New Zealand has relatively few native bird species, however they are among the most wonderful songbirds anywhere. This soundscape features most of them.
We begin in the predawn, with a dawn chorus of Tuis and Bellbirds - almost certainly the magical, silvery songs that eighteenth century naturalist, Joseph Banks, described in his journal as "the most melodious wild musick I have ever heard".
Joining the dawn chorus we also hear Whiteheads, Stitchbirds and Saddlebacks, each rare endemic species with characterful voices.
However it is the Kokakos that steal the show. They are so rare it is a privilege to encounter them. Their slow and deliberate songs comprise pure tones, which feel somewhat sad and mournful to our ears. Here a pair sing antiphonally, their voices carrying through the bush like the mythical sirens.
Next, we visit New Zealand's ancient podocarp forests, to hear the magnificent Kakas. These playful, large cockatoos have exhilarating vocalisations; a variety of explosive rasps, liquid whistles, and intimate chuckles. We also hear native Robins in full voice, the delicate tinkling of the Tomtit, and the eerie wails of secretive Wekas.
Moving to the South Island, we encounter species restricted to those cooler habitats, including Brown Creepers, Riflemen, and the increasingly rare Yellowheads.
Finally, the iconic, nocturnal Kiwi. As dusk falls, Tuis fall silent and the first Morepork awakes. A Kiwi calls close by, while another walks steadily towards us with shuffling gait through the leaf litter. Passing within inches, it moves off into the night.
The story of New Zealand's birdlife is both sad and inspiring. Sad as they have lost some extraordinary species to extinction (Piopios, Huias, and the magnificent Moas). However, what remains, and you can hear on this recording, is wonderful indeed.
What we found inspiring is the commitment New Zealanders are putting into conservation efforts. Faced with an army of birdlife-destroying introduced predators - rats, mice, stoats, possums, foxes, cats - conservationists are setting aside sanctuaries, and using a variety of intensive strategies to re-establish bird populations. The results have been extraordinary, and these carefully nurtured locations are the best places to hear native New Zealand birdsong.
Interestingly, New Zealand is the only place in the world we have visited, where people took pride in (and actually rose early just to hear) their own dawn chorus.
This album is for all those 'kiwis' who continue to dedicate their efforts to protecting and restoring the wealth of their natural environment.
Andrew is a master wildlife field recordist. For over 30 years, he and partner / photographer Sarah Koschak have been
documenting the voices of the world's ecosystems and wild creatures. The resulting recordings have been published through their dedicated label: Listening Earth...more