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one find of moa poo

Stout legged moa
found in a cave in Nelson is thought to be 8000 years old.

In Flight of Pollen, fresh native pollen is carried from plant-to-plant. But in new research, it’s evidence of which plants were eaten, way back thousands of years ago!

Scientists analysed the pollen in fossilised moa poo and in fresh deer poo, from Daley’s Flat, Dart River Valley, West Otago.

It’s thought four species of moa lived where the samples were found, three of which can be found in Cloak of Protection: the bush moa; the heavy-footed moa – described as a “40-gallon drum walking on toddler’s gumboots”; the upland moa; and the South Island giant moa.

The pollen, thousands of years old, and still remaining in the dried poo, indicates that each of these species grazed on different plant types within the area.

The pollen also shows that plants that were present when moa roamed the country are now pretty much absent – due to the introduction of deer.

Deer are not like moa. Research by Jamie Wood and Janet Wilmshurst, Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research

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Culling invasive species on islands worldwide

could save nearly 10% of the world’s bird, mammal, amphibian and reptile species currently on the brink of extinction.

So the Guardian reported on research published in the journal Plos One.

Recently I saw this for myself on Kapiti Island, which – thanks to volunteers who criss-crossed the island with traps, and to the ongoing surveillance of DOC – has been predator-free since 1998. Only one pregnant ferret has disturbed the peace since then!

Kākā watched us from trees above, kōkako sang, weka dug in the undergrowth, the lone takahē hid from sight, hihi flitted by, and we found empty kiwi holes…

“This is about as cost-effective, high-impact species extinction prevention spending as one can find – as close as we can get to a silver bullet. . .People are often surprised at just how successful and doable these projects are . ..” said Jonathan Hall, the RSPB’s head of UK overseas territories.

With the predators in Cloak of Protection removed, wildlife is flourishing. To celebrate this, dolphins frolicked in the marine reserve, and beside our boat, both ways.

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Rivers as barriers

RATS in Cloak of Protection
even quite small rivers are an effective barrier to possum migration. So found ZIP (Zero Invasive Predators), in 2017, when they ran a trial in Remutaka Forest Park.

Last year, a similar trial began in the Perth River valley, to measure whether or not larger rivers are also an effective barrier to the migration of rats.

By 19 February 2019, after more than seven months of continuous bio-marking and trapping, confidence has grown. Trials were run across winter (where the river levels are lowest; the water is at its coldest; and rat breeding and dispersal activity is low), and across spring/summer (when the river levels rise as snow and ice melts; and rat breeding and movement increases).

“We are very encouraged by this promising result!” say the team.

Maybe, just maybe, some rats don’t like getting their feet wet!?

More information at Zero Invasive Predators Assessing the Perth River (and Scone Creek) as a barrier to rats

In Cloak of Protection, there are three rats: kiore; Norway; and Ship (shown).

Making Flight of Pollen we learnt that the endangered sort-tailed bat / pekapeka (which is a phenomenal pollinator), has had much of its role in our Native bush, taken over by the Ship rat – when the rat doesn’t eat everything in sight ie the whole flower (of course)!

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the kākāpō breeding season

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.

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First takahē eggs for Kahurangi

Takahe eggs
Image: DOC
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.

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birds can “see” earth’s magnetic fields

the evidence is strong. It seems that birds navigate by using a protein in their eyes that lets them “see” Earth’s magnetic fields.

The fancy eye protein is called Cry4. And it’s clustered in an area that receives a lot of light. Birds use the cryptochromes in their eyes to orient themselves by detecting magnetic fields

These findings come courtesy of two new papers – one studying robins, the other zebra finches.

Observations continue . .https://resonance.is/quantum-coherence-underlying-magnetoreception-avian-species-confirmed/

in FLIGHT OF POLLEN tui and korimako move around looking for
nectar, and later in the game kereru joins them in the hunt for berries

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we all have to eat

Mrs Thrush

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

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kahu harrier

kahu/harrierWalking 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.

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wings across the water

stout legged moaI’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.

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mutton-birding

sooty shearwaterMutton-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!’