“SIT back, relax, and enjoy not being on the ferry.” The casual, friendly and informative message to his passengers from our Stewart Island pilot, did nothing to reassure the nervous passenger sat directly in front of me.

I can only assume he knew what to do if the little plane had ditched into the Foveaux Strait on our 20-minute flight. I did. But it was not necessary.

The little plane did buck and rear a trifle on the flight, but when we met up with several green-faced passengers from the Stewart Island ferry, I realised we had taken the best option on that particular day.

In fact, later in the afternoon, the ferry was cancelled. And the flights. But we were safe on terra firma, at least until the flight back the following day.

Twice we have visited Ulva Island as we found it such a fascinating haven for New Zealand’s native plant and bird life.

An intensive and ongoing programme to eradicate rats has proved very successful in regenerating plant life and bird populations.

As rats are not native to New Zealand, birds and plants have no defence against these omnivorous invaders. But now they are gone on this one particular island, native species are flourishing.

Many of the bird species are fearless and cluster around your feet hoping that your footsteps will disturb some tasty insect meal.

Until last night I thought that the birdlife here was only indigenous. But outside our room door I heard a strangely familiar sound and was delighted to find a couple of hens scratting around in the borders of the garden outside our room.

Unlike the manager who came scuttling out of her office to shoo them away. “Don’t encourage them,”she told me. “They’re a pest digging up the plants.”

Poor little hens. Clearly seen as unwanted aliens. A potential slur on the purity of Stewart Island birdlife. Not that I think one of the nosy weka or reclusive brown kiwi would be threatened by them. It made me quite homesick for my own little flock of hens.

But some of the homesickness was banished by the islands enthusiastic support for St Patrick’s Day celebrations.

Green wigs, green beards, green hats and a variety of leprechaun outfits crowded into the one and only hotel on the island. More specifically, the bar.