Archives For kapiti island

Come behind the scenes and into the jobs, the challenges, the highlights, and the personalities of the people who work at DOC. Today we profile Daniel Deans, Brand and Campaign Advisor.

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To highlight Takahē Awareness Month, Kapiti Island ranger Genevieve Spargo, tells us the story of Ahoake, the takahē with a broken beak.

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By Megan Martin, Partnerships Ranger, Wellington

A few years ago Kawa, a much loved female takahē, was transferred off Kapiti Island and ended up at the Te Anau Wildlife Centre.

She’s a beautiful, happy bird and is a real star down there—always drawing a crowd.

Kawa being released  by Mitre10 staff at Te Anau Wildlife Park. Photo: Barry Harcourt.

Kawa being released at Te Anau Wildlife Park

Kawa is also very fat. She loves sweetcorn but the staff have to watch her diet because all that sugary starch isn’t good for this chick’s waistline.

Although Kawa wasn’t a particularly successful breeder, her genes were already over-represented in the takahē population, so she was paired up with an infertile male, Tumbles.

Each year, Kawa and Tumbles produce infertile eggs which are replaced with fertile ones because they are such awesome foster parents.

Kawa feeding her foster chick at Te Anau Wildlife Park.

Kawa being an excellent foster mother and feeding her chick

At the moment Kawa and Tumbles are also trialling a new type of harness. No, not so they can be taken for walks, but to test how comfortable a new style of radio transmitter harness might be for the wild takahē roaming ‘round the Murchison Mountains.

When the harness was fitted to Kawa the rangers had difficulty finding her keel, or breastbone. Usually this would stick out, but in Kawa’s case there is a little extra padding, so a considerably smaller harness than the one Kawa wears will have to be used on the wild birds!

Tumbles the takahē puffing up his feathers.

Kawa’s partner in Te Anau, Tumbles

From Kapiti Island girl to foster mother and harness model in Te Anau – we’re proud of you, Kawa!

Kapiti Island is host to one of the largest accessible island bird sanctuaries in New Zealand and deserves to be enjoyed by as many of us as possible.

Kapiti Island.

To encourage you to visit Kapiti Island permit fees have been reduced:

–  If you’re an adult the permit fee is now $10 (down from $28.75).

–  If you’re 17 or under you don’t have to pay a permit fee at all.

Kapiti Island is only one hour from Wellington, and boasts a unique environment populated with birds and wildlife rarely seen on the mainland.

Have you visited Kapiti Island yet?

Photo by Kathrin & Stefan Marks | CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

This week’s post is the first in a series to look at some Kapiti Island takahē who have flown the nest. Well, not really, they’re too fat to fly, but Air New Zealand helps out with that.


Secrets and scandals

Some real characters have set forth from Kapiti Island. One handsome takahē called Te Mingi caused quite a stir when he arrived at Tiritiri Matangi Island in 2010. He was meant to pair up with a hot chick called Ella, but instead her mother, Cheesecake, took a fancy to him.

Takahē chick with mum.

Takahē chick with mum

Greg, Cheesecake’s husband, duelled with Te Mingi for his honour, but in the end Greg got a thrashing and Cheesecake and Te Mingi moved in together.

The happy couple have gone on to have three surviving babies – Wal, Westie, and a chick born in December who has yet to be named.

Breeding success of takahē in the wild is quite low so intervention methods, such as removal of infertile eggs from nests, and fostering out ‘extra’ eggs, have been used to manage takahē populations.

This work is done as part of the Takahē Recovery Programme supported by Mitre 10 Takahē Rescue in partnership with DOC. In particular, Vince Indo and his team at Mitre 10 Mega Paraparaumu have been awesome with their support of Kapiti Island and its takahē inhabitants.

Although takahē were never originally on Kapiti Island, a population was established there in case anything happened to the wild birds in the Murchison Mountains.

Kapiti, Tiritiri Matangi, Maud, Mana and Motutapu Islands, along with valuable protected mainland sites like the Burwood Takahē Rearing Unit, Cape Sanctuary and Maungatautari Ecological Island, all help secure the stability of takahē numbers.

Because there are so few takahē (about 260), the birds are moved between different breeding sites to increase genetic diversity and decrease the chance of inbreeding.

When takahē are translocated they’re put in a special Mitre 10 Takahe Rescue transfer box and get their very own seat on an Air New Zealand flight.

When takahē are translocated they’re put in a special Mitre 10 Takahe Rescue transfer box and get their very own seat on an Air New Zealand flight

When takahē are translocated they’re put in a special Mitre 10 Takahe Rescue transfer box and get their very own seat on an Air New Zealand flight.

The human passengers can take a peek and there might be an announcement about the special traveller – this is celebrity status, New Zealand-style.

Kapiti Island retains three breeding pairs and any chicks born there go on to be takahē superstars elsewhere in the country; it can be hard to say goodbye but Kapiti Coasters should be proud.

Takahē couples begin breeding in spring; the female usually lays two speckled eggs and takes turns with her mate to keep them warm.

Super-cute takahē chicks covered in black fuzz hatch after 30 days incubation but they can’t look after themselves yet.

After about three months of copying their parents they gradually learn skills for independence, then finally leave home when they’re one or two years old.

Te Mingi and Cheesecake’s territory is the lighthouse/Visitor Centre area of Tiritiri Matangi Open Sanctuary, north of Auckland.

Te Mingi is very comfortable with people so perhaps is the most famous takahē on that island these days – sounds like destiny for a takahe from Kapiti.

Come behind the scenes and into the jobs, the challenges, the highlights, and the personalities of the people who work at the Department of Conservation (DOC).

Today we profile Nick Fisentzidis, Services Ranger based on Kapiti Island.

At work

Nick and Sirocco Kakapo.

Nick and Sirocco Kakapo

Some things I do in my job include… I’m lucky enough to have a pretty defined role as the hihi/stichbird contractor on Kapiti Island.

This basically involves feeding, counting, catching, banding and reporting on Kapiti hihi. It also includes liaising with plenty of hihi gurus to come up with better ways of managing the Kapiti hihi population.

As well as this I support my partner, Genevieve, in her position as Kapiti Island ranger by doing a whole bunch of other things such as checking traps, track work, working with volunteers, paying accounts and everything else that comes with her varied role.

This helps achieve DOC’s vision by… continuing the great work that has been undertaken on Kapiti over the last 100 years, to help keep the island safe and chock full with rare species, and to inspire those who visit to learn about their environment and their place within it.

The best bit about my job is… There are a fair few ‘best bits’ when you are fortunate enough to live and work on a nature reserve.

Having takahē walking along the deck in the morning; talking the ears off visitors about hihi (or anything Kapiti related really); being a small part of the history of such a special island; but what I really enjoy is continuing to learn about the island on a daily basis.

This place is full of surprises and mystery and I love the fact that there is still so much more to discover about it.

Being able to talk to those, with past and present connections, to the rock is how I’ve come to realise what a privilege it is to work here, and also importantly, that it won’t last forever so enjoy it while we can!

Nick and Kapiti Island ranger Gen.

Nick and fellow Kapiti Island Ranger Gen Spargo

The awesome-est DOC moment I’ve had so far is… Even in only seven-odd years at DOC I’ve got a few to chose from.

I think I’d have to pick sitting on the deck of the hut on Rangatira/South East Island in the dark being bombarded by white-faced storm petrels, while listening to the 2011 Rugby World Cup Final on a tiny radio that kept cutting out at crucial times.

The yell I let out when I heard that the game was over, and the All Blacks had finally broken their 24 year World Cup jinx, could’ve just about reached Eden Park.

The DOC employee that inspires or enthuses me most is… There have been plenty up until now but I’m going to have to be a bit cliché and say my partner Genevieve.

Everything Gen does (work related or otherwise) is with met with enthusiasm, humour and a touch of Aussie class (is there such a thing?).

The passion she has for this island and for conservation in general is one to aspire to. Plus she puts up with me, so that counts for plenty.

Nick at Ta Prohm, Cambodia.

Taking some photos at Ta Prohm, Cambodia

On a personal note…

The song that always cheers me up is… I Will Follow You Into The Dark by Death Cab For Cutie, from the album Plans.

My stomping ground is… Wellington and the surrounding area.

A born and bred Wellingtonian from the much maligned northern suburbs has meant I (like many) enjoyed my first tramping experiences in the Tararua Ranges. Up to Powell Hut in the snow with running shoes, swimming in the Waiotauru River at Otaki Forks after a harrowing time on the Main Range, seeing the view for a split second as the cloud clears from Maungahuka Hut. If you can tramp in the Tararua you can tramp anywhere!

My best ever holiday was… every family road trip I ever went on.

My Dad is a huge car enthusiast and loves to drive so we often planned trips around which obscure state highway he hadn’t driven yet.

I’ve seen a fair chunk of New Zealand from the back of a car that’s for sure. Perhaps staring out the back window on those early trips helped me to realise that that we live in a pretty exceptional country and subconsciously lead me to a career trying to look after it.

Jamming with staff from Camp Wabana in Canada.

Jamming with staff from Camp Wabana in Canada

My greatest sporting moment was… Making the Wellington U-16 cricket team in my teens (my Mum still has the clipping from the paper). Even though my cricketing career didn’t go much further than that, cricket is still a slight obsession. And by slight I mean massive.

If I could be any New Zealand native species I’d be… As much as I’d like to say hihi they actually have a pretty tough life! Getting bashed around by tui and bellbirds, struggling to find old trees to nest in, putting up with annoying humans wrapping plastic and metal rings around their legs and leading them to a life of sugar water addiction…

Maybe I’ll just go with a kea so I’d have the luxury of soaring above the Alps as well as being able to pull apart some poor tourist’s rental car. Sounds like the best of both worlds to me.

Nick with a cheeky kākā on Kapiti Island.

Nick with a cheeky kākā on Kapiti Island

Deep and meaningful…

My favourite quote is… Recessions come and go but extinction is forever.

The best piece of advice I’ve ever been given is… Don’t trust anyone whose collar is a different colour than their shirt.

In work and life I am motivated by…Humble people.

I’ve been fortunate to meet and learn from those who I’d really describe as New Zealand conservation royalty, and more often than not they are down to earth and so modest about the truly amazing work they have done.

It is something to try to remember that regardless what you have contributed, to conservation or in any other field for that matter, to never get too big for your boots. Because this whole conservation thing is far bigger than one person!

My conservation advice to New Zealanders is… Visit and spend time in your (emphasis on YOUR) special places and discover why we need to do everything we can to look after them. They’ve all we’ve got.

Question of the week…

If you had the choice between the super power of flight, being invisible or mind reading, what would you choose and why?

Probably invisibility, so I could secretly watch and attempt to better understand what hihi really need. Or maybe mind reading would be better for that… I guess if I could read their minds then I’d actually know what they need! Mind reading it is.

By Daniel Deans, DOC Intern

Recently the summer interns at DOC had the opportunity to ditch the spreadsheets, stretch their legs and get out of the office for a two day excursion on Kapiti Island.

DOC Interns on the beach at Kapiti Island.

DOC Interns on Kapiti Island

Every summer, DOC takes on a small group of interns to work in various roles. This year saw the largest contingent of interns that DOC has ever dared to take on at once, with a group of 11 wannabes working for three months in DOC’s National Office.

Interns working with a DOC ranger on Kapiti Island.

Hard at work

Having had enough of us after two months, our managers sent us across the sea on an unseasonably stormy day to spend two days volunteering on Kapiti Island. Home to one of New Zealand’s treasured native bird sanctuaries, we were to spend two days working with local ranger Gen on various island maintenance tasks – getting the hands on work we’d been craving after weeks behind a keyboard.

A weta on Kapiti Island.


The first day involved an invigorating walk to the summit of the island (a surprisingly high 521 metres), where we were greeted with a stunning sight of fog and rain, as well as the occasional weka attempting to steal our lunches.

The journey back down the hill was no less invigorating, having been tasked the glamorous job of clearing drains.

With mechanised street sweepers unsuited to a steep gravel track, clearing the drains involved shovelling dirt and leaves with your boot heel, and bending down to scoop it all up with your hands.

Needless to say the group arrived back to the accommodation rather damp, muddy and exhausted, but entirely satisfied with some good physically demanding labour (who needs a gym when you can do squats clearing drains?). While some retreated to the hot showers, the more adventurous among us thought that the howling wind and rain was the perfect weather for a swim. The sanity of these individuals is now missing somewhere off the coast of Paraparaumu.

An intern on Kapiti Island.

Enjoying nature

During the evening (after several increasingly ridiculous games of Articulate), we were treated to a kiwi spotting tour with Gen the Ranger. While ‘spotting’ is perhaps a bit of an optimistic term in retrospect, we did hear the calls of several kiwi in close vicinity, as well as stumbling on giant weta and other wildlife.

A gecko species on Kapiti Island.


The dawn of day two saw Juliet and team leader Shannan up at a ridiculous hour – running to the top of the island to catch the dawn chorus. The rest of us dragged ourselves out of bed to have breakfast with the cheeky kaka, who were entirely unfazed by the human invaders to their home.

With the sight of the well needed sun, we set out on the morning mission – weeding the tracks. As it turns out, Kapiti Island is quite the ideal working location, with the crew being treated to the melodic sounds of the native bird population as we laboured. Along the way the ever-knowledgeable Ranger Gen pointed out each bird’s specific call, and succeeded in selling the job of Kapiti Island ranger as a very tempting career move.

An intern visited by a kaka on Kapiti Island.

Curious kaka

But unfortunately the trip had to end. With soggy socks and heavy hearts we boarded our boat back to the mainland, having had a fantastic taster into life ‘on the ground’ as part of DOC – an invaluable experience for all of us!