Bumper breeding season boosts whio numbers

 —  09/02/2010
A bumper breeding season has provided a welcome boost to whio/blue duck numbers in two pest-managed areas of eastern Kahurangi National Park.

A survey in December counted 28 ducklings in DOC’s Wangapeka-Fyfe whio security site. Another 12 young whio reared at Christchurch’s Peacock Springs Wildlife Centre were released into the site bolstering the numbers.

Rick Barber of Ngati Waewae iwi and DOC ranger Kate Steffens release young whio into the Wangapeka-Fyfe whio security site

Further up in the park, two sets of ducklings were produced in the Flora Stream catchment where dedicated volunteer group the Friends of Flora has been controlling pests for nine years. In a survey there in December one pair was spotted with five ducklings and another with six.

Whio family a joyful surprise

As Friends member Chris Potter describes it: “Imagine my surprise and elation coming round a rocky bend in the stream to be greeted by the excited whistle of a male whio. As I slipped on the rocks and fumbled for my camera, his family came into view – six half-grown ducklings!

“After trapping the area continuously since 2001 every one of our volunteers should have been standing where I was, enjoying a reward for all their work.”

Too right!  The group’s volunteers have put in a lot of hard slog maintaining trap lines and keeping up with the rest of the work involved in sustaining a pest-controlled area to safeguard its native species. When they started out just one whio lived on the stream; 16 were counted in the stream below Flora Hut in the December survey, including the 11 new ducklings.  

DOC also carries out stoat trapping in the area, primarily to protect whio. 

Whio family on Flora Stream

Whio security site

In the Wangapeka-Fyfe whio security site, 65 whio in total were recorded in the December survey there (16 pairs, five single ducks and 28 ducklings).  It’s big improvement on the three living on the Rolling River when the whio protection programme began there in 2003. Again the increase is due to commitment and hard work, in this case by DOC Nelson Lakes and Motueka Area rangers and also some supportive volunteers.

We are extremely grateful for the help of Hutt Valley Tramping Club members and a group of Tapawera Area School students who have helped check and clear stoat traps in recent months, enabling us to achieve results beyond our own resources. Thanks also to BDG Synthesis who funded trap-lines on the Fyfe and Sandstone rivers.

The Wangepka-Fyfe site, centred on the Wangapeka and Fyfe river catchments and encompassing about 30,000 hectares of beech forest, is one of eight DOC whio security sites nationally. The sites have been set up to secure the survival in the wild of the endangered species.  The Wangapeka-Fyfe site has an objective of reaching 37 whio pairs and with the 16 pairs recorded in last year’s survey that is looking achievable.

Moving in young whio

A key factor in increasing the Wangapeka-Fyfe whio population has been use of the technique of taking eggs from pairs in the wild, hatching and rearing the young at a wildlife centre, then releasing them into the site when a few months old. Pairs from which eggs are taken often then re-nest and produce further young which they raise in the wild. 

 The Flora population has also been boosted by bringing in young whio reared elsewhere, namely other park waterways.