Gerhard Mueller, first district surveyor for south Westland, camped at the mouth of the Waitangitaona River on New Year’s Eve in 1865. He was the first European to find the white heron colony, and wrote this description:
‘About six miles up the River branched in many small arms, and my progress was put an end to by large trees lying across. Dense bush on both sides of the River, the beautiful Kowhai trees abounding and almost all shrubs in flower, made this a real pleasure trip. But the crowning beauty was a cranery which I discovered up the river, and that was a glorious sight ... imagine seeing around you from 50 to 60 [white cranes], sitting on high pines and lower trees, in a circle of about 150 yards, their pure white feathers shining in the sun. ... They were not at all shy [and] kept up a continual ‘plappering’ among themselves, and seemed to be astonished at me more than afraid.’
My dear Bannie: Gerhard Mueller's letters from the West Coast, 1865–6, edited by M. V. Mueller. Christchurch: Pegasus, 1958, pp. 98–99
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