After travelling by boat, plane, van and helicopter, nearly 50 white-faced storm petrels have arrived on Mana Island from Rangatira Island.

“I’m absolutely chuffed, I’ve spent the last month worrying about the weather!” Friends of Mana Island President John McKoy said.

The journey from the Chatham Islands to the predator-free Mana Island off the coast of Porirua is a distance of nearly 800km.

Department of Conservation principal science advisor Graeme Taylor said it’s the first attempt in New Zealand to transfer storm petrels from island to island, and most likely in the world.

“We’re very supportive of this project, it’s part of the restoration of Mana Island, getting sea birds back here breeding,” he said.

Mr Taylor said it’s believed the white-faced storm petrel Cook Strait colony was based on Mana Island, before people first inhabited the island more than a thousand years ago.

FOMI President John McKoy said the mission is the pilot attempt for future translocations of the species, with an aim to relocate 250 chicks from Rangatira Island over the next three years.

“It’s all about our cunning plan to get the island back to something like the original Cook Strait ecosystems,” he said.

“The more sea birds we have on the island the better over time because they bring nutrients on to the land.”

Seabirds already on the island unintentionally create homes for tuatara and insects when they make burrows.

When they breed on land, nutrients from the food they eat at sea boosts the soil and survival of other animals when they poo, regurgitate food, and through egg shells.

Bringing the chicks to Mana Island has taken several years of discussions with Hokotehi Moriori and Ngati Mutunga [Chatham Islands], Ngati Toa [Mana Island] and Department of Conservation, as well as sorting out the logistics of the transfer.

Biologist Cathy Mitchell hand-selected the chicks from Rangatira Island based on their age and weight, the ideal size being 45 grams.

“They’re very delicate little birds, particularly delicate as far as sea birds go,” Mr McKoy said.

The six- to seven-week-old chicks will be fed sardine smoothies and given a check-up on the island by rostered FOMI volunteers for up to 15 days.

When the birds are thought to be big enough to emerge in around a week, the gates on their man-made burrows will be opened, giving them the choice to leave the island, for life at sea for several years, when they are ready.

“We estimate that about 60 per cent of the birds that fledge from Mana Island will survive their first year at sea,” DOC principal science advisor Graeme Taylor said.

Mr Taylor said based on the translocation of other sea birds to Mana Island, it’s estimated 10 to 40 per cent of the total 250 birds will return to breed.

Others will return to Rangatira Island, or another predator-free island, he said.

At least 10, but ideally 20, breeding pairs are needed for the aim of establishing a breeding colony on Mana Island to be successful.

NZ robins lose fear of predators

New Zealand robin populations have been found to lose their fear of rats after only one generation in a predator-free environment, raising questions about the reintroduction of birds from island sanctuaries to the mainland.

Researchers Ian Jamieson and Karin Ludwig from Otago University compared robins on Stewart Island, where Norway rats are common, with birds on Ulva Island, where rats were eradicated in 1996.

The birds on Ulva are descendants of birds from the Stewart Island population, and Ulva does have native predators – the flightless weka and a native owl.

A report on the research, published in Animal Behaviour, said the Stewart Island robins were more agitated than the Ulva birds in the presence of a rat model, and were more hesitant about approaching mealworm food, which they tended to collect one at a time.

Many of the robins on Ulva appeared to show little fear or recognition of the model rat and were much less agitated and more likely to consume all five mealworms in a shorter time, despite the nearby model rat.

Vigilance and antipredator behaviour were costly for the birds, as they needed to be traded off against other activities, such as feeding or resting, the report said.

New Zealand robins appeared to possess proper antipredator behaviours, such as mobbing and alarm calling, but needed to learn to recognise a mammalian predator as a specific threat.

If experience were important to develop predator recognition, then isolation for just one generation would have a significant effect on the performance of a population. That seemed to be the case for Stewart Island robins reintroduced to rat-free Ulva, the report said.

“These results raise the question of whether established populations on island sanctuaries are appropriate sources for harvesting for reintroductions back to the mainland.”

While predator-naïve birds might be more likely to forage in the presence of a potential threat, as long as some individuals survived an initial attack that incident might be enough to restore predator recognition capabilities.

Original story on stuff.co.nz

Rare Hector’s dolphin seen in Wellington harbour

Press Release – Department of Conservation
A Hector’s dolphin – the world’s smallest and rarest marine dolphin – was spotted in Wellington harbour yesterday after last being seen in 2009.

The dolphin was sighted at Mahanga Bay yesterday afternoon by a member of the public, who reported the sighting to DOC today. They said that the dolphin had “spent about five minutes zooming under and around the boat (with the engine in neutral) before disappearing”. A spectator on shore reported seeing two dolphins, but only one animal was seen from the boat.

The first live record of a Hector’s dolphin in Wellington Harbour was in January 2009. Several sightings of the dolphin were made during the summer and autumn of 2009, with photo and video evidence taken, but there have been no further sightings in the harbour until now. There have been several sightings of possibly the same animal around the Kapiti coast last year.

full press release on scoop.co.nz

First wild kakī chick to hatch this season raises hope

Tuesday, 8 November 2011, 10:52 am
Press Release: Department of Conservation

First wild kakī chick to hatch this season raises hope

The first wild kakī/black stilt chick has emerged from its shell and raises hope after a disappointing start to the 2011 breeding season.

“With the hatching of this wild chick it is now starting to feel like the breeding season is underway. It has been a very late start. The first wild eggs would normally be hatching in October,” explained Liz Brown, DOC Aviculturist.

“We are also down on the number of eggs we are incubating this year at our Captive Breeding Centre in Twizel. We have 30 eggs currently incubating compared with a consistent tally of around 60 eggs over previous seasons,” states Liz.

“The captive birds have been laying later than normal both in Twizel and at Isaacs Wildlife Trust in Christchurch.”

A decline in nesting behaviour seems to be a general trend amongst all braided river birds this year. The region experienced snow in mid October which caused desertion of some nests. This was then followed by floods shortly after which delays re-nesting.

Every spring, native river birds flock to braided rivers to breed.

“From early September until late January those out enjoying braided rivers are asked to be considerate of our fragile nesting birds,” says Liz.

“They nest on the ground and can be very hard to see, especially from a 4WD vehicle. It is better for the birds welfare if you walk to your favourite angling spot rather than drive.”

“Birds that are swooping, circling or calling loudly probably have nests nearby. Move away so that they can return to their nests and look after their chicks.”

The wild egg was collected by Department of Conservation rangers from a pair of adult kakī nesting on braided river gravels. It has taken 25 days to hatch. More eggs collected from the wild are expected to hatch within a few days.

——————————————————————————————————————-

Background information

Kakī/Black Stilts are one of the rarest waders in the world. Threat classification is nationally critical.

Kakī were once common throughout New Zealand, now mostly found in Mackenzie/Waitaki basins

Other riverbed birds migrate in winter, kakī will stay in the braided rivers of Canterbury/North Otago high country and forage for food

Main threat to the population is predation by feral cats, stoats, weasels and ferrets. Hedgehogs will eat eggs.

Wild population was reduced to only 23 birds in 1981. In August 2011 the wild population was approx 170 birds.

Six adult breeding pairs are held in captivity. Four pairs are held in Twizel at the Captive Breeding Centre. Two pairs are held in Christchurch at the Isaacs Wildlife Trust.

http://www.doc.govt.nz/kaki

Dead kea dumped at Arthur’s Pass were shot

Wednesday, 17 August 2011, 9:48 am
Press Release: Department of Conservation

Dead kea dumped at Arthur’s Pass were shot

Preliminary autopsy results from five dead kea dumped near Arthur’s Pass have confirmed that the birds were shot.

The initial pathology report from Massey University said evidence pointed to the use of an air-rifle and a shotgun to kill the five kea.

DOC Field Centre Supervisor, Chris Stewart, said, “We are appalled by this sort of behaviour and we have referred the matter to the NZ Police.”

“Kea are endangered and their wild population could be as low as 1000 birds,” said Stewart.

The full report will not be available until later this week but the initial results will assist the Police and DOC with their ongoing enquiries.

“The results also showed that all five animals were young and healthy and could have gone on to contribute to future generations of the species”

Under the Wildlife Act, it is a criminal offence to kill kea. Offenders could face a $100,000 fine or six months in prison.

The birds were found piled up on a picnic table at Klondyke Corner in Arthur’s Pass on Monday morning last week. Anyone who was in the area around Klondyke Corner over the weekend of 6-7 August are asked to ring the NZ Police, the 0800 DOCHOTline – 0800 36 24 68 or the Arthur’s Pass Field Centre.

The incident occurred in the same week that a dead kea was dumped on the driveway of a DOC staff member on the West Coast. Early indications are that this bird was also shot and this case has been referred to the Police.

Three chilled fantails come in from the storm

Desperately cold wild fantails have made a nest of a South Canterbury home as the polar storm sweeping the country takes a huge toll on our birdlife.

Experts expect millions of birds to die as a result of the polar blast covering the country.

For Doug Sail in Hunter, 40 kilometres south of Timaru, the warmth of his dryer drew in three frozen fantails and he unwittingly saved their lives.

“I noticed them flying around the back door trying to get in. Occasionally they tried to fly in through the window and hit the glass.

“I needed to let the room air out and when I left the door open, all of a sudden there they were – three of them.”

He said the chilly birds made themselves quite at home and remained for about five hours.

“You couldn’t shoo them out, they wouldn’t go out through the open door.”

They were so determined to stay that when he shut the door to get them out, the birds simply found another way in.

“They flew in through the open toilet window. Then, thinking they were just cold, we decided to leave them”

As the creatures huddled together for warmth, Doug and his wife Emily Gilbert took photos and videos.

“It’s something I’ve never seen before. I was surprised at how tame they were.

“When my wife was taking a video clip of them, one of them landed on her camera while she was filming.”

Video and Full story on stuff.co.nz

Questioning Happy Feet, unhappy ending?

You’re out walking through forest or along a beach. You find an injured bird. Maybe you find many, maybe thousands, like residents of the Kapiti Coast did recently when a southerly storm delivered a “prion wreck” to our shores. What should you do?

The prion-wreck last month was a natural event. Prion-wrecks occur every 10-30 years or so, although this was a big one. Most were broad-billed prions and New Zealand is home to more than a million of them. They are also common in Argentina, Australia, Falkland Islands, Peru, South Africa and many of the islands in between.

Emperor penguins, like Happy Feet who recently stole our hearts and “swallowed” our cash, are also remarkably common in the wild with an enormous range across Antarctica. These species are not rare, vulnerable or endangered. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature lists them as of ‘least concern’.

Full story on stuff.co.nz

Related story: Happy Feet’s priceless publicity

Hundreds of weary birds picked up

Kapiti SPCA has been inundated with more than 500 sub-Antarctic prion seabirds blown ashore by storms.

Shelter manager Peter McCallum said the influx of broad-billed prions began on Monday when residents brought a few stragglers in, but by Tuesday they were arriving in droves.

Yesterday about 400 exhausted prions, which are plankton eaters, were brought to the shelter and tube fed a mixture of cat food mixed with saline to rehydrate them.

A Fastway courier offered to transport the first batch to a Wellington bird rescue organisation yesterday and more will go to other organisations around the region in the next few days.

Some prions normally straggle up from the southern oceans as far as Cook Strait, but with the present strong winds they are being found exhausted lying in driveways and on properties up to four kilometres from the coast.

Most have been between Pukerua Bay and Peka Peka but some were as far north as New Plymouth.

“On shore they get disoriented and distressed. They do not cope very well being on land,” Mr McCallum said.

About 80 were delivered to the shelter on Tuesday, and about 400 yesterday.

The shelter’s two staff and about 15 volunteers had been flat out, he said. “It has taken us over at the moment, with our normal work as well.”

He praised residents for saving the birds. “The people of Kapiti have been amazing. They could have easily just left them. It has been lovely seeing them picking them up and bringing them in. At least we can do something for the ones brought in.”

He expected the exhausted birds to be fed and to recuperate for three to four days before a mass release when the winds eased.

The Conservation Department said storms around the lower North Island had blown sea birds inland to areas where they were not typically seen. Most were prions and petrels and were believed to be younger birds not used to navigating stronger winds.

 

original story on stuff.co.nz

Rare kiwi is a star attraction

Pukaha Mt Bruce Wildlife Centre is reaping the financial rewards of having little white kiwi Manukura within its walls, with more than 1000 visitors paying to see him since he began public viewings only a month ago.

The kiwi, now two months old, attracted huge national and international attention when he was born at the centre from two North Island brown kiwi on May 1.

He was introduced to the world on May 26 and in the following two weeks was visited by 700 people.

His pure white colouring was the result of a recessive gene and he was believed to be the first all-white kiwi born in captivity. His parents were taken from Little Barrier Island, where there were a few other white kiwi and several with white patches.

Manukura could be viewed at the centre on Sundays only because of his nocturnal nature.

Field centre supervisor at Pukaha Mt Bruce, Kathy Houkamau, said the interest in Manukura had been incredible, with visitor numbers for June up 25 per cent from last year, but she could not put a figure on the financial impact.

“He’s pretty much tipped our world on its ear, it’s had a huge impact,” she said.

“It is helping with our revenue at a time of the year when we don’t expect it; it helps us to pay the bills.”

Winter was usually quiet at the centre, but the combination of a star attraction and mild weather had brought people to the centre in their droves.

People were learning more about kiwi and the challenges they faced through their experience with Manukura and were inspired to learn more.

Manukura had his own Facebook page with more than 1000 fans already, and he was generating a lot of interest off-shore.

One foreign visitor even wanted to buy Manukura as a pet for his mother – a request that was politely declined.

Many people inquired about whether or not another white kiwi could be born if the same parents were to breed again.

Ms Houkamau said the chances were quite slim.

“There is a good chance they will breed again,” she said. “There was no way we could’ve ever planned him [to be all white].”

 

story on stuff.co.nz

Keeping corals alive

Published 21 June 2011

Studying something that his children’s children may never see adds a certain urgency and poignancy to Simon Davy’s daily routine.

The United Kingdom-born associate professor in Victoria’s School of Biological Sciences is New Zealand’s only active coral symbiosis physiologist. His research focus is on the symbiotic relationship between algae and invertebrates, such as corals, and coral bleaching and disease.

Coral reefs cover just a fraction of the planet—estimated to be an area about the size of New Zealand—but are a vital part of the marine eco system and the economies of communities that rely on them for food, fish, building materials and tourism dollars.

“It’s old news to us that the reefs are going to die within 50 to 100 years,” says Dr Davy. “Climate change is the longer term threat but pollution and practises such as dynamite fishing are, if anything, a bigger problem because they are working much faster.”

Some years back, Dr Davy and a colleague were the first scientists to discover viruses in corals and the breakthrough sparked his interest in the broader topic of coral diseases.

He says corals are highly complex. They contain tiny algae which process light energy and provide the host with essential nutrients. When water temperatures rise, the micro-algae are expelled and the coral loses its colour and may die.

Full story from the Victoria research team.

The right time for southern right whales

Press Release: Department of Conservation

The Department of Conservation is calling on the public to take photos and report any sightings of southern right whales along the New Zealand coastline.

Photos collected through public sightings are being used to support the Otago University research looking at photo identification and the movement patterns of these whales.

Any southern right whale sightings should be reported immediately to the DOC hotline, 0800 DOCHOT (0800 36 24 68). If photos are taken, instructions will be given on how to upload these to the Department’s Flickr page.

The Department’s response to public sightings from past years provides data for research being conducted by Auckland University and Otago University. Photos will give the Department information to better understand and protect the whales.

Dr. Will Rayment, leader of Otago University’s research programme, says pictures sent in by the public are really useful for investigating how southern right whales move around in New Zealand’s coastal waters.

Previously, genetic research was relied on to study the whales’ movement from the Subantarctic Islands to the mainland. Dr Rayment says photos from last year enabled confirmation of this link between the two regions.

full media release on Scoop.co.nz

Stunning photopraph of a Southern Right Whale (large image and story)

Zealandia no sanctuary for kakariki

Rare kakariki have fallen prey to falcons at wildlife sanctuary Zealandia.

Conservation manager Raewyn Empson said staff believed there was just one pair of native falcons at the sanctuary, but they were believed to be responsible for attacks on two kakariki.

New Zealand falcons are rarer than kiwi, and can catch prey while flying – sometimes at speeds of up to 230kmh.

“They are our top predator so they will take various items of prey, primarily birds.”

Falcon pairs were absent from Wellington for decades, but their return has come at a cost. Two years ago four falcon chicks fledged at Zealandia, while last year one did.

Falcons found their way to the predator-proof sanctuary in 2009, when their successful breeding attempt made them the first pair to breed in Wellington since the 1970s.

However, juveniles are thought to stray far from their parents and were not thought to be responsible for bird deaths at the sanctuary.

Last year, a bellbird was killed at the sanctuary, and now two red crowned kakariki are thought to have suffered the same fate. “One got caught and taken away, we don’t know what happened. The other one, just a pile of feathers were found. Unfortunately no legs.”

The kakariki were likely to have been young birds, and others watching the events would have learnt valuable lessons, Ms Empson said.

“All it takes is a couple of instances and the rest think, ‘Oh, better watch out for that one’.”

Full story on Stuff.co.nz

Wingspan Birds of Prey Trust

http://www.nzfalcon.org.nz/

Emperor penguin visits the Kapiti Coast

Large version of photograph

Press Release: Department of Conservation

Kapiti Coast residents have been treated to a rare visit by an emperor penguin. There is only one other recording of an emperor penguin in New Zealand, at Southland’s Oreti Beach in the 1967.

The Department of Conservation advises that people should not disturb the penguin and ensure that dogs are kept on leads in the area. Penguins can give vicious bites if they feel threatened. If left alone it is expected that the bird will eventually swim back out to sea.

It is not known why these birds that reside in the Antarctic would visit New Zealand shores.

“It’s amazing to see one of these penguins on the Kapiti Coast,” said DOC biodiversity spokesperson Peter Simpson.

“Unusual animals from the Antarctic sometimes visit our shores, but we really don’t know why”,

Department of Conservation staff were first alerted by Kapiti resident Christine Wilton who was walking her dog on Monday afternoon at Peka Peka Beach.

“I saw this glistening white thing standing up and I thought I was seeing things,” Ms Wilton said.

She contacted DOC’s Waikanae office and rangers went to investigate. They saw what looked like a big white ball in the sand. It stood up, looking quite relaxed and in good condition. It was later confirmed that the majestic visitor is a juvenile emperor penguin standing at about 1 metre tall.

Emperor penguins are the largest penguins, adults reaching more than a metre tall and weighing up to 30kg. They feed on fish, krill, squid and a wide range of marine invertebrates and hold the diving record at 450 metres deep and 11 minutes underwater.

If members of the public see this emperor penguin at another beach or to report unusual or injured marine animals contact the DOC HOTline: 0800 362 468.
Visit www.doc.govt.nz for more information on penguins.

Story on Scoop.co.nz

Story and video on Stuff.co.nz

The Nature Collection

NZ ON SCREEN

To celebrate NZ’s unique natural taonga, Peter Hayden has curated a highlights collection from three decades of NHNZ productions. Aotearoa’s landforms and its magnificent menagerie of natural oddities – birds, insects, trees like nowhere else on the planet – are showcased in 15 award-winning titles. From Discovery Channel and David Bellamy, to Wild South and Our World classics.

Read More ›

NZ

White kiwi chick graduates from nursery

Thursday, 2 June 2011, 12:13 pm
Press Release: Pukaha Mount Bruce

White kiwi chick

Manukura, the white kiwi chick hatched on 1 May at Pukaha Mount Bruce, yesterday got its first feel for the outside world when it graduated from the centre’s kiwi house nursery to an outdoor enclosure in the forest reserve.

After reaching its required weight and all the expected milestones, including eating on its own, the chick was moved to a predator-proof enclosure in the Pukaha native reserve where 12 other chicks have been raised this season.

Manukura was the 13th of 14 kiwi chicks hatched at the National Wildlife Centre this breeding season, the most successful there ever. The 14thchick remains will remain in the kiwi house nursery for the next week.

Thought to be the first white kiwi chick hatched in captivity, Manukura will remain in the outdoor enclosure for the next 4-6 months subject to its behaviour and welfare. Visitors to the centre will be able to see the special kiwi each Sunday at 2pm after he has been weighed by Department of Conservation (DOC) rangers.

When the fertile egg was retrieved from the Pukaha native forest and brought into captivity with others to be incubated and hatched, DoC staff at the national wildlife centre had no inkling as to what was inside. When he saw the white chick hatch, captive breeding ranger Darren Page said his first thought was “oh this one’s going to create a stir.”

Pukaha Mount Bruce manager Kathy Houkamau said staff excitement and global interest in Manukura had been matched by that of visitors on seeing the white chick. “We have had good crowds through over the past week and people have been genuinely thrilled to have the opportunity to see it. People see it as a sign of good things.”

A Facebook page to track Manukura’s progress has been set up by the centre.

Background information and photos on scoop.co.nz

Rare all-white kiwi chick caps a spectacular breeding season

Press Release: Pukaha

We are delighted to let you be the first to know of the hatching of a white kiwi chick at Pukaha. As far as we know this is the first hatched in captivity and definitely the first hatched at Pukaha. This exciting event marks the end of the most successful kiwi breeding season in Pukaha’s history with a total of 14 chicks hatched.

The all-white chick is not an albino but the rare offspring off kiwi that were transferred from Little Barrier Island to Pukaha in May last year. The intention of the transfer was to increase the kiwi gene pool and grow the population in the long-term so we are delighted with this great result. The chick is a North Island Brown kiwi that is white.

Local iwi and Pukaha Mount Bruce partner, Rangitane o Wairarapa, has named the chick Manukura which means chiefly status. Rangitane chief executive and Pukaha board member, Jason Kerehi, said tribal elders saw the white chick as a tohu or a sign of new beginnings.

“Every now and then something extraordinary comes along to remind you of how special life is. While we are celebrating all 14 kiwi hatched this year, Manukura is a very special gift.”

Your chance to see Manukura in our kiwi house

Manukura will be in the kiwi nursery until the end of May where you may view it being weighed daily at 2.00pm. It will remain in captivity with our other chicks for at least four to six months and there will be the opportunity to for regular viewings while it is being cared for. The health and safety of this very special chick is our priority.

Please feel free to phone ahead to make sure it is available. We would love to see you.

www.pukaha.org.nz

Let wonderfully weird kakapo die – scientist

It might not be worth trying to save the kakapo, the critically endangered native bird that has been on the brink of extinction for decades, an Australian scientist says.

Instead, resources should go into saving species that have more chance of recovering and surviving in the evolving environment.

“It’s a wonderfully weird creature and it’s a shame that we will probably lose it regardless of any interventions. Harsh, but somebody’s got to say it,” said Cory Bradshaw, of the University of Adelaide’s director of ecological modelling.

Using a mathematical formula, Professor Bradshaw and colleagues from Adelaide and James Cook University, in northern Queensland, created a new index called Safe (Species’ Ability to Forestall Extinction), which ranks the probability of animals becoming extinct based on population.

The index goes a step further than the Red List of Threatened Species, produced by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, which ranks animals and plants in categories from safe to critically endangered.

“It really comes down to accounting, are we deliberately or inadvertently losing hundreds if not thousands of species by putting money into species that are a lost cause? That doesn’t mean we go out and knock every one on its head though,” Professor Bradshaw said.

Other endangered animals that could be left to die off because of unsustainable population levels, according to the index, include Australian’s hairy-nosed wombat and the Javan rhinoceros.

The Conservation Department said it would look at the merits of the index but said it would continue to support the Kakapo Recovery Programme.

“DOC is very proud of the work that’s been done to save the kakapo and we’ve no intention of letting them go,” spokesman Chris Pitt said.

Full story on stuff.co.nz

ERRRRRR, YEA RIGHT  ……