Posted by Anna – Rowi Field Ranger
Thursday, October 27th, 2011 at 10:37 am
The other day I ventured out with my volunteer for the day, Mark, to track into one of our breeding pairs of rowi. Our mission for the day was to ascertain whether or not BS pair had successfully hatched a chick.
This was all the more exciting for me as it was to be our first for the season of the chicks we will be monitoring in the forest rather than taking them and hatching them in captivity as part of BNZ Operation Nest Egg. Due to a 1080 operation in the kiwi zone, just prior to the chick-hatching season, this year we are leaving some chicks to grow naturally in the forest.
The view from Lake Mapourika.
We are able to do this due to the lack of stoats and other non-native kiwi killers in Okarito after the pest control operation. It’s really exciting for the rowi team to watch these chicks grow up naturally without having to be removed from their home for their own protection.
BS pair had been incubating this egg for over 75 days now, so we were hopeful of finding their brand new chick.
We tramped up to the top of the ridge after a beautiful boat ride across Lake Mapourika with amazing views of the Southern Alps, then headed along one of our tracks until we could pick up a signal for BS pair. Once we had a good signal we tracked in quietly, feeling quite excited about arriving at their burrow and wondering what we would find.
On arrival, I could see a long kiwi bill poking out of the burrow entrance sniffing….I realised he definitely knew we were there! The male then withdrew his bill and we could immediately hear him making some noises inside the burrow, followed by the characteristics squeeks of a rowi chick!
Me and the wild little chick.
By this time I was super excited, we quietly put our bags down and I gently put my hand into the burrow to find the chick and bring it out….he was so very tiny, weighing only about 300 grams! Mark held him gently while I attached his tiny new transmitter and we checked him all over before putting him back with his mum and dad in the burrow.
Mark holding the wild chick for me.
Mark and I were both feeling pretty lucky, as we walked back out to the boat, that we were able to find the first chick born in the wild for the season!! We are looking forward to the next months as more chicks hatch in Okarito forest.
Posted by lizzy
Wednesday, October 19th, 2011 at 4:03 pm
By Andrew Penny – LEARNZ field trip teacher
During Conservation Week last month, the LEARNZ team ventured over to Franz Josef for another action-packed virtual field trip for 2011.
LEARNZ provides New Zealand registered teachers with unlimited free access to the largest contemporary collection of New Zealand online education material. LEARNZ specialises in virtual field trips, where students experience going right to the centre of the most fascinating events, businesses and locations around the country, in real-time. Participation is supported by online background materials and activities, and is enabled using live audioconferencing, web board, and diaries, images and videos uploaded daily.
Over 100 classes from all over the country joined me online to meet and talk with kiwi experts, as well as access a range of internet-based material related to BNZ Operation Nest Egg . We also met with members of Te Runanga o Makaawhio, kaitiaki/guardians of the population of rowi in Okarito.
Kim turning one of the incubating kiwi eggs.
There were a number of highlights on this field trip over the three days. One of these was our visit to the West Coast Wildlife Centre. The centre is the official home to the incubation and captive rearing programme for rowi and Haast tokoeka kiwi. Kiwi ranger Kim took us behind the scenes where the captive-reared eggs are processed after being brought in from Okarito forest. It was exciting to see the incubation room where they were currently incubating both rowi and Haast tokoeka eggs, with one just starting to hatch!
Earthquake survivor Richter Rowi in his night time enclosure.
Also at the Wildlife Centre is a very cool nocturnal walk-through, where there are actual kiwi rummaging about in a naturalised habitat. It is the next best thing to stepping into a real forest and seeing these guys in action. One of the kiwi running around was Richter, the first rowi kiwi born after the September 2010 Christchurch Earthquake. Very cool indeed!
Another highlight was trekking into Okarito forest with rowi team leader Duncan Kay to check on a recently released juvenile rowi. It didn’t take long to find where its burrow was, but accessing it was another story!
Duncan and I with my first wild rowi.
The young kiwi was well hidden under a big old rata log, determined not to be woken up. Duncan couldn’t see where the burrow entrance was but eventually got hold of the sleepy kiwi through a narrow opening above. It was certainly an amazing experience and I felt very special because I got to hold one of the rarest kiwi in New Zealand while Duncan changed its transmitter.
On our last day Duncan took us back to the forest in search of a rowi kiwi egg that was ready to be lifted and taken to the West Coast Wildlife Centre for incubation. This particular egg was on the other side of Lake Mapourika, so Duncan took us across in the boat, the wind in our faces and incredible scenery all around us.
Duncan using the telemetry gear to find the kiwi burrow.
Once we got to the other side of the lake, Duncan got his aerial and radio receiver working. We trudged through thick native forest with the song of tui and sound of a kereru’s wing-beat high above us. The radio receiver was soon giving off loud beeps which meant the nest was not far away.
Duncan soon spotted the kiwi’s burrow. He pointed out a worn path leading to the entrance, and the remains of kiwi poo and a fallen feather were also key indicators that we were in the right spot. We were all very excited. I was holding the chilly bin that was filled with shredded paper to nurse the egg on its journey to the wildlife centre. There was also a hot water bottle inside to keep the egg warm, with a thermometer to ensure it did not get too hot.
Duncan trying to reach the egg in the rowi's burrow.
The burrow was inside the base of a large tree. Duncan tried to get the egg through the burrow entrance but it was out of his reach. Several attempts were made to access the burrow from all around the base of the tree, but a massive tangle of roots and other climbing plants simply made it too difficult. In the end, the egg lift had to be abandoned.
I was gutted that we never got to see the egg and take it back to the West Coast Wildlife Centre. But Duncan wasn’t too worried at all. He said that the eggs are too big for stoats to get their mouths round so it would be safe until it hatches. And when it does hatch, the DOC team will head back to the burrow and remove the newly-hatched chick.
Although it was an unsuccessful egg lift, it was still great to get out into the forest and see part of BNZ Operation Nest Egg in action.
Me holding a rowi - awesome!
So all in all we had a fantastic three days on the LEARNZ Kiwi virtual field trip. We discovered a lot about how rowi kiwi are being saved from extinction and the great work being done through BNZ Operation Nest Egg. I certainly hope to head back soon and check up on this very special bird.
To enrol for any of the free LEARNZ virtual field trips and for further information visit: www.learnz.org.nz or call the teacher free phone 0800 22 55 53.
Posted by Ieuan – Rowi Field Ranger
Monday, October 10th, 2011 at 7:56 am
My first visit to Motuara Island in around six months was an exiting prospect, with a fine forecast and a large chunk of work to be completed…namely catching 30 rowi, changing their transmitters and weighing them.
These rowi are due to come off the island at the end of this month and we needed to ensure that they are going to be up to their stoat-proof weight of 1200 gm, otherwise they will stay on Motuara for a longer period.
We had a team of four on the island, Anna (also a Franz kiwi ranger), Rachael Abbot who is currently studying rowi for her PhD and Rainer, a volunteer there to help us out.
We started off unpacking the boat and setting up camp, then split into two teams and headed bush to try and get signals for as many birds as possible. This would allow us to make a plan and go hard the next day. The idea was to find the birds at the outlying sides of the island first, enabling us to mop up the easier birds as time ran short on the following days.
Me tracking our elusive rowi.
Anna and Rachael got lucky – they caught seven birds in that first evening, finding them all in nest boxes provided for releasing chicks onto the island.
Rainer and I…not so lucky. We checked all the boxes in our area and found nothing but little blue penguins. These fascinating birds are breeding at the moment and were probably sitting on eggs so we left them alone and quietly retreated. We did catch two kiwi on our way back to camp though which was a bonus, and by the time Anna and Rachael got back Rainer (a former chef) had prepared a wonderful curry cooked on the camp stove!
Rainer holds a sleepy kiwi.
That first night saw a number of squally showers push eastwards over the island, waking us all up with their ferocity, but the day dawned fine and we were quickly into kiwi hunting through the wet bush.
Good days were had by both teams, catching most of the birds in thick bush which meant that only a hand full were left to catch on the final day. This allowed us some rare relax time for a spot of fishing and exploration of this interesting island. No fish, nevertheless, a fine way to end this island trip to a stunning part of New Zealand!