Kakariki breeding on Motutapu 1st time in 100 yrs

December 3, 2009

Click for big version

Kakariki breeding on Motutapu for first time in 100 years

They’ve been gone for more than 100 years, but last week, a family of red-crowned parakeets was spotted flying down from the trees in a peaceful gully on Motutapu.

Luis Ortiz-Catedral, parakeet specialist and Massey University PhD student, says one of the birds was clearly a recently fledged juvenile that must have hatched on the island.

“I estimate it fledged about two weeks ago considering the size of the tail, the colouration of the beak and also because it was still being fed by its parents,” he says.

Red-crowned parakeets — one of five main species of kakariki — were recorded on Motutapu in September by the Ornithological Society of New Zealand (OSNZ). The OSNZ conducts bird surveys for the Motutapu Restoration Trust every year. Mr Ortiz-Catedral joined them last week to look for signs of breeding parakeets.

Only the male of the pair was banded, and had been released on nearby pest-free Motuihe eight months ago.

Motutapu and Rangitoto are on their way to becoming pest-free after the Department of Conservation began a two-year campaign to rid the islands of seven remaining mammalian pests in June this year.

Full story on scoop

Wildlife deaths to be investigated further by DOC

Scoop: Wildlife deaths to be investigated further by DOC

The Department of Conservation is concerned about recent dolphin deaths in the Hauraki Gulf, and has commissioned toxicology tests to try to determine how they died.

Necropsy tests on the dolphins to date indicate that the deaths were not related to the rat poison, brodifacoum, used by DOC in its recent restoration programme on Rangitoto and Motutapu islands.

Massey University holds samples from the dead dolphins and DOC is working with Massey marine biologist Karen Stockin on further testing to try to identify the cause of the dolphin deaths.

Brodifacoum poisoning has already been ruled out by scientists and veterinary surgeons. Brodifacoum is an anticoagulant – signs that could indicate brodifacoum poisoning are bruising, internal bleeding and haemorrhaging. As none of these signs were found in the dolphins, penguins and dogs, brodifacoum poisoning has been ruled out by all the agencies involved – Auckland Regional Public Health Service, MAF Biosecurity NZ, Auckland Regional Council, North Shore City Council, Auckland City Council.

“While we are confident that brodifacoum has been ruled out as a cause of death, we are conscious of the level of public concern surrounding this issue. As a result, we have commissioned further chemical tests on the dolphin, penguin and pilchard samples that will specifically look for brodifacoum poisoning,” said DOC Auckland Area Manager, Brett Butland.

Independent toxicology tests that DOC commissioned on vomit from one of the dogs that died at Narrow Neck beach has already proved negative for brodifacoum.

Tests done by the Cawthron Institute have identified the toxin found in the vomit of a dog that died after visiting Narrow Neck Beach as tetrodotoxin. Tetrodotoxin is a naturally occuring substance, found in tropical puffer fish, and has also been found in sea slugs taken from the beach. Its presence in sea slugs, as found at Narrowneck and Cheltenham beaches where the dog deaths occurred, is unusual and has not been previously described.

Penguin mortalities have been reported in the Far North, Rodney, Auckland, Coromandel and Bay of Plenty regions. Penguin mortalities in winter, particularly following winter storms, are not uncommon for this time of year.

The New Zealand Centre for Conservation Medicine has post-mortemed six penguins to date, and has found that the birds were in poor body condition and that starvation was the likely cause of death.  Histology on two of these birds has shown no evidence of acute poisoning.

John Potter, who carried out the post-mortem on the penguins that were sent to the New Zealand Centre for Conservation Medicine, says that none of the birds showed “any sign of a haemorrhagic effusion consistent with rodenticide poisoning.”

“Each of the birds was very thin and their stomachs were empty, consistent with starvation being the cause of death.”

Astonishing reversal of fortunes at sanctuary – Environment

Astonishing reversal of fortunes at sanctuary – Environment – NZ Herald News

Tiritiri Matangi's historic lighthouse, which is now solar powered. Photo / Derek Flynn

The birds on Tiritiri Matangi Island haven’t seen a rat in 15 years.

Despite the thousands of visitors who arrive on hundreds of ferry trips and uncounted private boats each year – each one a potential rat-carrier – not one rodent has made it to shore since 1993.

The result is a thriving bird paradise where takahe, kokako, penguins and kiwi live much as they did thousands of years ago – with the exception that they are now visited by 32,000 humans a year.

It’s a remarkable turnaround for what was once a rat-infested island just north of Auckland – transformed by volunteers from barren farmland to dense native bush over 10 years.

The Department of Conservation (DoC) scientific reserve was a working farm until the 1970s; and before that the Kawerau-A-Maki and Ngati Paoa iwi lived there for centuries.

Volunteers began planting trees in 1984, forming the 1800-strong Supporters of Tiritiri Matangi Inc five years later when they began to run short of money.

Nowadays the group that calls itself “the supporters” is entrusted with delicate work normally reserved for experts and scientists.

DoC spokeswoman Liz Maire said the supporters had been around just one year fewer than DoC – 20 years last year.

“It’s not just doing bits and pieces anymore,” said Ms Maire. “They’re doing work that used to be done by experts, in other words scientists and DoC people.”

One volunteer, Simon Fordham, a supporter of 16 years who works as a medical supplies importer, is helping organise a transfer of native species from another island. His wife Morag, a volunteer guide on the island, works with nests of rare kokako.

full story

Rare kiwi thriving on Tiritiri Matangi

Rare kiwi thriving on Tiritiri Matangi: Media releases

Little spotted kiwi have more than doubled in number on their Hauraki Gulf island home in the last five years, according to the results of a recent Department of Conservation survey.

The population of kiwi on Tiritiri Matangi has grown to more than 60 (estimated at 60-80 birds) from about 30 birds in 2002.

DOC scientist Dr Hugh Robertson, who led the survey, said the population was growing strongly, and was as good as could be expected.

“They seem to grow faster on Tiritiri than on other islands due to the rich soils and lack of rats.”

Simon Fordham, chairman of the community group Supporters of Tiritiri Matangi and part of the survey team, said how valuable the experience had been.

“Working with such a unique bird was a real treat and a great opportunity to help with its recovery.” full media release

Rat stopped from getting to Tiritiri Matangi

Rat stopped from getting to Tiritiri Matangi: Media releases

A Norway rat found on a ferry due to sail to Tiritiri Matangi was stopped from getting to the island sanctuary due to quick action by the ferry operator.

“All we need is one pregnant rodent to come ashore on Tiritiri and we would have a major incident on our hands.”

“Endangered species on the island include birds like the saddleback, which was wiped out on other islands by rats. Tiritiri has become a sanctuary for many threatened species that could be put at risk if visitors to the island are not vigilant and pest aware.” full press release