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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

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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

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.

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)

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/