A welcome increase in native bird populations in Mt Aspiring National Park

It was back in 2013 that I was introduced to the Matukituki Trust, the brain child of Gillian and Derek Crombie. They’d been climbing annually in Mt Aspiring National Park for many years and had become increasingly disturbed by the diminishing bird life in the West branch of the Matukituki river valley [which hosts the New Zealand Alpine Club’s Aspiring Hut], so they approached the local office of the Dept of Conservation [DOC] and in no time at all formed a partnership with them.

Initially rather than immediately focusing on trapping and getting predator numbers down the Trust adopted DOC’s methodology, which in essence is all about science, and a programme was planned to establish which predators were present, quantifying their food source, and from this planning a strategy, which as it turned out involved the use of the very efficient 1080 poison, followed by an intense trapping programme, which by now equates to 600 traps in the valley.

Now three years on the evidence of our labours is easily evident in the form of a significant increase in various native bird species, thus giving us deep satisfaction and justification of what is by now 1000’s of hours of hard labour, more-often-than-not volunteer based.

Beech Seed gathering for counting re beech mastDOC staff, a Trust director and volunteers installing funnels which catch beech tree seeds, a significant component of predator diets.

This means of quantifying food, was also augmented by the shooting down of branches of the trees so prescriptive amounts of leaves could be examined and seed counts done. The data then being uploaded to DOC’s database system, and weighed up in relation to other areas, so resources could be utilised efficiently. Photo credit Southern Light

Kakariki courtesy doc
This 2016 year the yellowed crowned parakeet the kakariki has returned to valley in the form of a population observed so far [scientifically] to be numbering 20 birds for sure, and maybe totaling at least 40. Photo credit DOC
Kakariki feathers
Three years ago the only evidence we gathered as to the presence of kakariki was a dead bird we found near Aspiring Hut. Photo credit Southern Light
Tom tit
The local population of the tom tit, an indicator species, has grown significantly over previous years. Like wise blackbirds and thrushes, which are competitors, but its better to see them rather than nothing! Photo credit Southern Light
Black back gull chicks
Many black back gull chicks are now fledging in the Cascade Stream bed near Aspiring Hut. Again first time for many years this has been seen. Photo credit Southern Light

Kea behind beech treeKea numbers are notoriously hard to know, but in the last two years juvenile numbers have been high from Dec on-wards. A mob of 32 were observed trying to dismantle a Robbie 44 helicopter, just several weeks after 1080 was spread, and this stroke of luck confirmed a long held belief that the valley is a nursery, as they were all juveniles.

This bird and a known banded companion were playing hide’n seek with me a week ago. Photo credit Southern Light

south island robin
The beloved south island robin [another indicator of-good-things-bird-wise, species] are now literally everywhere – up until a few months ago it was my job to observe and count, and now it’s pointless as most are not banded for easy identification. Photo credit Southern Light
The remainder of the photos below [Photo credits Southern Light] are shots taken while gathering data early on in the programme. Tasks like tracking tunnel installation – about 170 of, and thats mice footprints you can see [other high in number predators were ‘possums’


River crossing

Carrying tracking tunnels

Mice prints

Dead possumPesky ‘possum numbers are now so reduced that the bush is significantly improving in health and “looks”.

On closing some may ask why trapping them for fur/money is not carried out instead of using 1080. Well the answer is simple: as numbers reduce it’s not possible to continue economically, so the trappers bail thus the smaller population grows again very quickly.


In NZ, as opposed to their native Australia, they only need to spend 10 percent of their time eating, and 90 breeding. In Aust. it is the other way round. And of course they then grow larger here

Further reading of interest socially and otherwise:

1080 and science denial: an Our Changing World summit | Our Changing World | Radio New Zealand

We all know the saying: ‘nature abhors a vacuum’. Science denial, though, seems to love an information vacuum and thrives in the absence of fact. Environment and science writer Dave Hansford saw what he thought was an information vacuum around the use of the controversial toxin 1080 to protect New Zealand’s native wildlife, and it motivated him to research and write a book: Protecting Paradise – 1080 and the fight to save New Zealand’s wildlife.

“I think somebody had to [write a book like this],” says Hansford. “There have been a great many books opposing

Source: 1080 and science denial: an Our Changing World summit | Our Changing World | Radio New Zealand

photo credit Radio NZ