide berth. They were introduced from Australia as a game bird in the 1860s, but also reached New Zealand under their own steam. Their vegetarian diet of roots and stems is abundant at Lake Tutira and they devour the aquatic weeds.
Black swans were introduced from Australia in the 1880s and have now become naturalised to New Zealand. They inhabit Lake Tutira in large numbers. Black Teal are known as the ‘Gentlemen of the lake’ and were noted by Guthrie-Smith as being playful.
The ubiquitous mallard feeds opportunistically on whatever detritus it can find. These pigs of the avian world find food from many sources and are prolific breeders.
New Zealand scaup (Aythya novaeseelandia)
These are diminutive dark birds with a beady yellow eye. They are social birds and live in loose colonies, performing elaborate courtship displays in spring. They can dive to depths of 2 metres and ducklings can even stay submerged for 30 seconds. Their numbers have dwindled because of habitat destruction, but at Lake Tutira a small population thrives.
White faced heron (Ardea novaehollandiae novaehollandiae)
The white faced heron only started breeding in numbers from the 1940s and underwent a population explosion in the 1960s. They have a ubiquitous diet, and delve easily into most wetland habitats. To feed, they rake their foot over the water to disturb the prey, which they snap in their pointed beaks.
In 1882, William Herbert Guthrie-Smith bought the land. As well as his farming duties, Guthrie-Smith was a keen naturalist, talented wildlife photographer, avid botanist and author. In 1911 he published Birds of the Water, Wood and Waste, which was followed in 1921 by his opus magna Tutira: The story of a New Zealand Sheep Station. This included a detailed description of the changes in vegetation due to sheep farming, landscape change, flooding, earthquakes and habitat destruction. His empathy with birds was lived out in his pet kereru, many of whom he nurtured from the station homestead.
The work is now seen as a classic in environmental history, one of the finest and most complete examinations of the minutiae of a particular location. It was far ahead of its time in terms of its attitudes towards conservation and environmentalism. Guthrie-Smith’s attention to detail, fascination with natural history and endearing style of writing have made the book world famous and planted the name ‘Tutira’ into common parlance.
North Island ▷ Hawkes Bay ▷ Tutira
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Thanks to all the good people working for the NZ Department of Conservation - for all your hard work - making NZ more beautiful, accessable and healthy! Cheers 😍