Posted by savethekiwi
Monday, November 30th, 2009 at 10:32 am
The rowi team, along with the rest of DOC’s Franz Josef Office, has been busy over the last couple of weeks planning an exciting six-day schedule for the Untouched World programme for 19 teens from around the South Island who finally arrived on Saturday at Okarito. And what a day! Okarito really turned on the sunshine for our Powhiri where our friends from Makkawhio joined us to welcome the students to Okarito township and our beautiful kiwi zone!
After a cup of tea and some biscuits we got to have a bit of a chat with some really cool kids and I am excited about the opportunity to show them what the Rowi Project and BNZ Operation Nest Egg is all about, and to have some good discussions about sustainability and conservation.
The kids are lucky enough to be camping on the Okartio camping ground which is beachfront. Nice!
From what I could see, the kids were having a lot of fun already. Hopefully the weather holds out as we have a jam-packed week of rowi health-checks, rodent lines, little blue penguins, white herons and rowi egg lifts. Not to mention, some interesting guest speakers and presentations from the students on the last day.
The progamme is a partnership between Untouched World Charitable Trust, Ngai Tahu, BNZ Save the Kiwi Trust and the Department of Conservation.
We’ll keep you posted!
Posted by Rowi Ranger
Friday, November 27th, 2009 at 7:53 am
I was fortunate to have my Mum visiting from the UK recently, and had the opportunity to take her out on an egg rescue – a once in a lifetime opportunity for a New Zealander let alone someone from across the world!
The eggs we were after were right in the middle of the 11,000 ha Okarito kiwi zone. We would go in, go for the eggs and rendezvous at Alpine Lake hut to be airlifted out…hopefully with at least two rowi eggs.
We planned to be dropped in by helicopter then follow up to the higher reaches of Five Mile Creek into the gorge section where there were two kiwi transmitters showing that the birds were sitting on eggs. It would be a big day but we were confident of success.
About two hours walk after being dropped off we approached the gorge. Tracking from this kind of position can be difficult as signals from the transmitters can bounce around the steep valley sides…meaning that choosing the right signal to follow is tricky.
The first bird we tracked was reasonably easy, being on a large, flat section of relatively open forest…however, he (we predominantly put transmitters on males as they are thought to do more of the incubation) was on his own in a small day shelter. Definitely no egg here and no sign of the female. Disappointing – but there are no easily won eggs in this game – we would be back another day for this one.
We continued up into the gorge following a good signal coming from upstream. About 45 minutes further we reached the point where we needed to decide whether to go up the left or the right of the valley. Hmm…I really could not tell which way to go…the signal strength was, as far as I could tell, equal from both sides.
Using telemetry gear to track rowi
The true left looked like easier terrain so I chose that way, explaining to Mum that we may be coming back down this way if I was wrong! Up, up and up, and I had the sinking feeling that we were on the wrong side of the valley…but still couldn’t be sure so about half way up I dropped off the gear and left mum waiting while I bashed right up to the top to check.
Nothing there! I turned around 180 degrees and boom – a huge blast of signal from the opposite valley side – I had chosen the wrong slope to climb. Time was running out, with just over three and a half hours to get to the pick up point at Alpine Lake hut. This hut was about half an hour walk from where I was right now but we had to go in the opposite direction to follow the signal.
I bashed back down to where Mum was waiting and apologised for dragging her half way up the wrong valley side. Down, down, down to the creek then up, up, up the true right valley – very steep and thick bush but at least lots to hold on to while hauling yourself through.
We followed the signal for another 40 minutes or so, traversing quite a long way upstream until the telltale sign of a ‘clicking’ signal came through to show that we were getting close. Another 20 minutes and we were there…next to a huge root boll of a southern rata with a hole in the northern side just big enough for an adult kiwi to fit into. We both held our breath as I reached in and…pulled out a beautiful pale blue oval egg. Excellent! I carefully prepared it for transportation.
We had an hour and a half to get to the chopper pick up point and we (carefully) retraced our route back down the valley and (for the second time) up the true left side.
Amazing views of Alpine Lake let us forget our fatigue and the last 20 minutes to the hut were spent in silent awe at the surrounding landscape. We had a wonderful flight out with unsurpassed views of the Franz Josef Glacier and the Main Divide towering over the West Coast rainforest below.
A well deserved rest at the hut
A big day for my mum but totally inspiring to find a kiwi egg, witness the majesty of the landscape and push yourself hard physically.
Mum quote of the day…“so, um, do venisons moo?”
Posted by savethekiwi
Wednesday, November 18th, 2009 at 11:09 am
Over the past week the rowi team have been completing the quarterly small mammal indexing (SMI) in the kiwi zone. This involves putting out sets of inked cards into sets of tunnels placed throughout the bush. For the first night the tunnels are baited with peanut butter; aimed to attract rats, and for the consecutive three nights they are baited with rabbit meat; aimed at attracting mustelids (mainly stoats). After the four nights, rangers collect in the cards and analyse the results by identifying the prints on each of the cards. This data is then entered into a database and the results give us a reasonably accurate idea of the current rat and stoat populations inside and outside of the kiwi zone.
This information can be used to determine the optimum time to perform any pest control in the kiwi zone as well as determining the effectiveness of trapping programmes or poison operations and to track the re-invasion of these pest species into recently controlled areas.
These mammals are the primary reason why rowi are so rare. Rats compete with rowi for food (mainly invertebrates) and kill other native birds or eat their eggs. They also provide food for the biggest threat to rowi – stoats.
Stoats were introduced to New Zealand by European colonialists; with tragic results. They have been known to kill 95% of kiwi chicks and the Department of Conservation fights a constant battle to protect our native species from them across the country. It’s a massive battle and we can’t do it alone. That’s why it’s fantastic that so many New Zealanders get involved in saving our kiwi – thank you!
Posted by Rowi Ranger
Monday, November 9th, 2009 at 4:08 pm
This week, 10 young chicks, hatched in Willowbank Wildlife Reserve over the past three weeks, are being whisked off to Motuara Island in the Marlborough Sounds. They will spend the next 6-10 months on the predator-free island, growing up away from the threat of stoats.
Chick being released
Duncan, Anna, and Lucy collected the young chicks from Willowbank early on Tuesday morning. They prepared the birds for their trip by giving fluids to prevent dehydration, along with worming medication to prevent any parasites being transferred to the island. Each chick will also have a small transmitter fitted to its leg to allow rangers to find it and perform health checks throughout the year.
There is an abundance of life on Motuara, including high levels of invertebrates (bugs) which give the young chicks a good start on the island. Other bird species include bellbirds/koromiko, saddlebacks/tieke, red-fronted parakeet/kakariki, blue penguins/korara, sooty shearwater/titi, shining cuckoo/pipiwharauroa, and plenty of cheeky bush robins/toutouwai.
As you could imagine, the dawn chorus on this island is amazing and I would recommend a visit to the island if you are ever in Picton with a day to spare. There are great eco-tours available to the island with plenty of interpretation and local history along the way. If you’re really lucky you may share the trip with a number of young rowi making their way out to the island as well.
Posted by Rowi Ranger
Thursday, November 5th, 2009 at 12:18 pm
This week we said goodbye to the 100th chick to be hatched at Willowbank Wildlife Reserve through BNZ Operation Nest Egg – not a small achievement considering there are only around 350 rowi in existence!
The young chick has been named Hira – maori for ‘of consequence’.