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.

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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.

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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.

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