Robins flourish, dawn chorus returns to the Mt Aspiring National Park |

Over the last few months I’ve often posted about the work being done in the West Matukituki Valley [home of Aspiring Hut] in Mt Aspiring National Park.

Two of the key players are my old friends Stu and Heather Thorne, and I’m delighted here to repost an article by local journo Marjorie Cook of [who gives her blessing re this repost btw, which uses some of my images] about the great work they’re doing…

Two decades ago, Wanaka couple Stu and Heather Thorne would eat their breakfast porridge at Aspiring Hut in almost complete silence. Now, the dawn chorus is a noisy morning wake up call, with breakfast an extra rowdy affair if clownish keas decide to drop by and chew on the doormat. Birds are back in abundance, thanks to

Read More at the Source: Robins flourish, dawn chorus returns to the Mt Aspiring National Park |

An overview of efforts to encourage native bird population numbers between Mt Aspiring and Wanaka, New Zealand.

top: Members of the Matukituki Trust planning trapping operations at Aspiring Hut 10 days ago

Many of you know that I’ve been involved with many others giving native bird populations a leg up via the Matukituki Trust for the last 4 or so years. Progress has been very steady and positive due a good base plan concept, followed up by proven methodology.

Taking a wider view the good news is that four Trusts inc. the Matukituki Trust, several landowners, tourism operators and DOC, are now working collectively in the area from the mid slopes of Mt Aspiring to Wanaka.

Trust maps 1
Traps [in green] recently installed from Wanaka on the left, to Mt Aspiring on the right. Plans are well evolved to fill the obvious gaps in the next few months
Data obtained is being entered into a centralised database that monitors approx. 1600 traps, [Matukituki Trust 620], which enables all to look at and plan for the bigger picture.

Trust maps 3
A high density of traps of all types around Aspiring Hut in the West Matukituki valley, Mt Aspiring National Park [map approx. orientated north]

Trust maps 2Traps of all types upstream from Aspiring Hut in the West Matukituki valley, Mt Aspiring National Park. Liverpool valley on the left, upper west Matuki. and Scott Bivy rock in the center, and French Ridge on the right.


Many traps are above the winter snow-line in these three areas, with many being of the self resetting variety

I can’t comment yet on all the “kills” but in the last 6 months the Matukituki Trust’s traps have caught 911 predators: cats, rats, hedgehogs, stoats and possums. Mice, despite not directly being predators, are included.

It’s estimated that each predator kills 2 wildlife per week [birds, lizards,, bats insects etc] thus the above kills amount to 47,000 wildlife saved to-date.

Possums do eats chicks and eggs, but this aside 20 of them will eat 2 tons of vegetation per year, so this means that 18 tons are not eaten. That’s 9000 full shopping bags that stay on the trees to benefit the birds.

Trust maps 5A new kid on the block – one of many of the south island robin reintroduced some years back. Breeding has been so successful last spring that it’s hard estimate if we’re talking scores or hundreds of birds that have been bred by about 20.

In the last few weeks contractors have been in the valley to set up transects for annual bird counts, but so far exactly how many has not been released yet.


A brief history of the Matukituki Trust:

First we installed about 170 tracking tunnels in the West Matukituki valley to establish what predators were about that have been compromising bird breeding numbers. Answer: too many opossum and mice.

And on another front the means to scientifically establish how much seed the resident silver, red and mountain beech forest produced every three months. Answer: lots!

So-much-so, on both counts that the valley became “eligible” if you like for the Dept. of Conservation, partners with the Trust, to schedule a 1080 poison operation. This was carried out about 2 years ago. Interestingly I literally lived in the midst of it I

Knowing it’d be successful like in other areas like the Routeburn in “buying time” for more native birds chicks to reach maturity, work began in earnest on installing what now amounts to about 620 traps or various types in the valley [mostly high quality DOC 250’s], so that as the predator numbers inevitably increased, we’d be ready with other means to make sure the balance of bird v. vermin, swung in favour of the former.

Variations on the New Zealand parakeet / kākāriki

top: Red Crown NZ parakeet on Codfish Island, photo credit Maggie Evans

There are five main species of kākāriki, and in a previous post about gains made in native bird populations I really only touched on the return of the yellow-crowned species to the West Matukituki valley in Mt Aspiring National Park.

Now thanks to Maggie Evans of Maori Point Vineyard I’ve been able to post a couple of her pictures [not had much luck myself] – one recently taken near Aspiring Hut in the West Matukituki Valley of a yellow-crowned, and another of the rare [on the mainland] red-crowned from Codfish Island taken a few days ago.

Yellow crown NZ parakeet
Yellow crown NZ parakeet ~ photo credit Maggie Evans


Forest and Bird Kaki Conservation Field Trip

A great day was had by all at the Kaki Recovery Programme in Twizel on Saturday 5 November 2016. A field trip open to all was organised by Rachel Hufton, a Forest and Bird member to help raise the profile of Kaki; the rarest wading bird in the world and to improve awareness of braided river habitat. Braided river habitats are home to a number of vulnerable and at risk bird species such as wrybill, black-fronted tern, and black-billed gull.

The trip started at the Tasman River to catch up with the sub-adult birds that were released in August. We were also treated to a visit from a pair of adults as well as wrybill, banded dotterel and black fronted tern. After lunch we visited the captive breeding centre to meet the kaki chicks, ranging from those that had only just hatched this morning, through to the oldest that are now three weeks old. Key staff; Cody Thyne and Liz Brown were very informative throughout the day.

Once common throughout New Zealand, this wading bird is now only found in the Mackenzie Basin. Kaki/black stilts are one of New Zealand’s rarest birds and the mission of the Kaki Recovery Programme is to increase their population in the wild and ensure this special bird is not lost for future generations. The facility is where kaki eggs are artificially incubated and the young chicks are raised in captivity prior to release into the wild.

At 3-9 months they are released into the wild. Rearing them in captivity significantly increases their chances of survival by preventing predation when they are most vulnerable and it also gets them through their first winter, which can be tough for young birds in the wild.

Kaki have been intensively managed since 1981, when their population declined to a low of just 23 birds. The Kaki Recovery programme has now successfully increased the population of wild birds to 93 adults but still needs to increase to sustain the population. The recovery centre in Twizel is doing an important job for this vulnerable species but currently the facility is at capacity as there are potentially more chicks than the size of the current brood room can cope with. Ideally the facility needs to expand so that the number of successfully reared kaki chicks can be maximised to help secure the breeding success of this vulnerable New Zealand endemic. Without this important facility the kaki population would be extinct within 7 years.

Wry bill
Wry bill

Visitor testimonials:

Karen and I had a fabulous day and learnt heaps, it was well worth the drive over.

Sorry for asking so many questions but theres just soooo much to know.
I’ve been wondering about the dotterels and wrybills. How do their young survive on this delta?

Both of us would have willingly donated to this project as a thanks to the time you 3 put into this trip, perhaps there could be an opportunity to do so next time you organize a trip?

Cheers and a million thanks, we’ll both be back with our families

photo and text credits Rachel Hufton

Lake Wanaka’s grebes

For a few years now the grebe, an endangered species, has been in the news regularly making a name for themselves nesting on floating nests tethered to the Wanaka Marina.

The whole wonderful story of what is essentially eco restoration, with a decidedly lateral thinking twist can be had by going to the link below.

Wanaka Grebes

Photographically speaking I’ve not taken much interest, but yesterday while picnicking closer to the lake outlet than to their new near-town chosen breeding area, two birds came quietly paddling towards me, and then in a seemingly courting mood, started mooching about, sometime paddling apart from each other and sometimes coming close.

They seem to be a bit of enigma in many respects, and apparently one [lacking] attribute is they’re not at all at home on land, as seen here: it flapped it’s wings rather feebly and then literally lurched upwards and forward to collapse on a rock for a minute or so. Maybe in the context of courting this has some meaning unknown to us!
Wanaka Grebes

Wanaka Grebes

Read the whole story as outlined by Radio NZ recently:

Meet the Australasian crested grebe, a lake bird that is more closely related to penguins and albatrosses than it is to ducks. It is so aquatic that it can’t walk on land; it can pull itself on and off its nest, but that’s the extent of its terrestrial forays. A bird can disappear from one lake and turn up on another, but no one in New Zealand has ever witnessed it flying. In other words, it’s a bird beset by mysteries. But for the past three years John Darby, a penguin and albatross biologist who retired inland to Wanaka, has been unravelling some of this bird’s secrets.

What began as a..

Source: Lake Wanaka’s grebes | Our Changing World | Radio New Zealand