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.

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

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

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.