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tutukiwi / snipe

Here’s a typical story of how a bird became extinct. And how we, as humans, have had a lot to learn.

With eyes set well back on their heads, tutukiwi (the snipe) could see widely. But what they could see coming, they couldn’t avoid!

Like their larger cousin, the kiwi, they nested on the ground. They were very tame. They ran about on the ground.

It suited them to live like this in our luscious landscape.

They did have a surprise though! Their night-time calls terrified early European explorers. Hak’wai, hak’wai, hak’wai – called a ghost from on high, & then a sound like a roaring jet-plane blasted the air!! No-one suspected a bird from the ground could be the culprit!

Suddenly their changes were fatal. It was too late to fly back to the water – too late to hide their eggs in the rushes. In the daytime they were stuck on the ground – now the most dangerous place on earth to be

Too many predators went after them. First they were hunted by the adzebill – but there weren’t too many of them

Then they were hunted in their nests by kiore. Until they were mostly away on our off-shore islands

Then the Norway rat and the cat came, so that they were only on one last island out-post. Taukihepa (Big South Cape), southwest of Rakiura (Stewart Island)

Then, in 1964 the ship rat swam ashore. Two snipe were rescued by the New Zealand Wildlife Service, but both died before release

It was over.

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takahikare-moana / white-faced storm petrel

In March, masses & masses of these small birds fly from the warm waters of the eastern Pacific, to our off-shore islands. The largest colony in New Zealand on South East Island (Chathams) has 1 million breeding pairs.

Dropping down through the trees, they blanket the air and the ground.

Burrows are so well hidden – that you could walk over a colony in the daytime and never know it was there.

They’re hidden from sight, but not from nose or ear! Their strong, musky smell and their loud night-time calls can gave them away.

Over 150-200 years, kiore (the pacific rat) removed huge numbers of petrels from the mainland.

Today the Norway rat and the cat can wipe them all out.

In Cloak of Protection takahikare-moana are eaten by kiore, cat & Norway rat

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Finsch’s duck

The bones of this bird tell a common story in these islands. It was better to put your energy into growing, not flying. Ancestors of this duck lost 10% of their wing length within only 10,000 years.

Now it was those stout legs that were made for moving about on land.

Large flocks could be found feeding on the open clearings, foraging for plants, finding them more by smell than by sight.

The duck was always hunted from the skies by both hokioi (the giant eagle) and the Forbes harrier. But when humans arrived they were also hunted on the ground by us and our dogs.

Their numbers went down & down from the 1400’s to the 1600’s, until they were extinct. But one (maybe) was caught by dogs near Opotiki, in 1870.

They’d got stuck on the ground – now the most dangerous place to be. They couldn’t escape the new hunters. They couldn’t fly off & hide on water. Their tree hole nests could be found.

And they didn’t have 10,000 years to change back again! Time was no longer on their side.

In Cloak of Protection Finsch’s duck is eaten by hokioi, Forbes harrier, dog & human

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hoiho: yellow-eyed penguin

Seven kinds of penguins come onto our shores to breed and raise their chicks. Then they all go back to sea. All except for one. All except for hoiho: the yellow-eyed, the yellow-crowned.

Each morning of the year, hoiho leave the land. Into the surf – hopping, flopping, jumping, & diving.

Underwater their stiff flippers flap like wings. Down deep down (up to 160m) they hunt near the ocean floor.

It’s said that this way of flying underwater was a gift of Tane. Toroa (the albatross), and tawaki (a crested penguin), argued and argued about which one was better at flying and fishing. On-and-on it went, until Tane changed both their wings.

“Tawaki”, he said, “you will be the only bird to have these narrow, flipper-like wings. Now you can fly below the ocean waves, and catch all the fish you need.”

Only a few hoiho are left. Still they live on the southeast coast of te Waipounamu (the South Island), and on many sub-Antarctic islands.

In Cloak of Protection, hoiho is eaten by ferret, cat, stoat and adzebill

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blackbird / manu pango

Yr Aderyn Du. Ceilog Mwyalch, of the ancient British.

With great enthusiasm, people brought this bird to New Zealand. Mainly from England, 1862-1875.

In 1865 Lady Barker wrote:

Ill as I was, I remember being roused to something like a flicker of animation, when I was shown an exceedingly seedy and shabby looking blackbird with a broken leg in splints, which its master assured me he had bought in Melbourne as a great bargain for only two pounds, 10 shillings.

It is now our most widely distributed bird, occupying 93% of the country.

Living close to the ground, manu pango are easily found by some predators.

Yet they have flourished. This is because pairs quickly replace nests & eggs. Pairs can nest up to five times each year, so raising two or three successful broods.

Also, a blackbird can ‘fright moult’ – escaping & leaving only their tail feathers in a cat’s mouth!

In this way, the descendants of the first one thousand birds, have made themselves very-much at home in our country!!

Story from the book that comes with the game.
In Cloak of Protection blackbird is eaten by ship rat, cat & kahu/harrier.

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little bush moa

Little bush moa were said to be extinct about 1400AD. But the date of their last sighting is open. Here’s a story from the winter of 1880 – deep in the remote bush of Fiordland.

Alice McKenzie of Martins Bay remembered seeing and touching a moa, when she was 7 years old. The bird was completely trusting like so many..

It seemed to take no notice of me and I crept up nearer and nearer and sat down on the sand behind it. It was very large, and blue in colour, and seemed round behind, with no tail noticeable. I remember parting the big curved feathers behind it where the tail would be. It still took no notice while I touched it and pulled out one of its legs. The leg was a dark green, with scales, and three toes, like a fowl.

When she tried to tie the bird up it

rose and turned on me, making a harsh grunting cry. It seemed to be as high as I was, and I ran for my life. . .

Later her father measured the footprints – from heel to the middle point of the middle toe – 11 inches (280mm).

She and her brother saw the bird and its winter-tracks regularly.

A fairly tall bird with bright blue plumage,

he said.

Was it a slender bush moa? Maybe a lone male waiting for a female that no longer came? Could be.

In Cloak of Protection the little bush moa is hunted by hokioi, haast’s eagle; dog; Forbes’ harrier; & human hunters. The cause of their extinction is thought to be human huntin

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Here’s another bird that once fertilised our forest. Piopio.

Using their wings, their strong legs, & their stout beaks,
they moved about in the undergrowth. Here they took fruits, buds, seeds & foliage. Here they wrapped their short deep bills around the large seeds of our great podocarp trees.

Once piopio’s song greeted the early morning everywhere. It was a short, sharp, quick whistle, piopio, piopio…piopio, piopio..again & again…

Later in the day they sang in a sweet, sad, warble. Their long rust-red tails were spread and their wings were slightly drooped. Then the song would stop, half-way-sung, and he would cry out in a loud rasp.

Until the 1890’s, there were plenty – then there weren’t. The last bird was heard at Lake Hauroko, Fiordland, te Waipounamu (the South Island) in 1949. First kiore, then later ship rat and stoat, ate the eggs, ate the young. In a short time, no more children = no more adults.

So why did piopio’s song stop half-way through?

Piopio was one of the birds who went with Maui on his final quest. Maui was going to climb back up through the birth canal of Hine nui te Po – and so conquer death.

Piopio went with him as far as her doorway, singing all the way, to keep up Maui’s courage. But suddenly it stopped.

Maui was dead. His quest had failed.

So piopio’s song was forever half-way sung. Piopio, pio-p…….g.

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fertilising the forest

European culture developed along with the bees. In Aotearoa/New Zealand it was the birds (& not the bees) who played a big part in fertilising our forest.

Kereru – our pigeon – travelled great distances between the fruiting trees. Large flocks, flying fast on slow whooshing wingbeats, could be heard, and then seen.

Flying to the top of a tree, wings at full stretch, a bird’s large, heavy body only stopped when a branch held its weight. Crash landing!!

High-up on this perch in the forest canopy, birds rustled and swished. Their beaks opened as wide as their heads. Their bills wrapped around a large berry. Swallowing it whole.

The seed had been waiting for this! Later they’d drop out, all wrapped (in fertilizing bird-pooh) onto the forest floor below.

Now kereru is the only one left to spread these seeds. Huia, piopio, & moa are long gone.

This month’s winner of the draw is Ruth Blair. Congratulations Ruth. A game will go to an organisation of your choice! Plse let me know which one you choose.

I had a fabulous thankyou letter from Andrea Sorger, the principal of Te Ra school – last month’s choice. The game “will undoubtedly bring much enjoyment to our children, especially now that rainy break times are once again a prospect.”

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some interesting questions

The following interesting questions have come through from Lesley, this week.

I have questions that don’t seem to be covered in the instructions.

1) Can cards be transferred from the hand to the cloak at any time? Can they also be transferred back?

2) When then initial 5 cards are dealt, does this constitute the first row of the cloak, or are they the initial hand?

3) Does the cloak need to be built row by row (as you would if you were really weaving) or can the cards be placed anywhere in the cloak?

Reply / Jil says:

Everything can be moved at any time. The Cloak is not finished (woven) until all cards are laid out into the shape. When I first teach the game, we lay out a Cloak as we play. But as players get more experienced they get quite adept at hiding cards in the open ie not putting a complete cloak together until the last moment.

Also the initial 5 cards are just the initial hand – some may be used anywhere in your cloak, some may be used for trading, and some may be eaten by a predator.

Hope this helps. tnxs for the questions.

Lesley says:

Thanks for the answers. Just one follow-up question, do the predators take cards from both the cloak and the hand?

Reply / Jil says:
Thanks for these questions. Yes, the predators take cards from both the cloak and the hand. This makes people look very carefully at their hand (& at other people’s) before they decide on an action – to sacrifice the birds, to use a god, to use their Pandora & give it to someone else.

Other news: Drew has chosen Te Ra School, Raumati South, Kapiti Coast, to receive a game. This is a great choice as parents from the school have been purchasing the game, but the school itself has not had a copy! These choices are proving very interesting for me!

Meanwhile, birds on Kapiti Island (5km off-shore my beach) “one of New Zealand’s most important nature reserves” are thriving. Including hihi, the stitchbird. Conservation Department staff now believe (that after a 3-year programme) the island is now free of stoats.

In Cloak of Protection hihi gets eaten by ship rat + stoat

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In just over 2 weeks I’ll be in Taranaki, launching a partnership with Taranaki Enviroschools.

Also we’re hoping to have a public game-playing session in New Plymouth – more details soon.

Meanwhile, Auckland Zoo is now stocking the game!

March is Whio Awareness Month and there are whio related activities around the country, plus there are whio family fun days at the Auckland Zoo, March 24, 25

Here’s some numbers from Whio Forever – a partnership between Genesis Energy and the Department of Conservation.

The Tongariro Forest security site. Prior to predator control operations a typical breeding season would produce around 20 whio ducklings. This year – 177 ducklings!!

The Whirinaki Forest security site. They have put in place a predator trapping programme with DOC200 traps along that river. This season – 13 breeding pairs and 27 ducklings.

It’s been a bumper breeding season for our blue duck, with more birds being released to secure sites over this month. Once more, they’re nibbling on the plants and under-water insects in our fast-flowing rivers. Whio Forever – yeah!!

In Cloak of Protection whio are eaten by adzebill (now extinct) and stoat