When Kerikeri woman Laura Jerome was woken at 2am yesterday by the sound of something stomping around on her deck, her first thought was that an intruder was about to break in.
It was one of the rare nights that her husband was away so she fought back her fear, crept out of bed and flicked on the outside lights.
There, standing on her doorstep, so close she could have reached down and picked it up, was a kiwi.
"I could hear it stomping about. It was so loud it was like a human. I was absolutely terrified," she said.
Her terror turned to delight when she saw what was making the racket. She got her iPhone for a quick photo, then turned the lights off and left her visitor to go about its business.
Mrs Jerome still can't understand how the kiwi got onto her deck - it had to climb at least 10 steps - and why it wanted to spend at least an hour clomping around.
"It didn't look too delighted when I turned on the light, but it stayed for ages, wandering around, admiring the view."
She was worried it might forget it was flightless and take a plunge off the deck, which is 5m from the ground on one side. By morning, however, there was no sign of her nocturnal visitor.
How it got onto the Opito Bay property was another mystery. She and her husband have three dogs so the garden is thoroughly fenced, for the very reason that Opito Bay is a kiwi stronghold. The dogs are also kept inside at night.
Mrs Jerome said she heard kiwi most nights and had seen a few since moving to Opito Bay last year, but yesterday was the first time she had seen one on the deck.
Her only other close encounter with a kiwi was some years ago on Te Ahu Ahu Rd, midway between Kerikeri and Kaikohe.
"This huge kiwi was just standing in the middle of the road. I was scared someone would run him down so I stopped, and had to shoo him out of the way. He just stood there like a doofus. That was amazing too," she said.
Department of Conservation ranger Steve McManus said Bay of Islands residents were fortunate to live in an area with kiwi in their backyards.
However, with that privilege came responsibility. He urged all dog owners living in kiwi areas to keep their pets under control, especially at night. Kerikeri, and especially the area around Opito Bay and Doves Bay, is a stronghold of the North Island brown kiwi.