return of the LOST BIRDS

New Zealand Geographic, November/December 2018

Wilmshurst points out the spot near the entrance where she and Wood uncovered dozens of moa coprolites in 2009. They spent two days scraping away the surface soil and carefully extracting the layer of ancient poo underneath.

“Three different species parked up here. You can imagine them sort of reversing in out of the weather,” she says, shuffling bum-first into the cave wall and fluffing up imaginary feathers. In evolutionary time, 500 years is an eyeblink, a heartbeat. Not so long ago, Haast’s eagles and Eyles’s harriers swooped through these skies, laughing owls carried tiny flightless wrens back to this cave, a pair of moa sheltered here from a storm.