Archives For Chatham Islands

DOC Director-General, Lou Sanson, updates us on his recent visits to the Chatham Islands, Northland and the Bay of Islands.

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22 May 2014 International Day for Biological Diversity. Island Biodiversity is the theme for today’s International Day for Biological Diversity.

To celebrate, DOC ranger Tansy Bliss writes about her job protecting the biodiversity on New Zealand’s Chatham Islands…

It’s May and the busy season of species protection work on the islands of Mangere and Rangatira in the Chatham Islands is coming to a close.

Rangatira Island on the horizon.

Rangatira Island, the third largest island in the Chatham Islands archipelago

It is often hard to find time for quiet reflection, but our final day on Rangatira sums up what is has all been about.

Naomi Muhlbacher, Islands hold a Chatham Petrel chick.

Naomi Muhlbacher holds a Chatham petrel chick

Trainee Ranger, Naomi Muhlbacher, holds a Chatham petrel chick. It lives in an artificial burrow installed in the nineties to help protect one of the rarest seabirds in the world and reduce burrow invasion by broad-billed prions.

With an estimated 300,000 prion pairs on Rangatira, and only 150 known Chatham Petrel pairs, competition for burrows is high.

I am fitting the chick with a metal band, so when it returns to breed in 3-5 years time, its identity can be verified.

This island was farmed up until the late fifties and most of the burrowing seabirds lost their home to heavy footed cattle and wandering sheep. Now the ground is so pitted with burrows, we wear wooden boards on our feet to prevent us damaging them further.

A black robin comes in to take advantage of the loosened soil and insects I have scooped out of the plastic tunnel entrance to ensure the chick has free passage to come in and out when exercising its wings ready for departure over the next few weeks.

Black robin. Photo: Leon Berard | CC BY 2.0.

Black robin

Chatham Island red-crowned parakeets chatter above us in competition with the Chatham Island tūī, fluttering from tree to tree, with constant vocalisations.

A Chatham Island snipe snuffles through the leaf litter, totally unperturbed by our presence and a male Chatham Island tomtit, sounds his alarm as he wards off the black robin from the fresh feeding ground.

Chatham Island red-crowned parakeet.

Chatham Island red-crowned parakeet

Last month a team of highly skilled volunteers and I scoured the island searching for black robin—completing the annual banding and post-breeding census.

On an island with almost 200 hectares of potential robin habitat, it is quite a job.

Currently there are 229 known colour-banded adult black robins and 70 juveniles on Rangatira. The nearby island of Mangere is smaller and with less than 10 hectares of mature forest, and holds a population of 45 adults and 9 juveniles. With this being the entire population of black robin in the world, protecting them is high on our priority list.

Trying to catch black robin in a drop trap.

A young black robin inspects the drop trap looking for a meal worm

Before leaving Rangatira, we recheck all the coastal bait stations for sign of nibbling rodents and ensure all bait is fresh and ready for any unwanted arrivals. The rough seas around the islands and the rat free status of the nearest neighbour, Pitt Island, has probably helped keep the islands pest free. However bio-security is still the most important job I do and the responsibility of getting it right every time feels enormous.

Today, we pause to relax in the sun on the lichen covered rocks with the skinks and shore plover, all of us enjoying some unexpected late autumn warmth. Chatham Island warblers pick insects from the lichen and bull kelp thrown high on the coast during the recent storms. A Chatham Island fantail displays in the fringing Olearia trees and a pair of Chatham Island oystercatchers stand proud in the spray zone separated from the frolicking fur seals by a rolling ocean of breaking blue.

For us in the Chatham Islands, every day is an ‘Island Biodiversity Day’.

In February celebrations were held on the Chatham Islands to commemorate 35 years since the rediscovery of the tāiko—a rare seabird breeding only on the remote islands.

An unbanded taiko being held after being discovered on the Chatham Islands.

An unbanded tāiko discovered on the Chatham Islands.

The Chatham Island Tāiko Trust organised a week of activities, with logistical and planning support provided by DOC.

The events commemorated the rediscovery of the tāiko (on 1 January 1978) by David Crockett and his team. Events included an open day in the Tuku Nature Reserve where the majority of known tāiko burrows are found, a Golden Oldies Tāiko Camp visit, and an operation of lights to demonstrate how tāiko are captured, which is the same method used 35 years ago to capture the first known tāiko.

Some of the original team who rediscovered the taiko stant by the Taiko Totem.

Five of the original seven team members who rediscovered the tāiko

The final event was the official celebration which saw more than 150 people make their way over to ‘Tāiko Camp’ on the south west coast of the main Chatham Island for presentations and the unveiling of the Tāiko Totem, an acknowledgement of all the people who have contributed to the tāiko project.

The weather throughout the week was fine and settled, and all the events came together in a fitting tribute. Among the guests of honour recognised with presentations at the celebration was David Crockett and several members of the original team that rediscovered the tāiko.

Attendees of the taiko celebration go through a predator proof fence.

A guided walk through the predator proof fenced area see a Chatham petrel chick

The contributions and support of many local identities and landowners that supported the original team and subsequent protection work was also acknowledged, in particular the contribution of the Tuanui family. Chatham Island Tāiko Trust Chairperson, Liz Tuanui was thrilled with the turnout for the celebrations. She said, “It was a great example of the community working with DOC to achieve a common goal.”

All that attended the celebration were treated with a very rare opportunity to see a tāiko after the unveiling. An unbanded adult was found on the ground the day before the event near Sweetwater, a predator fenced area built by the Chatham Island Tāiko Trust for the protection of tāiko and other seabirds.

David and Ruth Crockett receiving boquets and certificates from the Tāiko Trust.

David and Ruth Crockett receiving boquets and certificates from the Tāiko Trust

Tāiko Trust

For further information see the Chatham Island Tāiko Trust webpage at www.tā