Archives For Blue Duck

A bumper whio/blue duck breeding season has seen over 25 juvenile ducks released on West Coast rivers over the last couple of weeks.

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In an effort to get a more accurate picture of the total numbers of whio in the Ruahines, whio protection volunteers are carrying out a whio census in the Ruahines from now until June

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Today, the Minister of Conservation, Maggie Barry, and the Chief Executive of Genesis Energy, Albert Brantley, will open the new whio rearing facility at the Tongariro National Trout Centre near Turangi.

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Then: “You’re good at killing things and saving things, but your information management is too hit and miss…”. Now: the project connected to that conversation is up for an award for its new information management app.

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By Jose Watson, Partnership Ranger in Hokitika

On a misty Thursday morning last week I headed out to the Kawhaka Creek to help retrieve eggs from two whio / blue duck nests.

Whio / blue duck. Photo copyright Sabine Bernert. Used with permission.

Whio / blue duck

whio-eggs-ranger-rodney-incubator

Ranger Rodney

The newly established West Coast Wilderness Cycle Trail follows alongside this beautiful river and makes access to the site easy.

The Kawhaka Creek is good for whio. It’s fast flowing, clean—with plenty of invertebrates for whio to eat—and has good habitat either side for nesting. I myself have enjoyed plenty of nice swims in this creek.

It’s a bit of a walk with the incubator to the nest—definitely a job for two people—especially on the return trip when we want a smooth ride for the precious eggs.

Two people carrying the incubator.

Carrying the incubator

This is the first time ever that whio eggs have been taken from this site.

In 2012 Kawhaka Creek was added to the Central West Coast Whio Recovery Site. The support of Genesis let us grow this site, that was initially made possible with support from Solid Energy. The Central West Coast Whio Recovery Site now includes the Styx,  Arahura, Taipo and Kawhaka catchments.

The first nest at Kawhaka Creek was found a couple of weeks ago by Cloud the whio dog.

Ranger Ron Van Mierlo delves into the whio nest.

Ranger Ron Van Mierlo delves into the whio nest

The nest was quite a way up a hill beside the river—a good place for a nest as it was out of the reach of floods. In a forest, on a hill, did seem to be a peculiar place to see a duck though. However, I am assured this is quite normal for whio.

Ranger Ron Van Mierlo had to stretch his arm quite a way down a hole to retrieve the eggs.

The whio eggs being retrieved.

The eggs being retrieved

It was exciting to see the eggs being retrieved, and a bit nerve-raking  too—nobody wants to drop and egg, and the utmost care is taken.

Ranger holds the first whio egg friom Kawhaka Creek.

The first egg

We found 6 eggs at this first nest. I thought 6 was an epic effort, but apparently nests with up to 9 eggs are found!

There is a good chance that the duck who laid those eggs will now lay another clutch this season. In this way, whio breeding can be “supercharged”—the duck lays more eggs that can be successfully raised into adulthood.

Ranger Glen Newton with the egg in a protective cup.

Ranger Glen Newton with the egg in a protective cup

After the first nest we were feeling very chirpy—what a great start to the morning.

The next nest was located further up and across the river. We located the nest but, unfortunately, it was empty. The nest had been raided by some sort of predator. The mother duck was still hanging around the nest, on the other side of the pond. Here she is on her lonesome. Hopefully she will lay some more eggs and we will be able to safely retrieve them.

An adult female whio after her eggs were raided by a predator.

Lonely mother duck

After a commute to Christchurch, the eggs were taken to the Isaac Conservation and Wildlife Trust, a privately funded charitable trust specialising in captive breeding and release of endangered species.

Hopefully, all going well, these eggs will all end up as strong healthy whio that will be returned the wild and in turn lead to even more whio!

Whio eggs back at the Isaac Conservation and Wildlife Trust.

Egg care at the Isaac Conservation and Wildlife Trust

The Central North Island DOC Services team is working on an exciting project to bring captive bred whio/blue duck to the Tongariro National Trout Centre near Turangi and to prepare them for life in the wild.

Adult whio/blue duck standing on a rock by a river in the wild.

Adult whio/blue duck in the wild

A new whio hardening facility is being opened which will provide a safe environment for young birds from the whio captive breeding programme to develop their white water skills before they are released into the wild.

Sign for the  whio hardening facility at the National Tongariro Trout Centre.

Whio hardening facility coming soon

Construction of the hardening facility began in April and will hopefully be completed by the end of September. The project involves the conversion of an old water raceway into a stretch of fast flowing river complete with rocks and gravel to mimic a natural stream bed.

Conversion of the raceway at the National Tongariro Trout Centre.

Raceway conversion

Young whio need to develop the strength to tackle fast flowing rivers which will be their home in the wild, and this new facility will act as their gymnasium.

Liner laid down for the whio hardening facility.

Liner for the whio hardening facility

The facility will also be a retirement home for some of the older birds that have played an important part in DOC’s breeding programme.

Whio that are too old to breed or to adjust to life in the wild will have a safe home to live out the rest of their lives.

Rocks and gravel laid down to mimic a stream bed.

Rocks and gravel to mimic a stream bed

This project is part of the Whio Forever partnership between DOC and Genesis Energy to save New Zealand’s unique whio/blue duck.

Follow updates about the whio hardening facility on the Taupo Trout Fishery Facebook page.

Last month we told the story of the Nina Valley ‘Ecoblitz’ — a monumental collaboration involving scientists, senior high school students, university students, teachers, and helpers working together to discover and document the species of North Canterbury’s Nina Valley and surrounds.

Today, we’re happy to report of their recent (earlier this week) success at the Ministry for the Environment Green Ribbon Awards — taking out both the ‘Supreme winner’ and the ‘Communication and education’ awards.

Well done to everyone involved in this inspiring event!

Another exciting Green Ribbon win was the Genesis Energy Whio Recovery Programme, which took out the ‘Protecting our biodiversity’ award.

This five-year partnership between Genesis Energy, DOC, Forest & Bird and the Central North Island Blue Duck Charitable Trust is all about the protection and recovery of whio, which are rarer than some species of kiwi.

By working with Genesis Energy on this programme, we are able to do more work to protect the whio and provide practical and immediate on-the-ground benefits for these threatened birds.

Both these projects show what New Zealanders can achieve by working together to preserve our outstanding natural wealth.