Notes from an island sanctuary:

Department of Conservation —  30/11/2011

An occasional diary by Maud Island ranger, Chris Birmingham

Return of the King

The BGBOL, His Highness, Sir Occo, whatever people like to call him, returned home to Maud Island/Te Hoiere recently after conquering the mainland and capturing hearts and minds alike.

Daryl Eason with Sirocco

It was a reasonably bouncy boat journey back to Maud for Sirocco, the kākāpō conservation superstar, and his human passengers, so we decided that for his own comfort and safety it would be better if he were out of his transport box. With the cabin door safely shut he spent most of the trip sitting on Kakapo Recovery Programme scientist Daryl Eason’s knee. He seemed to enjoy being able to see where he was going and having the sea air ruffle his feathers. Daryl on the other hand did not seem to enjoy Sirocco “stabilising” himself with his beak on the softer fleshy parts of his arm.

He did look a little ‘green’ at some stages though, and was more than willing to get back in his box for the short walk to his pen on arrival at Maud. A pirate’s parrot he is not, it would seem.

Daryl Eason, Linda Kilduff and Sirocco Kakapo

I think Sirocco enjoyed getting back to “nature” after so long in the spotlight. He won’t be free to roam just yet though. He has to go through a quarantine process to ensure he hasn’t brought any diseases back with him. Although Sirocco is very important, there are also other species here to consider such as the takahe, orange-fronted parakeets, and the Maud Island frog. Once he receives a clear bill of health he will be allowed out of his quarantine enclosure.

Don’t panic though, it’s not a cage. He has a large outdoor pen here to loll around in while he waits for the all clear. It’s a catered arrangement too, no macadamias or grapes though, sorry buddy. I’ll keep you posted on his progress and antics.

Takahe chicks

Another significant event here has been the hatching of our first takahe chicks. While it’s too early to count them as members of the overall takahe population just yet it’s looking promising.

Takahe chick

The first to hatch came on the day of the Rugby World Cup final. My partner Linda and I went up to the nest to check the egg for fertility and we discovered a small black chick in the nest, still moist from hatching. It was a great way to kick off a big day for New Zealand.  We have unofficially christened it McCaw. Its dad is named “The Captain” so we thought that was appropriate.

It’s fascinating to watch takahe parents in action, and The Captain and Rangi are great examples. Initially the parents were very protective of their chick. They kept it stashed away in the long grass and ferried bits of food to it, calling to it to tell it to lay low. As it got older and more mobile they have started to bring it out. We give them supplementary food – a mix of blended veges, clover and takahe pellets.

The other day I watched them for 20 minutes. It was awesome to see how dedicated they are to their young chick.  They have a keen sense of danger and will let the chick know if it isn’t safe to be out in the open, such as when the resident NZ falcon lets out its piercing call from high above. The parents turn their eyes to the sky and “whoomp” to send the chick scurrying for cover. Awesome!

Spring has sprung

On a final note, spring has well and truly sprung here on Maud. The grass has really taken off and mowing the tracks has become an all too common occurrence!

Fantail chick

Other locals are breeding too. We have a fantail nest right outside our lounge; the parents have already fledged the first clutch of three chicks and appear to be considering a second! Underneath them, and below the deck, is a family of blue penguins. They aren’t the best flat mates, being quite smelly and prone to late night bursts of noise when mum and dad come home with a belly full of fish to regurgitate, but we don’t hold any of that against them. It’s still very cool to have nature literally on (or under) your doorstep. They will be gone soon enough and maybe we will miss them, but not their smell.

We have a fantail nest right outside our lounge

That’s all from Te Hoiere for now but hopefully I’ll get round to blogging more regularly now that we have settled in.