this summer is expected to be the biggest we’ve ever known.
That’s because we’re having the biggest rimu mast that’s ever been recorded.
Rimu mast (seed fruiting in large amounts) is the trigger for the female kākāpō on Codfish Island/Whenua Hou (about three kilometres north-west of Stewart Island/Rakiura), and on Anchor Island/Puke Nui (in Fiordland’s Dusky Sound) to come, answer the boys booming. Finally joining them to dance in their sounding bowls!
These Islands are home to New Zealand’s main populations of kākāpō. The third Island is Te Hauturu-o-Toi/Little Barrier Island, in the Hauraki Gulf.
There are 148 kākāpō and the population is slowly increasing. But the likeable parrots face lots of problems. The biggest is infertility.
Kākāpō and takahē expert Andrew Digby, a DOC scientist says that, “Only about half of the eggs hatch, and only about a third of the eggs that are laid turn into chicks that fledge.”
Last year, for example, there were 122 eggs laid but only 34 chicks fledged.
That makes mast years like next year of huge importance. Digby says, “It’s going to be a big one for us.”
One that will bring out the girls!
Thanks to the undaunting efforts of the Department of Conservation, in Cloak of Protection, Kākāpō remain in the FOREST realm, and have not joined the EXTINCT realm.
The pitter patter of little takahē feet is on the cards at Kahurangi National Park. DOC reports that the first eggs of the new wild population have been found at Gouland Downs off the Heaphy Track, only the second wild site for takahē.
Today it is exactly 70 years since takahē were rediscovered in the Murchison mountains of Fiordland.
As a student, one of my holiday jobs was working at the Murrell Accomodation in Manapouri. Old man Murrell told me that he had been one of the group that lead Orbell up into the mountains on that day.
He also laughed and claimed that they knew of the existence of the birds long before this. I wonder?
Never-the-less, we mark today as the 70th year of their rediscovery.
Takahē in Cloak of Protection belong in Tane’s Forest Realm. The work of The Takahē Recovery Programme means that they did not join Hine Nui Te Po in the realm of the extinct.
Seventy years on they remain with us, and are now laying eggs in the wild in two locations.
Farmers and gardeners have been spraying their crops and flowers for years to protect them from pests.
We’re told that it has to be this way. Don’t believe it!
These pesticides harm and kill. Pollinating insects – gone. The small birds that feed on these insects – weakened, infertile. The larger birds that hunt the smaller birds (like karearea, our falcon) – birth eggs with shells so brittle, they break.
There are other ways to control our garden pests. For instance, Mrs Thrush. She eats slugs and snails. For free!
In Flight of Pollen, bees and hoverflies are important pollinators
Walking toward Te Horo beach yesterday I saw kahu, the harrier, coming in from the sea. It kept trying to find some lift in the air, but instead kept sinking down out of sight, plummeting toward the dunes, only to appear again, flapping its way upward.
Kahu was the one reason we could not call the settlement realm, introduced. Because they introduced themselves!
I wanted the big birds – the giant hunters – to be numero uno in each realm. Karearea (the NZ falcon) for forest; toroa (the royal albatross) for sea; hokioi (the giant eagle) for extinct: and kahu (the harrier) for settlement.
Of course 3 of these birds turn up in the predator realm as well. The fourth – toroa – hunts too, but far away from land.
Once, they ruled. Maintaining the balance in their realm. As only good hunters can do.
I’ve always thought that the same change could happen in separate corners of the world. We’re all on the same planet – after all.
I’ve never needed one pair – like Noah’s ark – to go out & multiply across the world. Either walking on land bridges until they crossed the globe. Or left alone to change after being marooned as continents spread far apart.
This week I found science catching up with my point of view!!
Apparently a 20-million-year-old kiwi fossil found in Central Otago had researchers suggesting that the kiwi flew here from Australia long after Gondwana broke apart.
It seems that kiwi & moa flew around the continents and then became flightless after arriving here. Just like their cousins the ostrich in Africa, the rhea South America, the emu in Australia, & the cassowary in PNG.
To go from flight to non-flight can be super-common if you’re a ratite or a rail. Or even if you’re a stout legged moa.
A world-wide change that is very weird, and very possible.
Mutton-birding (titi/sooty shearwater) season started April 1 and finishes end of May.
Rakiura (Stewart Island) Maori, from our deep south, have rights to gather muttonbirds on 36 islands – the Titi Islands – around Rakiura.
Last year a lack of small fish such as krill, for the birds to feed on, meant many chicks died in their holes.
But good follows bad and this years season is looking better. The birds now being caught are a good size and the majority are healthy.
In Cloak of Protection titi are hunted by Norway rat (when it gets onto their islands) and, of course, the human hunter.
On another note, got the best feedback about Cloak of Protection yesterday. One of my friends is teaching years 5&6 in Manurewa, Auckland. She said ‘we tried & we tried to study NZ’s wildlife & we got nowhere. Then we played the game & the kids knew everything – birds, predators, the lot!’
Walking down onto Waikanae Beach last evening, was looking skyward for the flock of black dots of titi (sooty shearwater) that have been around. . .
. . .when my attention was caught by a massive seagull. Well, that was my first thought until it unfurled long wings & folded them in again.
No seagull then!
I began tracking giant bird foot-prints toward the water’s edge. Webbed & as big as the palm of my hand. Dwarfing the dog-prints.
Closer – but, not too close – I found three birds distanced along water’s edge. They weren’t so keen on meeting me! One shuffled (on short-legs) into the water & landing a safe distance away, folded those giant wings into its body again.
So – here’s what I could see from my (short-sighted) distance. Pale curved petrel beak, white body, black back. Giant body on short legs.
Here’s a pic to toroa, who range throughout the NZ coast all year. Might have been???