Waiheke Marketplace : May 11th 2011
3 WAIHEKE MARKETPLACE, MAY 11, 2011 NEWS You could be Living Free! Over $25,000 of Prizes to be won in this exciting new competition... Look out this weekend for the cloud-shaped card that will be dropped off in your letterbox and jump online to enter the draw. reachME GROUND STABILIZATION • Up to 900 diameter - 10 meters deep • Slip Retention • Barrier Pile Walls • Retaining Walls • Foundation Drilling & Footing • Pile Ramming Land deveLopers Ltd 372 1115 Mob 027 499 4477 Email firstname.lastname@example.org For whom the bellbird tolls One year on from the release of 100 bellbirds on Waiheke Island they seem to have either flown the coop or met their fate. Lyndal Jefferies finds out why. Historical moment: The release of 50 bellbirds at Whakanewha Regional Park on May 16, 2010. The release, instigated by then Auckland Regional Council chairman Mike Lee, was attended by MP for Auckland Central Nikki Kaye and her Labour counterpart Jacinda Ardern. Bellbird: No sightings have been reported since January. Photo: JANET HUNT IT WAS with awe and a sense of magic that politicians joined conservationists, chil- dren, and residents interested in the project to repopulate Waiheke forest for the release of 50 native bel- lbirds at Whakanewha Regional Park on May 16 last year. A further 50 birds were released at Fenwick Reserve, on Motuihe island and a Hamilton reserve. Whakanewha, Fenwick Reserve and several other island landholdings had undergone rigorous rat- baiting to prepare for the new feathered residents. And people were urged to report any sightings of the birds so their progress could be documented. Now Whakenewha Regional Park ranger Beatty Wiggenhauser says there have been no confirmed sightings of bellbirds reported on Waiheke Island since January. Councillor for Waitemata and Gulf Mike Lee, who spearheaded the project, says it's all rather mysterious''. The bellbirds have moved out of the carefully protected areas at Whakanewha Regional Park and Fenwick Reserve. They have either dispersed into non-protected areas of Waiheke, where they would have become vulner- able to rats, cats and other predators or have flown off the island altogether,'' he says. Senior regional adviser (fauna) for Auckland Council Dr Tim Lovegrove says the council's radio telemetry data showed that a high pro- portion of the birds survived during the first months after release on Waiheke and that dispersal away from the two release sites was very high. All of the 100 bellbirds released on Waiheke were individually colour-banded and 26 also had tiny tail- mounted radio transmitters. These were designed to fall off when the tail feathers were moulted about nine months after release. During the first month, 23 of the 26 radio tagged birds released on Waiheke were located. Several birds regularly visited the feeders at the release sites during the first few months. After that the birds seemed to lose interest in the feeders,'' Dr Lovegrove says. This coincided with various native trees such as puriri and kohekohe coming into flower. Dr Lovegrove concluded the birds probably preferred natural nectar over the sugar water they were providing. He believes there are probably'' still some bell- birds on Waiheke. But there is no evidence of breeding during the summer. Dr Lovegrove says: We could have easily overlooked this, because bellbirds can be quite secretive near their nests.'' The radio transmitters also provided some information on mortality. One rat-eaten bird was found in Rocky Bay and a second bird, tracked to Church Bay, also either died or shed its transmitter. Last June, Mr Lee says he used radio tracking to find a bell- bird killed by a rat. The tiny radio transmit- ter, tail feathers and a detached leg with bands was all that was left,'' he says. I may yet be proved wrong but I fear a secure locally- bred population on Waiheke may have to wait until we eradicate rats from the island,'' he says. The bellbirds simul- taneously released at Motuihe Island and Hamilton seem to have fared somewhat better. During the summer at least one pair nested in Ham- ilton, because a male bird was seen feeding a fledged chick, Dr Lovegrove says. Some Waiheke birds have flown to nearby Motuihe where a small population has successfully established. Mr Lee says this is due to the eradication of rats on the island, proving his theory that bellbirds are uniquely vulnerable to ship rats. Others have flown to Motutapu and Rangitoto. One was also logged on Rakino where a population estab- lished itself from Tiri Tiri Matangi Bird sanctuary three years ago. Mr Lee says: One thing that has come out of this experiment is the remarkable distances bellbirds travel.'' One appeared at a feeding station on the far western side of Motuihe soon after its release on Waiheke. A few days later the same bird was back at Whakanewha Park. Another bird released in the Waikato found its way back to its home territory on Tiri Tiri Matangi Island. Mr Lee says: It is not clear why they are flying such dis- tances. Normally bellbirds tend to stay within a kilo- metre of established territories.'' Both Mr Lee and Dr Lovegrove are encouraging locals to be vigilant about pest control so a successful bellbird population can eventually establish itself here. Ship rats take over the bush at night time. They prowl through the bush eat- ing everything they can and they are ruthless killers of small birds,'' Mr Lee says. He believes rats were also responsible for the failure of four previous attempts to establish the birds on Wai- heke during the 1980s. But Mr Lee says the project is not altogether unsuccess- ful. We have achieved the overall goal of establishing bellbirds back in the inner Gulf.'' Dr Lovegrove backs this up, saying there are large natural bellbird populations on a number of Hauraki Gulf islands including the Hen and Chicken Group, Little Barrier, Tiritiri and the Noises. Bellbirds are now also being seen on Motutapu and Rangitoto and Rakino Islands. Mr Lee says: The proxim- ity of the sanctuary of Motuihe and the huge biomass of birds likely to occur on pest free Rangitoto and Motutapu will certainly mean bellbirds will be fre- quently seen and heard on Waiheke in the years ahead.'' If you do see a bellbird, try to photograph it and take note of the colour bands on its leg and the order they are in. Then phone the park ran- ger on 372-5647 or email Beatty.Wiggenhauser@ aucklandcouncil.govt.nz.
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