Archives For Auckland

Over Queen’s Birthday weekend, Lucy Lawless, of Xena fame, helped launch the North Island’s first Kiwi Ranger site at Tiritiri Matangi.

Lucy Lawless at Tiritiri Matangi.

Lucy Lawless becomes a Kiwi Ranger convert

Auckland children and their families jumped at the chance to participate and travel via ferry from the mainland to the island, with more than 150 newly accredited Kiwi Rangers receiving official badges and certificates upon completion over the weekend.

Students bird spotting with a volunteer guide at Tiritiri Matangi.

Students from Cornwall Park School bird spotting with volunteer guide Sue Minchin

The success of the weekend was a team effort, with 360 Discovery offering a free child fare for every adult ticket purchased over the holiday weekend, and the volunteers from Supporters of Tiritiri Matangi looking after the deluge of new arrivals with such care and attention.

Tiritiri Matangi Island is an fabulous example of successful conservation work. More than 120 years of farming meant by the 1980s it had been stripped of almost all of its native bush. Intensive work by dedicated volunteers means 60 per cent of the sanctuary is covered with forest and it is home to some of the world’s rarest species.

Children celebrate completing the programme with a volunteer guide.

Yes, we got the badges! Children celebrate with Maria Galbraith, one of the volunteer guides

Visitors were treated to a close-up walk around the island to see its conservation jewels, including the kōkakotakahē, and hihi.

The children share their completed activities with the Supporters of Tiritiri Matangi.

The children share their completed activities with the Supporters of Tiritiri Matangi guiding manager Mary-Ann Rowland

Until now, Kiwi Ranger has only been available at 10 conservation sites in the South Island. Plans are afoot for it to be included at more North Island locations soon.

Lucy Lawless on the ferry with some of the 'Kiwi Ranger' families.

Lucy Lawless and some of the ‘Kiwi Ranger’ families on launch day

Become a Kiwi Ranger

Kiwi Ranger is a fun interactive programme offered free to kids of all ages, 3-103! It’s available in a range of places around New Zealand, and is a fun way for families to get to know these special places together. Find out more on the DOC website.

The famous kōkako Duncan captured hearts across the country this month with his great escape; here’s his story…

Duncan the kokako on the run in a tree.

On the run

DOC ranger Hazel Speed has mastered catching kōkako in the depths of mature native forest in Pureora. She’s also adept at moving through the dense scrub on Tirtiri Matangi Island to monitor these birds that, although renowned for their inability to fly long distances, can still move pretty quickly—especially when you’re on their tail. But what does she do when faced with kōkako catching in suburban Auckland? One adventurous kōkako, going by the name Duncan, gave her the chance to show us.

This adventurous kōkako was released a couple of years back in the northern Waitakere Ranges into the intensive predator-controlled area of Ark in the Park. His appearance a few weeks ago in the eastern suburb of Glendowie (think 30 odd kilometres away, on the opposite side of Auckland) and you’ve got a complex challenge for our biodiversity ranger!

Duncan sitting in his favourite Jacaranda tree.

Duncan in the Jacaranda

A cupcake decorated with a kokako.

Kōkako cupcake

Luckily the residents of Glendowie were up for the challenge. Locals were so charmed by this blue-wattled crow that they’d stop in the street (on foot and in cars), fascinated, amazed and concerned. Then they’d bring their children and friends back to see him.

Hazel saw the nonplussed become engaged overnight by Duncan’s presence. One neighbour did a letter drop to ask if people would keep their cats inside at night. The same neighbour ensured tea and coffee and a toilet was available for the catching team (you can’t just pee in the bushes in suburbia like you can in the field!).

She also made soup for the team and even put Hazel up overnight (including dinner), so she could be up early to mist net the errant bird. And yes those are her kōkako cupcakes, to thank Hazel for her hard work.

And hard work it was—a number of days were spent over two weeks trying to figure out the best way to catch Duncan—not to mention negotiating access onto neighbours property, impenetrable hedges, tall fences, the likelihood of guard dogs, an extremely busy road and avoiding power lines with mist net poles!

Duncan is spotted in a tree in Glendowie before being caught.

Duncan, blissfully unaware he’s about to be caught

On the morning of Wednesday 15 May, one neighbour with three young boys asked Hazel, “Do you think you could catch Duncan today? It’s my son’s 4th birthday.” And like any great DOC worker, she delivered… and the three boys got to witness Duncan close-up (although behind a ranch slider!). Can you picture the boys peering into the small room in their house (that had been specially cleared of the boys’ shoes and stuff the night before), as Hazel safely checked Duncan over before popping him into a transfer box?

The media was keen on a Duncan close-up too, and Hazel negotiated a deal to ensure the bird could be caught without the distraction of cameras (and the associated crowd) in exchange for witnessing the bird’s release back into the Waitakere Ranges.

On the day of release, despite warnings, certain journos had brought their ‘city boots’, and gumboots had to be picked up on the way back across Auckland for them. Duncan was then released back into his home in the Waitakere Ranges and exited the transfer box like a shot. It was an exhilarating day for Hazel and all those involved.

From Fiordland to Motutapu island, in the heart of Auckland, is a long way to travel in a day – particularly if you’re a flightless bird. Nine takahē made the journey on Sunday November 4.

The birds were captured early in the morning at Burwood Bush Takahē Rearing Unit, near Te Anau, by rangers who run Mitre 10 Takahē Rescue. They were placed in transportation boxes and driven to Queenstown Airport to catch an Air New Zealand flight to Auckland.

The birds joined passengers on board a regular Air New Zealand flight to Auckland.

DOC Takahē Recovery Programme Manager Phil Tisch and Mitre 10 Sponsorship and PR Co-ordinator Alison Rowland at Auckland Airport with the takahē.

DOC Takahē Recovery Programme Manager Phil Tisch and Mitre 10 Sponsorship and PR Co-ordinator Alison Rowland at Auckland Airport with the takahē

The takahē proved popular with the Air New Zealand stewards and passengers on the flight. They were thrilled to be able to see the rare birds – there are only 260 in the world – inside their boxes. On arrival at Auckland Airport the takahē were carried from the plane to DOC and Mitre 10 utes and driven to Devonport. There they were transferred to a DOC boat, Taikehu, and ferried to Home Bay on Motutapu.

Ngai Tahu representative, Stewart Bull, made the journey from the deep south with the birds. He linked with Ngai Tai and Ngati Paoa representatives to provide a powhiri for the takahē on Motutapu. The birds were then released into native vegetation planted by volunteers from the Motutapu Restoration Trust.

Mitre 10 staff and family at takahe release on Motutapu.

Mitre 10 staff and family at takahe release on Motutapu

Ella, a takahē released on Motutapu on August 27, 2011, curious about new takahē arriving on November 4, 2012.

Ella, a takahē released on Motutapu on August 27, 2011, curious about new takahē arriving on November 4, 2012

The birds join four other takahē released on Motutapu on August 27 last year. The first release marked the declaration of Motutapu and neighbouring Rangitoto – the islands are joined by a short causeway – as pest free. Ella, one of the takahē released last year, was seen at Home Bay checking out the action surrounding the arrival of the new birds.

A powhiri for takahē on Motutapu.

A powhiri for takahē on Motutapu

The translocation on November 4 was the largest movement of takahē outside Fiordland ever. The aim is to have up to 20 breeding pair on Motutapu. This will make it the largest population of takahē outside Fiordland. This is an important step in securing the survival of takahē as the other pest free islands providing a safe haven for the species – Kapiti, Mana, Maud and Tiritiri Matangi – are now running out of room for the birds. Motutapu provides a large safe site, with a good habitat for takahē, that will enable the overall population to keep growing.

Two takahē are released onto Motutapu Island.

Two takahē are released onto Motutapu Island

A big thank you to Phil Tisch, the Takahe Programme Manager, who travelled with the birds all the way from Burwood to Motutapu Island; Phil Marsh and Helen Dodson who helped trap the birds in Burwood; Claudia Babirat who filmed the whole transfer; Glen Greaves, the Takahē Productivity Manager, who helped out with the release; and Andrew Nelson and Hazel Speed from Auckland who put a huge amount of effort into organising the event on the day.

DOC’s partnership with Mitre 10 is crucial in the work to ensure takahē survive. Takahē were thought to be extinct until rediscovered in 1948 in the Murchison Mountains deep in the Fiordland National Park. DOC has been working with Mitre 10 to save takahē since 2005.