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.

Mou Waho Restoration Project | Lake Wanaka

top: Up close and personal with a local mountain stone weta
A lake with an island in Lake Wanaka - it's much higher btw
A lake with an island in Lake Wanaka – it’s much higher btw

The Mou Waho Island Restoration Project is centered around a very special island on Lake Wanaka.

A feeling of magic prevails helped in part by it having an island on a lake on the island!

Twenty or so years ago it was infested by wilding pines which have been successfully cleared as part of a plan by the Dept. of Conservation to restore the island to a natural state. This included the re-introduction of the buff weka, which were translocated to a another island on Lake Wanaka from the Chatham Islands, where chicks were raised in a large purpose built aviary.

A cliff over looking the lake on Mou Waho
A cliff over looking the lake on Mou Waho

It is now estimated [it’s terrain is very rugged] that there are 160 birds on Mou Waho. Trapping is carried out to ensure that any predators that swim there will be caught.

DOC is also in a very successful partnership with Eco Wanaka Adventures and Chris and Lee do a wonderful job of assisting in managing the project – even getting tourists who sign up for their regular boat trips and guided walks/picnics to plant a tree, and making sure they meet the local weka, weta and geckos

Today we completed yet another annual planting – about a doz. of us planted about 80 natives trees. The trees were carried on the DOC boat, and the rest of us travelled in the Eco Wanaka Adventure boat.

Click on any link to see the photos by Southern Light

Eco wanaka adventures
Eco Wanaka Adventures boat at the Mou Waho jetty – check out the water quality under the boat!

Black Stilt chicks released onto the Tasman River bed in the MacKenzie Country

Juvenile kaki black-stilt
top: Juvenile kaki black-stilt

On 08/08/2016 the Dept. of Conservation released several black stilt kakī chicks that had been raised in their Twizel avery. It is the world’s rarest wading bird!

Photos below courtesy of Rachel Hufton’s FaceBook feed who was at the release



And from a good friend CragRat, more similar photos here >