Biodiversity Ranger Daniel Sawyers works in the Buller District, which is home to many of our native species, including whio/blue ducks. We asked Daniel about his work with the birds.
Where are the whio you work with?
I look after whio in the Oparara-Ugly whio security site, which was established in 2002 and now protects around 43 pairs of whio. The site goal is to have 50 pairs protected by 2019. The 95 kilometres of whio habitat is protected from predators by 156 kilometres of trap lines.
How long have you been working with Whio?
I first started working with Whio in late 2003 helping with stoat trap checks in the Oparara Basin in Karamea. Since then I have worked on all parts of the Whio program there including Whio surveys, capture and tracking, Whio nest egg (WHIONE) and maintaining and expanding the Oparara security site.
What other species do you work with?
NZ fur seals, Westland petrels, great spotted kiwi, Powelliphanta snails, some threatened plants to name a few. We often have people call up about injured penguins, morepork and weka that we catch and take to the vet too.
What does a typical day look like when you are working with Whio?
Driving 16 kilometres of winding gravel road into the Oparara Basin and walking the river searching for whio pairs. When we find a pair we catch them and attach radio transmitters to so that we can monitor their breeding success. We catch them using a mist net that is strung across the river, and kind of herd the ducks into it.
Or on another day I might get into a helicopter and fly into the Ugly river to check and re-bait stoat traps along a pretty rough and remote stretch of river that is 10 kilometres long.
Best moment working with whio?
Doing a whio survey after the breeding season and seeing all the fledged ducklings.
Finding a transmitted female whio that had been predated by a stoat.
Any tips for spotting whio?
Visit the Oparara Basin in Karamea, there is a walking track to the Oparara Arch and it follows the river. We often see whio along this stretch of river. You need a keen eye as they blend in and when they’re feeding they can be hard to spot.
If you could be a whio for a day, what would you do?
Evade the predators and those pesky whio rangers trying to catch me.
Have you got any conservation advice for the public?
“Take only photos, leave only foot prints”.
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