On a trip around the top half of the South Island last summer, a friend who
lives in Greymouth suggested that I visit New Zealand's only white heron
(kōtuku) breeding site, just north of Ōkārito.
The tour operator is White Heron Sanctuary Tours, based in a little town called Whataroa, about an hour south of Hokitika.
The tour starts with a 15-minute minibus ride followed by a 20-minute jet boat ride.
Ross Cottle reports on his visit to a white heron colony on the West Coast.
This takes you along a small section of backwater, which is only about 100 metres long, and this is where the birds breed.
There is a viewing hide about 50 metres from the birds so you can get
right up close to them.
The breeding season runs from about December to late February and you can see chicks in various stages of growth. There were also royal spoonbills nesting as well as wood pigeons (kererū) close by.
The area is a Department of Conservation reserve, and White Heron Sanctuary
Tours is the only tour company allowed to access the breeding colony.
It was one of the highlights of my trip.