99 birds wing their way to Hawke’s Bay

Department of Conservation —  09/05/2018

This is the final blog post in a three-part series from Biodiversity Ranger Kelly Eaton following the translocation of up to 100 intrepid seabirds from Whenua Hou Island to the Maungaharuru Range in the Hawke’s Bay.

It’s kōrure translocation day here on Whenua Hou. It’s dark, but a sense of excitement is in the air as at 5.30 am the team start the hill climb towards the colony to the soundtrack of the island’s bats.

There are a lot of factors that need to come together today and finally we have the weather window to do it in. Normally we try for two translocation trips to get as close to our allocated 100 birds as possible, however, this year due to the weather we are attempting to translocate all the birds at once.

One of the potential kōrure on Whenua Hou.

One of the potential kōrure on Whenua Hou

More than 100 kōrure meet our selection criteria, so we have enlisted the help of two extra people – Denise Fastier and Abby McBride – to help us collect them all.

By 6.30 am all six of us were on site collecting the chicks. After the final re-weighing and wing re-measuring, 99 kōrure met the criteria to make the journey to the Maungaharuru Range. This confirms this is the largest translocation of kōrure ever attempted.

It also meant that there was no time to rest, with every person busy removing birds from burrows and moving boxes along the track toward the helipad. The first of the two helicopters was due at 9.20 am, and it was early! But thanks to the experience of the team, both choppers were filled quickly with all 99 kōrure on their way by 9.40 am. All was going to schedule!

The kōrure all boxed up and ready to be transported off Whenua Hou.

The kōrure all boxed up and ready to be transported off Whenua Hou

On arrival in Invercargill the kōrure were quickly loaded into a fixed wing plane, stacked to allow cold air to circulate during the 3½ hour flight. The winds were on our side, so the chicks made the 1,131-kilometre journey in good time.

Upon their safe arrival in Hawke’s Bay, the kōrure were welcomed by members of Maungaharuru-Tangitū and Ngati Hineuru. Maungaharuru-Tangitū kaumātua Trevor Taurima performed a karakia to welcome the taonga and then the 99 chicks were loaded onto another helicopter and flown to the Maungaharuru Range.

The volunteers who received the kōrure at the Maungaharuru nesting site.

The volunteers who received the kōrure at the Maungaharuru nesting site. They all worked well into the Friday night to ensure the birds were healthy, hydrated and settled into their new burrows

There was a little trepidation about the birds landing here because we had snow at the predator free nesting site. We have never experienced snow during one of these translocations before, so it was yet another challenge for the team in Hawke’s Bay – but one they all rose to. Luckily this cold snap was short lived, and the weather was kind enough to warm up for the team of volunteers on the ground. These volunteers were in place to hydrate birds and settle them into burrows, under the guidance of seabird contractor Cathy Mitchell.

Following suit, the settling in of the kōrure went off without a hitch with Cathy and the volunteers completing their task by 7.30 pm. This meant that every member of the team from Whenua Hou to Maungaharuru was able to enjoy a hot shower and a comfortable bed at a sensible hour. Mission accomplished!

A kōrure waiting to be fed.

Who’s looking at you? A kōrure waiting to be fed

I want to thank all those who made this final Poutiri Ao ō Tāne kōrure translocation happen. From the team who travelled from throughout New Zealand to work with me on Whenua Hou, to the Whenua Hou Komiti, Maungaharuru-Tangitū Trust, Poutiri Ao ō Tāne project partners, Cathy and the team of hard working volunteers, the DOC staff on the ground in Hawke’s Bay and Invercargill, and the plane and helicopter operators who adjusted their schedules every time I needed to change the plan to work around the weather. Without all your flexibility and commitment, we would have struggled to reach this level of success.

It is because of this collaboration and hard work that the Maungaharuru range now has 99 more of what was once a locally extinct species – the kōrure.


This is the final post in a series about the translocation of kōrure to Hawke’s Bay.

2 responses to 99 birds wing their way to Hawke’s Bay

  1. 

    Congratulations! What a great story and display of teamwork for this successful result. Can you let us know how the birds will be encouraged to return to the HB site ? I imagine there will some ‘homing’ pull for them to return to Whenua Hou?

    • 

      Hi Sue, we translocate them at a particular stage of their development, we have selection criteria that means we only take birds that are yet to ’emerge’ from their burrows, by emerging at the new site they are more likely to return there (that’s when they set their internal GPS). We also have a sound system that will hopefully help them find their way back. However it is the first time so there is a level of experimentation, fingers crossed they decide to return to Maungaharuru.