Fiordland Kiwi Diaries: New season, new chicks

Department of Conservation —  26/11/2021

By Monty Williams – Ranger Biodiversity

Spring has sprung in Southern Fiordland and Ranger Monty and the team have been busy finding this season’s nests and catching chicks to monitor over the summer.

Snowy tops on the flight into Shy Lake.
📸: Monty Williams

A New Season

The team and I have been busy heading into Shy Lake to progress with this season’s monitoring of Southern Tokoeka chicks. Helicoptering in, with a fresh coating of snow on the hills and a rather wintery feel to the landscape, it was hard to believe it was mid-spring!

Most pairs had decided to nest slightly earlier than previous years, so we hit the ground running to catch up with the emerging chicks, following lockdown in September. This involved taking chick timer readings from the adult male tokoeka. In the transmitter fitted to their leg, is the technology that reads the adult tokoeka’s “activity” levels, or in layman’s terms how much they’ve been moving around the landscape each night. This is put out in radio pulses which our receiver turns to audible beeps that we note down. 30 per minute and the birds are active, 48 per minute means they’ve slowed down and are most likely incubating an egg!

From here we follow the transmitter signal to find the nest and set up a trail camera to monitor the nest. From there it’s a waiting game till (hopefully) a chick hatches and is ready to have a transmitter fitted.

Sinbad Colby’s chick with its transmitter attached.
📸: Monty Williams
Pete with Sinbad Colby’s chick.
📸: Monty Williams

So how is the season faring?

First off the block, so to speak was Cake’s nest, which luckily for us was situated in a shallow tree buttress and allowed for easy access during the day, so we could gently extract the chick to fit the transmitter and return it back a few minutes later to cosy up under the waiting father.

Sinbad Colby was next, with a visit accompanied by ranger Pete producing the goods – one healthy looking chick. Transmitter fitted and weight/bill measurements taken and it’s back of on its way. We’ll plan to catch up again in about four weeks, when its due for a harness change.

So far as I type this, we have six tokoeka chicks with transmitters for the season. Unfortunately, we’ve had one nest fail to hatch and another, die before we could even get in for a visit. We’re not quite sure on cause of death just yet but are happy to rule out stoat predation.

The August tracking tunnel results came back with no stoats tracked; this is coupled with no sightings of stoats on nest trail cameras (they were a common occurrence on nests pre 1080). This doesn’t mean there are no stoats at all out there, but we’re hopeful for another season of low stoat numbers and further chick survival building on last summer’s results.

Now I plan for the next round of chick transmitter harness changes and cross fingers for a good weather forecast, in what is normal a rather damp part of the country!

Wintery conditions looking towards Breaksea Sound.
📸: Monty Williams
Celmisia Bivvy, home for the trip.
📸: Monty Williams

2 responses to Fiordland Kiwi Diaries: New season, new chicks


    Some good news continues with efforts being made in some tough country by the photos


    It’s hard graff I’m sure but must be satisfying following the predator control.